Albums and Length: Streaming Services and The Dirty Business


Ari Beckett

Albums like Tupac Shakur’s “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” have few songs which are, generally, all good, while albums like Migos’ “Culture II” are pushed to have higher numbers of song per album while sacrificing quality.

Alexander Estes, Staff Writer

We all love music. Good music. Everybody listens to it: your parents, your friends, your teachers, that quiet kid in math; everywhere you go you can probably find somebody listening to music. But for most of our young life we’ve been familiar with listening to music on streaming services such as Apple Music or Spotify. Not only has streaming revenue beaten streaming services consistently since 2016, but — as a result of the rise of music streaming — lots of albums became very long, and it’s downright hideous.

Many people think, “what’s the problem with longer albums? I get more of my favorite artist.” Yeah, sure you do, but this doesn’t mean that it will all be high-quality. Recently, Billboard has been taking streaming services into account when charting albums and songs, not just physical copies sold. This started a huge snowball effect of tons of albums immediately going gold or platinum. In fact, the rule (that’s already started this year) allows subscription streaming services to count more on the Billboards than ad-supported streams such as songs on Youtube or the free version of Spotify, and that means even more revenue from streaming services.

On paper, this doesn’t seem that bad at all, but it results in people “exploiting” the system. Normally, this is supposed to help out the streaming era of our generation since it is now the leading sales for music nowadays, but labels are taking advantage of this. Although, there is a difference between an artist who has a slightly longer album than someone who is obviously taking advantage of this by adding a ton of garbage, filler and lazy songs instead of cohesive and impressive ones.

Some examples of long albums are Kanye West’s “Late Registration” or Eminem’s “Slim Shady LP,” but both of those existed before streaming was even a thing. Plus, they both included multiple short skits. Those albums not only included many incredible songs, but the length did not take away from its quality, so let’s take a took at a more modern example of a long album that takes advantage of these new streaming rules.

You know Chris Brown, right? The guy who beat up Rihanna violently and didn’t even go to jail for it? He recently released a new album, though I don’t even think you could call this an album: it’s more of a playlist of his throwaways from the past year. It is 45 songs long. 45 songs long. That’s not a typo. The length of it comes to over two hours and thirty minutes long; you could fly from LA to Portland for the duration of this album. Chris Brown even went as far as to post on Instagram a set of extremely weird instructions on how to listen to his album to make sure he gets the “recognition and success he deserves,” or as I like to call it, “Let’s see how much I can get my fans to milk this album so I can get platinum,” which sadly he has achieved as of January.

It doesn’t stop there, though; in December, Brown released the “Deluxe Edition,” as if we needed any more, containing an additional 12 tracks, bringing it to a total of 57 tracks, or well over three hours of music. You could comfortably finish the Titanic and not this monster of an album. The obviousness of labels and artists exploiting this system of streaming to achieve platinum or gain more money is getting completely ridiculous.

A smaller example of this is Migos, one of the biggest trap groups recently. In 2017 they released “Culture” which was a fantastic 13-track album containing one of the biggest hits of last year: “Bad and Boujee,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert. Most of these 13 songs were of high quality and was only one hour long. This year however, the Migos didn’t release a track list of their album “Culture II,” which raised many eyebrows, as they released the album cover alone at 9 p.m. on Jan. 26. This album contained 24 songs, and brings the album to a length of an hour and 45 minutes, which is insane.

I don’t know how anybody can get through almost two hours of adlibs and bland tracks, because I was getting bored not even halfway through it, only waking up for a few seconds to a boring Post Malone feature. This was such a disappointment to me personally because I really enjoyed “Culture I” and wanted to see what else they could bring to the table, but they went to being greedy and filling 80% of their album with filler.

This trend of quantity over quality on somebody’s album looks like it will remain as music streaming is only getting bigger. This will also continue to happen as long as we keep eating up these ridiculously long records fed to us from labels just trying to get a quick dollar. Our only hope is that independent artists (not signed to any label or record deal) will create their own art without adding worthless filler to their albums. Let’s just hope that this strategy backfires on labels and we will finally get rid of these long, tiring cash grabs.