25 vs. 7: A Debate Over Album Length in the Streaming Age
“It’s 25 songs?”
My initial reaction to the track listing of Scorpion by Drake had nothing to do with interesting track titles like “Ratchet Happy Birthday” or “Can’t Take A Joke” — it was about how obnoxiously long the Toronto artist’s newest project was going to be.
Twenty-five tracks, split up into an A side and B side. A year after we had gotten a 22-song “playlist” in More Life and two years after the release of the 20-song Views, Drake’s albums have only been getting longer, and in an age where streaming giants like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal have dominated the music consumption and listening space, it makes senses. More songs on an album means more streams or plays which means more money for the artist. Sure, the overall quality of the albums are bound to go down, but this is the best strategy in terms of releasing music nowadays, right?
Kanye West would have to disagree.
When most of the music industry has zigged and ditched the standard 13-song album model for longer and longer projects, Yeezy and the rest of G.O.O.D. Music zagged and dropped a series of 7 to 8 song projects this past summer. Highlighted by Pusha T’s DAYTONA, Kanye’s self-titled ye, and the inaugural joint album effort of Kanye and Kid Cudi with KIDS SEE GHOSTS, G.O.O.D Music opted for shorter LPs, with the runtime of most of the albums falling under or about 25 minutes.
While this seems to be more of an artistic decision than one influenced by a bottom line (“Man, if we can’t kill you in seven songs, we don’t really need to be doing the music,” was Pusha T’s response about G.O.O.D. Music’s strategy), it’s worth considering if there are some monetary benefits to Kanye and crew’s sudden change in direction. With an album length that was so easily digestible, I listened to ye start-to-finish seven or eight times within the first 24 hours of its release — seven tracks multiplied by seven start-to-finish listens comes out to 49 total streams, not including the extra streams I gave to songs like “Ghost Town” and “No Mistakes.”
Conversely, Scorpion was an absolute struggle to get through — just as More Life had been for me the year before. Once I had completed the marathon and listened to the entirety of the 25-song behemoth, I had no intention of going back for a second start-to-finish play of the Drake project. It was too much to listen to. It got boring. It lost my attention more than once. It wasn’t engaging. Twenty-five tracks multiplied by one start-to-finish listen comes out to 25 total streams, not including my extra streams of songs like “Sandra’s Rose” and “Emotionless.”
I streamed the seven-song album almost twice as much as I did the 25-song album. Has Kanye stumbled onto something here? Maybe. Just maybe.