An old stack of records sits in front of a shelf full of vinyl in a local record store.
Music Industry

What form will music take after COVID-19: Albums, EPs, playlists, or mixtapes?

There will be plenty of unexpected and unintended consequences from the coronavirus pandemic. There will be few areas of our lives that won’t be altered in some way, even after this goes away/we have a cure/a vaccine becomes available.

Music Ally looks at the forms in which we will consume music going forward.

“The album isn’t completely dead and the playlist isn’t yet the be-all and end-all – which means that artists are somewhat creatively discombobulated in what is really a curious transition period. But with that comes the scope to experiment and push the boundaries. Justin Bieber could be the one firing the starting pistol for the way that a series of EPs straddle the album and playlist worlds, containing elements of both and yet existing in their own right. We look at how to meet fan expectations with not only what you put out but also how you put it out, where to refine the frequency of releases and why playlists may actually allow the album to be reborn.

“Streaming was meant to be the music industry’s final format, a musical pick ‘n’ mix that would put an end to the arbitrary stylistic restrictions imposed on music releases by the length of a side of vinyl or the storage capacity of a CD. Yet, strangely, this hasn’t been the case: many young artists still clamour to release albums, while the difference between the mixtape and the album remains hugely important in hip-hop.

“In fact, in the digital world, the number of formats – or perhaps that should be “formats”, given the historical link between formats and physical objects – is actually increasing. At the start of the millennium, formats were largely limited to singles, EPs, artist albums, compilation albums and boxsets. This was a five-way divide that felt manageable, with just the odd mixtape and DJ mix CD to jam a spoke in the wheels. Then came the digital music era with the single-track release, the playlist, the enhanced playlist and the digital boxset.”

So will it be albums, EPs, playlists, mixtapes, or something else? Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38035 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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