Music albums are watered down – The Observer
If you’ve been following the music scene, you might have noticed that some artists release albums that are over 20 tracks and as long as a movie. Drake’s “Scorpion” (2018) had 25 songs and clocked in at a long hour and 30 minutes, while Migos’ “Culture II” had 24 tracks and a total running time of one hour and 46 minutes.
But what is the cause of all these extra long mega albums? Are they 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 chart position was previously based on the number of purchases and downloads it had accumulated, 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 its chart calculations. 1,500 streams of any song equals one listen 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 each 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. Individual singles streams also count towards the total number of albums.
The results of this change are the long albums we have seen. According to “Rolling Stone”, the average length of the top five most-streamed 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 prioritizing quantity over quality in order to boost their streams. A 20-song album is much more likely to get more streams than an eight-track album, which propels the album up the charts and generates more revenue for artists and record labels.
In 2017, Chris Brown released a 45-song album with a total running time of two hours and 38 minutes. The album received a “Gold” certification from the RIAA after just one week, despite the fact that no song from the album entered the Billboard top 40. The amount of songs was the only contributing factor to the amount of streams the album received, rather than the quality of the work itself.
This is where I have a problem with the trend of 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 uninspired, uninteresting filler songs used to generate revenue, and they take the artistry and individual thought out of the music. Unless Billboard and the RIAA revise the way they count streams, artists will continue to release boring, endless albums to oversaturate the market and boost sales.