Are Short Albums The Move?
It’s a fact that listeners’ attention spans are shorter than ever.
Simply put, it’s because there’s so much music to get through, not to mention all of the other content competing for our attention. In fact, data shows that a listener may start an album, get distracted, then come back and start again as they try to make their way through the entire album.
As listening habits change, there’s an opportunity for artists to innovate and adapt how they package and deliver their music.
True artists challenge popularly accepted norms and definitions to push us forward, which is exactly what’s happening with the concept of an “album.”
For example, Philly native, Tierra Whack dropped an “Instagram Album” titled “Whack World.” The project is 15 tracks, each a minute long, with an accompanying video, perfectly tailored for IG and easy quick consumption.
G.O.O.D. Music's Takeover
In one of music’s most insane months, everyone from Jay Z & Beyonce to Kanye West to Kid Cudi to Nas has released major projects, all 9 tracks or shorter.
Kanye even went as far as producing and releasing 5 projects across 5 weeks with each being under 25 mins, bucking the trend of longer albums to boost streaming numbers.
All of the G.O.O.D. Music projects, outside of Daytona, were finished the week/day of their release, as we’ve found out Kanye himself made his album in two weeks.
The concept of rolling out 5 albums in a month span with a simple announcement was exciting and generated hype, but with all experiments, execution is king, and faulty execution can kill hype. The success of such a time crunch has varied.
Importance of a Planned Release
All of the G.O.O.D. Music projects, were finished the week/day of their release. Pusha T's “Daytona” was released first and was completed early enough to send to the press to listen to, as opposed to Kanye’s project, “ye”, which was finished the day of it's scheduled release. We now know that Kanye scrapped his originally planned project to create, “ye”, in two weeks. From there, the problems cascaded with each release moving slightly further out, ending with Teyana Taylor’s project releasing on Saturday instead of Friday.
In a situation like this you risk a negative customer experience when fans don’t receive an album at the start of the day that it was promised. This is especially damaging for an artist with talent, but lacks top billing, like Teyana Taylor, who needed to capitalize when buzz was at its peak, so with each hour the album was delayed, the more people moved onto other new music. In this case G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam did her a disservice.
This release strategy may have been more effective as a series of surprise releases. It would have taken away the pressure of trying to deliver by midnight on Thursday to have a pre-release livestream party, and each album feels like a gift, rather than tying it to expectations.
With all this in mind, be bold and experiment with release formats and album structures, but know execution matters a lot, when trying to get things to stick, make impact, and be well received.
For artists considering playing with album structure in a unique way, it’s key to remember that you need to create a cohesive project with an organized release plan. Construct your album’s narrative and themes from top to bottom so that each song packs a punch, is cohesive, and communicates all your ideas.
A word of caution here is that with shorter albums, the margin for error is very small, so one bump can throw people out of immersion, such as an off topic guest feature. In that same vein not every artist can thrive in a seven track format, as we saw with Nas. He got beautiful beats, but in seven tracks he never settled in and dove deep on his ideas, just scattering top level ideas around the album.
Don’t squander hype you’ve built with an unprofessional rollout, because when you do the unconventional, your margin for error shrinks, but creating a positive fan experience before the fans hear the music can create goodwill and open fans minds to what to expect.