Sequencing an Album In the Age of Streaming and Downloads

My new album
My new album

After several months of recording and mixing,  my new album - Love & Pride is available for download and streaming ahead of an official “physical” launch in May.

So at the moment it’s a digital only release and that in itself raises questions about the purpose of “albums” in the age of Spotify and Itunes.

You could argue that the very existence of the album – or the concept of the album –  is a product of a certain kind of music reproduction technology in the shape of the vinyl record spinning at 33 and 1/3 RPM  and giving you a comfortable 45 minutes of music. In other words 10 to 12 songs across two sides. It was that structure that gave the classic albums of the sixties, seventies and eighties their shape.  And the key to most of the great albums was a sequence of songs that took you on a journey from a killer opening track to memorable closer.

And there was probably an assumption that people would listen all the way through. The opener was hugely important.  but so were the songs in  the middle.  The closing track – like the last page of a novel – was also crucial.  It was the closer that created the lingering aftertaste.  It  might be an epic ( such as Jungleland bringing Born to Run to an end)an off-brand surprise (Train in Vain/London Calling )  or the best tune on the album (You Can’t Always Get What You Want/Let it Bleed). None of those songs were throwaways pushed to the end. They were crucial components.   My own favourite closers are  Slim Slow Slider (Astral Weeks/Van Morrison) and I Dream a Highway (Gillian Welch/Time, the Revelator).

(This is my Spotify playlist of closers)

But can you safely leave the best ( or one of the best tracks) until the end today?  To a degree you can. People still buy CDs and downloads and listen all the way through. But – and this is a big but – when someone downloads a new release on Itunes, it might only be one or two songs out of ten.  Meanwhile, if you look at new releases on Spotify, the popularity bars tend to show that it’s the first two or three tracks on an album that get listened to most.

So should we all make EPs instead. Or simply sequence all the best tracks first, leaving filler to the end.

I hope not. An album is a chance to tell a story about where you are musically and thematically at any given point in time. And the sequence matters.

On my new album – which I consider to be blues in mood but not genre)  there are tracks that come from a jazz blues and even soul route and others which tap into a folk vibe. Making it all work together depends on the sequence.

But we live in the modern world and the first four tracks ( the ones that get listened to most – are also in carefully sequenced. You adapt to the times, I guess.

Love and pride is now available for Download and Streaming from Spotify, Apple Music, Itunes, Bandcamp, Amazon, Google and others.

Check it out here.  (Spotify app)

On from bandcamp

 

 

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