Calvin Harris has not put out an album since 2014’s Motion, instead putting his efforts into crafting pop singles. As many artists have taken to putting out individual songs at a time, artists such as Beyonce have continued to use the album format to generate sales. Beyonce’s Lemonade was the third best-selling album of 2016 in the United States and the top selling album worldwide. Today’s article touches upon the different formats of building a catalogue around singles compared to building one based around albums in the contemporary landscape of the music business, examining the approaches of both Calvin Harris and Beyonce.
Is there More Mileage in Hit Singles
Critically speaking, Calvin Harris has not been very successful at putting out albums, seeing only moderate sales and average reviews. Calvin Harris’ singles however speak for themselves – Feel So Close (attaining a high of #12 on the US charts); We Found Love with Rihanna (#1 US); Sweet Nothing (#10 US); I Need Your Love (#16 US); Summer (#7 US); Blame (#19 US); Outside (#29 US); How Deep is Your Love (#27 US); This is What You Came For (#3 US); My Way (#24 US); and Slide (#34 US). There is perhaps no other artist who has been as successful at generating buzz via singles in the past few years than Calvin Harris, sustaining his popularity where others have come and gone.
The single format is nothing new, having been around since the 1950s and even before then. The pursuit of singles can be a more casual, low pressure situation for some. For example, if one song does not catch, there is not as much at risk as there is with an album release. That said, an artist has to be more careful in selecting material for single release, which is something that can be more difficult. With only a few minutes to tell a story, being able to effectively do so in a single song is its own talent and one that may be preferable to artists seeking commercial success.
Why the Album is not Ever Going to Fade Away
Though album sales continue to fall, the format is still very much alive. Consider the top selling albums in the United States this past year, which includes Drake’s Views (4.1 million), Adele’s 25 (2.4 million), Beyonce’s Lemonade (2.2 million), Rihanna’s Anti (2.0 million), and Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface (1.7 million). No one has generated more press in the past few years than Beyonce with her album release. She used the opportunity to launch a world tour, partner with HBO for another major video release, and to establish a conceptual depth to her work that has been lacking in any of the single releases over this same time period.
As an artist, an album has the opportunity to touch upon a wider variety of different areas lyrically and sonically. There is more length in general, allowing for more attempts at a hit. There are also many opportunities to use an album release to launch other revenue-generating ideas such as a tour and/or to generate buzz. Many artists also enjoy the album cycle of putting a record out and touring it, and then disappearing from the public eye for a time.
There is no right or wrong format but what is clear is that both formats exist and will continue to exist for the time being. Depending on what kind of artist one wishes to be, an album cycle or a single release might be more appropriate. There is no rule stating that an artist has to adapt to one release pattern for their entire career either. Music is constantly changing, both in the way it is released and in the actual content itself. Weighing the pros and cons, finding what works for you can help to maximize efforts and help you achieve what you set out for.