Is Drake's 'More Life' playlist an album?
Drake's been all over the music world this week with the debut of his latest playlist via Apple Music, More Life. A curation of 22 new tracks from the GRAMMY winner, the release has caused some debate about the difference between a playlist, a mixtape and a traditional new album. While the questions linger, More Life is the latest demonstration of how artists have unprecedented flexibility in how they release music, thanks to streaming outlets such as Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.
Chance The Rapper made history in 2016 as the first artist to chart on the Billboard 200 and win a GRAMMY based on his streaming-only release, Coloring Book. Kanye West's Life Of Pablo became a "living breathing changing creative expression" he likened to contemporary art as he continued tweaking the album following its 2016 release on Tidal.
Other artists have simply given their music away for free, bucking the system entirely. GRAMMY winners U2 released 2014's Songs Of Innocence in a deal with Apple that automatically uploaded the album for free to every iPhone. Rock band Wilco surprise-released their ninth album Star Wars for free in 2015, while Donnie Trumpet And The Social Experiment (a collective that includes Chance The Rapper) released Surf as a free exclusive iTunes download in 2015.
But artist innovation in album release format predates the recent streaming revolution.
GRAMMY winner Beck left all the musical work for his 2012 album, Song Reader, up to fans. The album came as a book of sheet music for 20 brand-new songs, accompanied by nearly 100 pages of visual art. Potential listeners were instructed that, to hear the new songs, "bringing them to life depends on you."
For their GRAMMY-winning album, In Rainbows, Radiohead took matters into their own hands and self-released the album via their own website with a "pay what you want" model in 2007. Many were skeptical this business tactic would work, but the band revealed in 2008 that, even with many downloading the album for free, an estimated 3 million copies were sold and In Rainbows earned more money than their previous album, 2003's Hail To The Thief.
Thought it is uncertain who will think outside of the box next, Drake's Apple Music playlist format is the latest iteration of the creativity artists explore to get their music to the masses, a trend likely to continue as streaming further revolutionizes the music business.