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The Observer

Music albums are watered down

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Music albums are watered down

Cassandra Hays, Staff Reporter

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If you have been keeping up with the music scene, you may have noticed that some artists are releasing albums that are over 20 tracks, and as long as a movie. Drake’s “Scorpion” (2018) was 25 songs long and clocked in at a lengthy hour and 30 minutes, while Migos’ “Culture II” was 24 tracks and a total length of one hour and 46 minutes.      

But what is the cause for all of these extra long-mega albums? Are they works of art or are they a way to drive revenue for the artist? The reason behind albums getting longer lies in the way that consumers listen to music. While an album’s position on the charts used to be based on the number of purchases and downloads it had accrued, this has changed as the music market has shifted towards streaming services.

That’s why, in 2014, Billboard decided to incorporate streams from platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music into their chart calculations. 1,500 streams of any song is equal to one listen of a record in Billboard’s eyes.

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

The results of this change are the drawn out, feature-length albums we have been seeing. According to “Rolling Stone,” the average duration of the top five most streamed albums on Spotify has risen by 10 minutes over the past five years to 60 minutes. Many artists are taking advantage of the new system by choosing quantity over quality in order to boost their streams. An album with 20 songs is far more likely to get a higher number of streams than an eight track album, boosting the album up the charts and generating more revenue for the artists and record companies.

In 2017, Chris Brown dropped a 45-song album that was an entire two hours and 38 minutes long. The album received a “Gold” certification from RIAA after just one week, despite the fact that not even one song from the album broke into Billboard’s top 40 chart. The sheer quantity of songs was the only contributing factor to the amount of streams the album got, rather than the quality of the body of work itself.

This is where I have a problem with the trend of extra-long albums. I would rather listen to an album on which every song is good, and contributes to the overall experience of the record. These hour-long albums are mainly just uninspired, uninteresting filler songs used to drive revenue, and they take the art and the individual thought out of the music. Unless Billboard and RIAA revise the way they count streams, artists will continue to release boring, long-winded albums to oversaturate the market and drive up sales.

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