Record Labels Splitting Long Tracks into Multiple Tracks to Maximize Streaming Income

The music streaming payment model is optimized for popular music: short songs, three, four, five minutes long. Record labels are paid by song streamed, not by the amount of time the music plays. An hour of a three-minute song counts as 20 plays, whereas if it’s a four-minute song, it only gets paid for 15 plays.

In an attempt to hack this system, some record labels – notably for classical music – are splitting music into multiple tracks. You won’t see this on, say, your standard symphony, where, while it would be possible to split four movements into ten or more, but you will see it on other works, ranging from long vocal works to non-standard classical pieces.

Here’s on example: Max Richter’s eight-hour Sleep. If you buy this from the iTunes Store, you will get 31 tracks, ranging in length from 2:46 to more than 33 minutes. But if you stream it on Apple Music, here’s what you see:

Sleep

That’s right, it’s 204 tracks, most of which are under three minutes. By splitting the music this much, the record label – Deutsche Grammophon – gets more than six times as much money than if it were in the original 31 tracks.

Each of the original tracks is named, with a part number at the end of the name.

This is a cynical way to hack the music streaming payment process, but I do feel that this system unfairly handicaps classical and jazz labels, along with some jam rock and other forms of music – Indian classical, for example. Streaming income should be paid by duration rather than by song, or there should be multiple tiers according to the length of tracks. It’s a shame that record labels have to resort to this sort of system to get paid fairly.

6 thoughts on “Record Labels Splitting Long Tracks into Multiple Tracks to Maximize Streaming Income

  1. I guess these divisions also do weird things to playlist algorithms. Spotify’s Daily Mix is great for introducing me to new music, but for the classical Daily Mixes, I can seldom play the playlist itself – I need to follow through to the albums, because on the automatic playlist I wind up with a tiny chunk of the whole piece. (One minute and thirty-six seconds of the Kronos Quartet doing a slice of Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2, for example.)

  2. I guess these divisions also do weird things to playlist algorithms. Spotify’s Daily Mix is great for introducing me to new music, but for the classical Daily Mixes, I can seldom play the playlist itself – I need to follow through to the albums, because on the automatic playlist I wind up with a tiny chunk of the whole piece. (One minute and thirty-six seconds of the Kronos Quartet doing a slice of Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2, for example.)

  3. That’s the pre use length of the tenth part of Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2 on that Kronos Quartet revofdording which you can purchase on iTunes and which I have in my digital music collection. It’s likely all that Spotify licensed for their use. All four parts of No. 2 are 9 minutes, 20 seconds in totality.

  4. That’s the pre use length of the tenth part of Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 2 on that Kronos Quartet revofdording which you can purchase on iTunes and which I have in my digital music collection. It’s likely all that Spotify licensed for their use. All four parts of No. 2 are 9 minutes, 20 seconds in totality.

  5. Oh, Spotify’s got the whole thing, and I’ve played it. But the problem comes in the algorithmically generated playlists: it gives me a track of the Kronos Quartet playing Philip Glass, and that’s a good pick for me. BUT that playlist just has that one tiny track, which winds up a little silly.

  6. Oh, Spotify’s got the whole thing, and I’ve played it. But the problem comes in the algorithmically generated playlists: it gives me a track of the Kronos Quartet playing Philip Glass, and that’s a good pick for me. BUT that playlist just has that one tiny track, which winds up a little silly.

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