More and more artists are starting to release albums in the form of several multi-song installments as opposed to a single release.
Music albums have long been released as a single entity. Typically, record labels would release a few songs as singles – followed by an entire album with all of the songs on it.
However that has changed recently, as artists have begun to adapt to the new era of streaming music. Instead of releasing a full album, the album itself is being broken into chunks that contain a couple of songs and released to the public. By doing so, the release of the entire album is spread out over several months.
The main reason why modern artists seem to prefer this model is to cater to the new commercial environment that they find themselves in. It creates a drip feed of content for fans that is more suited to streaming.
While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this trend started, one of the earliest examples is in the rap genre. As far back as July 2018, rapper Denzel Curry chose to split his “TA1300” album into three ‘acts’ that were released over the course of three days. His reason for doing that was because each ‘act’ represented a different musical vision.
In other words, it was more of an artistic decision rather than a commercial one.
The multi-part release strategy only really started to get into gear when it moved over to the indie rock realm however. Singer-songwriter Bill Callahan decided to release his “Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest” album as individual songs over the course of four weeks.
Unlike Curry, Callahan chose to try the approach primarily to combat the distraction of streaming. In his own words, “I know from my own experience with streaming that it’s really tempting to—even if you’re enjoying the song—wonder what’s next and skip through it. So we wanted to sort of just roll the record out slowly.”
That seems to have started the ball rolling, and since then more and more artists and record labels have followed suit. The current model is to pace the release of the album over several months, and couple it with a well-coordinated social media campaign.
More recently Paramore’s singer-songwriter Hayley Williams plans to use the approach for her debut solo album, “Petals for Armor”. The first chunk named “Petals for Armor I” has already been released featuring five tracks that have a similar tone. According to her it is a way to include people in the journey as she experienced it.
If successful, it will help the songs on the album grab listeners’ attention more easily and result in more streams. Comparatively if the album was released all at once, many listeners may become distracted after a couple of songs and would stream other music, videos, or movies.
Of course the split release model is not without its risks either. Although it could more easily grab the attention of listeners’, the approach could backfire as well and the entire album may end up underrated or dismissed if one of its chunks fails to live up to expectations.
That is especially true of reviewers, who may base their entire review of the album on the one chunk that has already been released. In the long run that could have a big impact on sales – and not in a good way.
For now the idea of releasing albums in chunks is still very much of an experiment, and it is anyone’s bet as to whether or not it ends up being more widely-used. A study by Betway Sports indicates that although it is very successful in some cases, in others its impact is minimal.
It really boils down to whether or not listeners end up preferring their albums to be released bit by bit for them to digest it over time – or all at once.