How the streaming era is ruining the quality of music

Michael Petitto, Staff Writer

Over the past decade, a new trend has been growing among upcoming and established artists in order to compete in the ever-growing music industry. In order to top the charts and gain more streams, artists have begun including more songs on their albums.

While this means that fans get more music, it also means that the quality of music is being outweighed by the quantity. Instead of getting a high quality album with 15 tracks, it’s more common in the present day to see a bloated album with 25 songs and a significant decrease in quality.

Take Lil Baby’s 2022 album “It’s Only Me,” for example. The project had massive hype around it, with features from many popular artists in the trap music scene and a lot of buzz from online communities waiting for what the Atlanta rapper had in store. However, what listeners got instead was a repetitive, dull, 23 track-long mess of mediocrity that caused all the excitement around the album to die down just a few weeks after its release.

Since there were 23 tracks and the album had those industry friendly features, “It’s Only Me” sold 216,000 copies in the first week. Despite this, the album itself has been seemingly out of many listener’s rotations for months as the chatter around the project has essentially vanished.

Sales and streams are two things that drive many artists to bloat their albums with filler. It’s an artist’s worst nightmare to see that your album sold 15,000 units in the first week and is considered a flop, despite the quality of the project itself.

A real life example of this occurring is the botched release of Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter V.” The album was originally supposed to come out sometime in early 2015, but the project went through multiple variations. People in Wayne’s circle told him to add more songs to increase streams, so the album didn’t see the light of day until 2018. 

On top of that, Wayne released the deluxe version in 2020 with a whopping 33 tracks featured on the project with a run time of around two hours.

It seems that over the past few years it has become increasingly harder to find albums from established artists that have less than 16 tracks. When comparing albums of some of the biggest artists in the world, it’s clear that the modern-day streaming era has had an effect on the quantity of music being released. Take SZA for example; her critically acclaimed 2017 album “Ctrl” only features 14 tracks with a runtime of 49 minutes. Fast forward to her next album release in 2022, and her project SOS features 23 tracks with a runtime of one hour and eight minutes.

The landscape of modern music is dominated by singles, which are geared toward garnering more streams and chatter for the eventual release of an album. The release of catchy singles and long track lists can be traced to how artists actually get paid from streams. According to LA music promotion company Planetary Group,, in order for an artist to be paid royalties for a song, a listener must get through at least 30 seconds. 

This means that artists have to keep this in mind when constructing their music, which has led to more hooks, provocative lyrics and features being included in the first 30 seconds to keep the listener from clicking off to the next song.

The streaming era has also affected the overall album listening experience as well. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the streaming service Deezer with 2,000 participants, just 15% of music fans under 25 have never listened to an album. The album experience itself has been ruined by the streaming era as people have become more selective with what they listen to and how long they listen for.

Although streaming music has become an easier and cheaper option for people to listen to their favorite artists and genres, it’s also resulted in the diminished quality and ushered in a new era of song creation and advertising.