Music albums are watered down – The Observer

If you’ve been following the music scene, you may have noticed that some artists release albums over 20 tracks and as long as a movie. Drake’s “Scorpion” (2018) had 25 songs and was an hour and 30 minutes long, while Migos’ “Culture II” had 24 tracks and a total running time of one hour and 46 minutes.

But what’s the cause of all those extra-long mega albums? Are these works of art or a means of generating income for the artist? The reason albums get longer is the way consumers listen to music. While an album’s position in the charts was based on the number of purchases and downloads it had racked up, that changed as the music market turned to streaming services.

That’s why, in 2014, Billboard decided to incorporate feeds from platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music into its ranking calculations. 1,500 streams of any song is like listening to a record in the eyes of Billboard.

The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) followed suit and began including streaming in their album certifications. This means that every time a song from an album is streamed, it counts towards the album’s position on the Billboard charts and a certification from the RIAA. Streams of individual singles also count towards the total number of an album.

The results of this change are the feature-length albums we’ve seen. According to “Rolling Stone”, the average length of the five most played albums on Spotify has increased by 10 minutes over the past five years to 60 minutes. Many artists are taking advantage of the new system by favoring quantity over quality in order to increase their flows. An album with 20 songs is much more likely to get more stream counts than an eight-track album, propelling the album to the top of the charts and generating more revenue for artists and record labels.

In 2017, Chris Brown released an album of 45 songs totaling two hours and 38 minutes. The album received a “Gold” certification from the RIAA after only one week, despite the fact that no song on the album made it into the top 40 on the Billboard charts. The amount of songs was the only factor contributing to the amount of flow on the album, rather than the quality of the overall work itself.

This is where I have a problem with the trend for extra long albums. I prefer to listen to an album where every song is good and contributes to the overall experience of the record. These hour-long albums are mostly just uninspiring, uninspiring filler songs used to generate income, and they take artistry and individual thought out of the music. Unless Billboard and the RIAA revise the way they track streams, artists will continue to release boring, long-running albums to oversaturate the market and increase sales.


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