Spotify: Albums are alive and kicking in the streaming age

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Drake’s God’s Plan is the top streamed song of 2018, he’s experimented with how his music is released over the last few years

In 1948, New York’s Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra put out a recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.

You know the one – the release widely regarded as the first ever album.

Since then, the format’s taken on various shapes and sizes, as fans listen to music in different ways.

Although recent figures suggested UK sales had halved since 2010, the world’s leading streaming platform says the album is “alive and kicking”.

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Hands up if you were the most streamed artist and sold the most copies of your album on vinyl in 2017

As the UK’s first National Album Day celebrates “all aspects of the album” (and Violin Concerto in E minor marks its 70th birthday) Spotify UK’s head of shows and editorial says an album release in 2018 “can still be absolutely monumental”.

“You only have to look at some of the records that have been broken on Spotify in the last year or two with things like Drake’s Scorpion, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran or Stormzy’s albums in 2017 to see you can have very big moment across streaming and traditional media,” suggests Austin Daboh.

“People will always look at a collection of songs as a moment, a landmark, a flag in the sand for an artist’s career.”

In 2017, figures from the BPI suggested physical album sales and downloads in the UK had halved since 2010 to 59.7m.

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Austin Daboh says the music industry is still in the “wild west” of finding the most efficient way to release albums in the streaming age

Many linked a rise in streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music to a drop in the format’s popularity but Austin claims recent data from users appears to show the album hasn’t been killed off by streaming just yet.

“Last week on Spotify we had five million streams on albums.

“Compare that to the height of the digital era, the height of the iTunes era, nobody sold five million albums in a calendar year let alone a week.

“Also, 46% of all streams on Spotify aren’t singles. These are songs that are coming through projects whether that be albums, EPs or playlists.

“The album is very much alive and kicking on Spotify.”

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Arctic Monkeys’ latest album was released in a traditional way with the title and release date announced months in advance

While Austin says there’s work to be done to ensure albums are released “in an efficient way” on streaming platforms, he’s adamant acts don’t need to change their approach to writing music.

“It’s not a case of saying: ‘If you’re a guitar band you must release in this certain way or if you’re an MC you have to do this wacky format.’

“We’re not in the business of telling people what type of music they should be making or how… if music is good, we’ll support it.

“It’s always been the case that some albums do and some albums don’t work, the streaming era is no different.”

‘Albums stay with you for life’

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Phoebe Fox

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The Amazons’ self-titled debut album went to number eight in the UK

For Amazons singer Matt Thomson the idea of albums becoming less significant “really doesn’t appeal”.

“Just because we’re a band in 2018 why shouldn’t we be allowed to do albums?

“I don’t care what year it is I want to put out music, not with one or two singles here and there, I want to put out bodies of work.”

“The ways bands do things probably doesn’t reflect how people are listening to music in 2018… But for rock n roll, albums are of huge importance.

“It’s a great chance to have a snapshot of where a band is at.”

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Elliot Briggs of The Amazons

The band are working on their second album and although they say making it is “a mix of excitement and terror”, bassist Elliot Briggs explains approaching a new album, as both an artist and as a fan of other people’s music, “is like when a big movie comes out”.

“There’s a level of excitement you can’t find anywhere else except for in an album that people have spent hundred of hours on.”

Matt adds: “But music has a bigger impact. Seeing a film is maybe a once or twice-off experience, albums stay with you for life.”

Drummer Joe Emmett agrees: “The world without albums would be an interesting place.

“If music was just released via singles it would just become like chip paper – it would be so throwaway.”

‘Everyone’s releasing what they want’

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Ray BLK’s upcoming project, featuring songs she’s written over the last two years, will be released in her album in 2019

Since winning the BBC Sound Of poll in 2017, there’s been a lot of speculation around the release of Ray BLK’s debut album.

She’s following a string of singles and EPs with what she’s calling “a project” later this month and is in no rush to commit to her first record.

“It’s a collection of songs I’ve done over a long time… I just didn’t want to put a big label on it.

“If you call it an EP people discard it as not that serious, and if you call it an album it’s like ‘Oh my god this has to be your everything’.”

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Among Ray BLK’s recent releases is a collaboration with Naughty Boy

She says she’ll be releasing an album in 2019 when she has time to “concentrate on a body of work”.

“I’m an album lover, so someone’s album for me is when you say ‘I’ve taken time out to do the best thing I can’.

“I always expect a lot from other artist’s albums so I expect a lot from myself as well.”

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‘I was telling the label about More Life… They thought it was an album’

Although some behind the scenes in the industry might question the move, Ray insists R&B and grime fans aren’t as fussy as people think.

“When they hear songs they’re not thinking ‘Oh is this your first single from the album?’ They just want to hear good songs.

“A lot is changing so I think artists know that… Everyone’s just doing what they want.

“Like Drake put out a playlist – what is that? I never heard of that before he did it but now it’s a thing.”

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