Playlists are now a more popular way to listen to music than albums, according to the Music Business Association. A study of around 3,000 US citizens in May by LOOP says playlists account for 31% of listening time across all demographics, while albums lag behind on 22%. Single tracks remain the dominant format, according to the study, accounting for 46% of music played.
The report reveals that playlists are now becoming an increasingly dominant part of music consumption. In some ways this will cheer those looking to break new artists,with these kind of eclectic playlists mixing emerging acts alongside new releases by established ones, such as artists played by New Music Monday, 6Music or PIAS. Popular mixes on Mixcloud, Apple Music and Spotify could allow for more of a chance that new acts will be showcased.
But it will no doubt spark a range of “the album format is dead” think pieces, as the shift towards streaming, iPod shuffling and individual tracks continues. Whilst this evolution is inevitable and gives the listener more choice than ever, it doesn’t take into account the reemergence of vinyl, as collectors return to the quality format.
“Even when the medium is dead, I’ll probably still be making albums,” says Mercury winner Kano, showing why albums are pieces of art, made to be enjoyed in sequence and as a whole entity. As Kano exemplifies, some artists will always want to make no matter the trends or their commercial viability. On the other hand, dance act The Chainsmokers, whose single ‘Closer’ has been riding high in the charts recently, indicated they had no plans to release a debut album. “We will always continue to release music. But an album is something different,” they wrote on Twitter. “An album is a big deal, not just a compilation of random singles, that’s how we see it.” Elsewhere, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins talked about this four years ago, calling albums “irrelevant” he asked “Are going to sit somewhere and listen to a sixty minute album all the way through? I doubt it”
Meanwhile, another Mercury Prize nominee, Laura Mvula says, “The prevalence of tracks over albums is what’s wrong with mainstream culture […] We need to bring back the album.” She added: “Mainstream culture is saturated with the singles phenomenon because our attention spans are so short, but listening to albums can be really fulfilling. You’re getting a whole story, rather than just a quick fix of a McDonald’s meal.”
Loop’s survey also highlights the prevalence of YouTube, which emerges as the most popular source for audio content, especially with younger people, providing a treasure trove of music’s entire history at the click of the button. Sometimes YouTube doesn’t have high-quality visual or audio content but its ease of access is at the heart of its popularity. There are no sign-ups, or downloads here. 42% of respondents stated they used the service at least once a week. YouTube are currently trying to hash out a deal with artists and labels to give them a greater royalty for the use of their music on their portal.
The same number said they refused to subscribe to music streaming sites like Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music because they were happy using free, ad-supported services.
With a-not-so-subtle hint to these platforms to increase their share of the pie for artists, David Lewis, Co Found of Loop, said: “This report confirms that playlists are becoming more and more dominant in the music industry as streaming services gain traction […] We hope music companies will keep this data in mind as they make decisions on which platforms, distribution methods and marketing opportunities to invest in.”
Technology and music will continue to evolve the balance between artist, label and music platforms and tech giants like Apple and Youtube needs to be more equitable.
While we’re on the subject of Playlists here’s mine of 2016 so far:
Photo credit: Wikipedia