The advent of streaming services has indeed transformed the music industry and the way people consume music. With platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and others dominating the market, the emphasis has shifted towards individual tracks and playlists rather than complete albums.
Acclaimed solo artist, producer, and Porcupine Tree's frontman Steven Wilson, recently weighed in on this trend – while speaking to Songfacts – lamenting the decline of the album as a listening experience.
"There are pros and cons of living in the age of social media, and there's pros and cons of living in the age of YouTube and streaming services, and what I call the 'playlist mentality,' which means that we don't really acknowledge the idea of the album anymore as a kind of musical continuum." Wilson observed. "We create our playlists on streaming services, and we listen to individual songs compiled into our own sequences."
Wilson's latest album, The Harmony Codex, stands as an example of his commitment to the album format: "I still like to listen to albums from beginning to end. I think there is still a sizable minority that still like the experience of an album as programmed and sequenced by the artist."
The rise of playlists and streaming services has undoubtedly democratized music consumption, allowing listeners to tailor their musical experiences to their individual tastes. However, Wilson suggests that this newfound freedom may come at a cost.
"Largely speaking, we live in a world now where people listen to music online, curate their own playlists, and that means that there's a whole kind of layer of filtering that used to be there that is no longer there. And that layer of filtering is the marketing guise, the tastemakers – those people that used to perhaps keep us more focused on listening within a particular genre. It's no longer as relevant as it used to be. So, I think kids just listen across the board now to whatever interests them, whatever excites them."