Hilltop Hoods & Urthboy on why hip hop albums still matter
Are pop and rock fans more likely to listen to an album throughout than rap and hip hop followers?
That’s according to an overseas study released this week by French streaming service Deezer, which asked 6,000 people in the US, France, Germany and Brazil about their listening habits.
A worryingly high number (54%) are listening to fewer albums than they did five to 10 years ago, saying they don’t have enough time, and that there’s too much great music on offer.
Nearly 40% prefer playlists and mood mixes are becoming popular, while 10% reckon “they don’t make albums like they used to.”
On average, though, the respondents still stream to five albums a month, Brazilians the most and the French and the Germans the least.
Those artists who lovingly craft an album as a journey – from the opening riff of track one to the fade-out of the last song – would be left with lips quivering to be told that only 36% of those surveyed listen to the album in chronological order (as in track 1, then track 2, then track 3).
The study’s results don’t correspond to the theory that younger music fans are consuming fewer albums.
34% of listeners aged over 55 prefer to consume single tracks, but Millennials are twice as likely as baby boomers to turn to an album.
Another surprise is in the breakdown of genres.
Pop may be associated with glitter and focussed on singles but 39% of pop-loving respondents listen to the album right through.
They beat rock fans (38%) who are traditionally the ones to helter-skelter over the long-player.
After that, it plunges to 20% for R&B, 19% for rap and 18% for hip hop, while languishing at the bottom is gospel (13%).
Australian Hip Hop Responds
The Australian hip hop sector doesn’t buy into the assertion that its consumers are losing interest in albums.
Hilltop Hoods, after all, have sold 1 million album units in Australia, and have had more chart-topping albums than any other Australian band.
Their manager Dylan Liddy points out to TMN: “Judging from audience reaction at their concerts and from streaming analytics, many of their album tracks also have solid resonance and connectivity with fans – we don’t just rely on the usual focal singles.
“The bottom line creatively is not every song can be a multi-platinum single, so album songs/content allows all sort of songs to see the light of day… which is important for an artist in developing and honing their craft and their career.”
Liddy emphasises: “Albums are important for Hilltop Hoods in their relationship with their fans – an album release allows the group to present a whole concept and give their fans full picture of the band’s creative expression/concepts and musical progression at any point in their career.
“The album artwork and other related assets also assist the group to deliver a full album cycle strategy, which then hooks into the live touring – a critical part of our business model.”
Performer and label executive Urthboy says albums are still big deal at Elefant Traks.
“We sell more singles now because most of our music exists in a digital streaming space, and most of the consumption is individual songs,” he tells TMN.
Its artists like Hermitude, L-FRESH The Lion, Joelistics, The Herd, Okenyo and Homeward Bound, among others, put a lot of energy and time into long-players.
Urthboy explains: “You have to create a body of work for a single to reveal itself. It allows an artist to make sense of what they’re trying to do, especially if they’re a career artist.
“By making a number of songs and getting a certain amount of clarity from that process, even if it results in a few songs in a creative body of work.
“That’s what most artists certainly do.
“Following a record’s journey is rewarding and more fulfilling to be able to experience music in that way, experiencing a body of work in its entirety to get a complete context.”
He recalls how he endlessly listened in his younger days to specific albums by Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest and The Beastie Boys and embraced the joy and excitement and potential of hip hop.
Urthboy disagrees with some Deezer conclusions.
“It’s not that you don’t have the time to listen to an album, you easily make the time to watch a Netflix series.
“It’s just that the way you receive your music has changed so drastically that it lends itself to distractions and jumping from one artist or song to another.”
Other Takeaways From The Report
It’s interesting that Deezer’s question mark over the lengthy engrossment of hip hop followers comes the same week when Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By became his 10th chart-topper album in Australia’s ARIA Albums Chart, and in the US.
Other takeaways from the study are:
- A consumer listening to an album for the first time feels happy (48%), excited (46%) and inspired (24%).
- 94% agree higher audio quality is the most important feature for album listening.
- 82% listen at home, 42% in the car, followed by a walk, a commute and in bed.
- 40% put on an album when they need a distraction of some sort.
- 34% listen to albums in their free time
- 26% listen when they’re happy.
“The amount of great music released these days is so huge, and available time has shrunk so much, it’s no surprise that more music fans turn to playlists for their music fix,” observes Frederic Antelme, Deezer’s VP of content and productions.
“But listeners shouldn’t ditch albums. They represent the artist’s vision, tell a story and take you on a musical journey.”