In a listening age not so long ago, albums were preceded by one or two singles, signifying a full-length album was on the way. Now, however, this process has been warped and in the past year we have seen a shift in the album experience.
Streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify have made it so that songs can be heard at the moment of their release. This has, obviously, led to the decline of CD and tape production and the revolution of instantaneous listening through phones and computers. As a result, there has been less risk of releasing a track as a single. Whereas before, only one or two tracks would be released before an album drop, artists can release more and more songs without the chance of overproducing CDs or vinyls.
What This Means
In the past year, artists like LSD (Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo’s new group) and Twenty One Pilots released 4 to 6 new singles before their albums’ releases. Week after week, they released a new single, packaging them with the old ones. In doing so, listeners got to see the album being formed right before their eyes. In the past, albums were something to be awaited and enjoyed in full. Now, however, they are being formed into weeks-long experiences that unfold before the listeners’ eyes.
What this says for the future
Releasing singles into a package in the weeks leading to an album is all well and good, but it is just the beginning of what streaming can do for an album experience. In fact, Kevin Abstract of Brockhampton showed the world over the past few weeks just how creative streaming can be used for turning the album experience into something completely new.
Instead of releasing singles, Abstract released two EPs beforehand, Ghetto Baby and Arizona. They were both cohesive EPs in their own right, both sounding like complete works. Then, a he grouped the two projects together and essentially added another EP to the end, creating ARIZONA BABY. What’s incredible is that the listening to the two EPs in an album setting completely recontextualizes them, making the project still sound fresh, even though it had mostly been released in the two weeks prior.
It is likely that we will see more and more artists following this trend. This way, every track has a chance of hitting the charts as a single and gets more recognition. It also provides a way for more casual music lovers to get an in-depth album experience without having to sit down and listen to the whole album at once. If anything, it’s an incredibly efficient way to deliver new music and keep fans on their heels for weeks on end.
Streaming has changed music in a lot of ways, for better and for worse. Now that the world has gotten used to the medium, though, artists are finally able to find creative ways to push their artistry to its limits, and I am certain we are only seeing the beginning of a musical revolution.