Radio 1 Head of Music: Playlists will be the new album

George Ergatoudis
George Ergatoudis thinks playlists on streaming sites will become the new album for many people

Head of Music for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, George Ergatoudis, recently told Newsbeat he didn't think the introduction of streaming will have a massive impact on the charts.

But a recent tweet suggests that he thinks another aspect of sites like Spotify will have more of an effect on music consumption.

He wrote: "Make no mistake. With very few exceptions, albums are edging closer to extinction.

"Playlists are the future."

The comment attracted opinion blogs and social media comments suggesting the man in charge of the team which decides the music that gets played on Radio 1 was predicting the death of the album.

So with a few more than 140 characters, what did his comment mean?

"A couple of things led me to write that tweet. Of course, I did use strong language. I used the words "towards extinction", which is rather emotive.

"I'm not saying that artists are going to stop making albums, I'm not saying that albums aren't artistically relevant and there will still be some amazing artists recording amazing albums."

The statement was followed by a link to a New York Times piece about Songza, an American playlist service which was recently acquired by Google for an undisclosed fee but has been reported to be around $39m (£23m).

Apple also recently purchased Beats and there has also been a recent rise in popularity and value of similar sites like Pandora and Spotify.

Ergatoudis added: "We're moving from this world of old music purchasing leading to people buying albums and singles, to a world where predominantly in the future most people are going to be effectively renting their music from a music streaming service.

"All of those music streaming services, although they have albums, are leading the consumer down the path of playlists."

What do you mean by a playlist?

"It could be as a list of the top 40 or top 100 most popular songs in that point in time or it could be a very specifically tailored list for a moment in time. It could be a specific activity, it could be a mood.

"But these services are trying to get you fantastic playlists that suit what you want.

"Ultimately it's not that different to what radio's been doing for years in a way but what it does mean is that people are going to stream the music from these services. I think playlists are going to be the new album."

Do people still want full-length albums?

Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran's X became his second number one album when it was released in May

According to the Official Charts Company, Ed Sheeran's second album, X, became the fastest-selling album of 2014 with 182,000 UK sales in its first week of release.

The 23-year-old's album overtook Coldplay's Ghost Stories opening week tally by 14,000 copies.

Its data also shows that album sales are down 18% compared to the same time last year.

Ergatoudis said: "We are still going to get exceptions where the artist is brilliant, the audience loves that artist and they release a body of work that is strong enough, consistent enough that the public go out and buy it.

"Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Adele potentially - these are going to be the artists who still succeed in selling slots of albums.

"But I think the number of artists that are selling albums, honestly, at a mass market level is already small and it's going to stay very small."

Could playlists and albums not co-exist as people are introduced to new music?

"Music streaming services and playlists are clearly going to lead to discovery. There are going to be a few success stories out of that," said Ergatoudis.

"For many, many people playlists are going to replace what traditionally used to be their album consumption pattern.

"I think it's going to become a minority sport."

He added that when given choice, many people would prefer a playlist "rather than listening to a rather mediocre body of work, the album, which sadly is true in most cases".

So is the "extinction" of the album imminent?

"This is already happening but it's going to move at the same pace that music streaming services take off.

"So five years from now I think we're going to see a massively different market where the audience really are starting to come to terms subscribing or renting their music.

"In terms of where most people are spending their time, it's going to be listening to these playlists - not albums."

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