I agree with Don and Daniel that this paradigm shift is largely due to the diminution of the listener's attention span. We live in a society that is increasingly concerned with having "it" now - whatever "it" is. "Instant gratification" is the word. Nobody is willing to invest themselves in an artistic statement (of any kind, be it music, literature, whatever) in a meaningful way. Like Daniel said, it is a beautiful thing to sit down with an album or a piece of music and not just hear it, but actively listen to it and absorb and consider everything that is going on sonically. If folks like him are in the minority, then the only way for pop artists and record companies to make money is to cater to the majority by espousing volumes of short, trite tunes of mass appeal but little substance.
For what it's worth, there is a new organization out there called ArtistShare. They're single-handedly trying to reshape the recording industry, and the arts industry as a whole (they also have contracts with an author and a filmmaker) to avoid the very thing we're discussing, and trying to encourage artists to express themselves artistically rather than commercially. You should check them out at www.ArtistShare.com
. Even if you're not interested in any of the music they're offering right now, just see what they're about. Maybe as the word gets out, we as consumers can steer some of our favorite artists in that direction.