Streaming-only label compilations from Epic, RCA and Def Jam are opening up a new avenue for breaking artists and establishing hits. Will the rest of the business follow suit?
This July, Epic Records crafted a top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart nearly out of thin air. Epic AF, a streaming album made up of some of the label's top-performing singles, such as DJ Khaled's "For Free" feat. Drake and French Montana's "Lockjaw" feat. Kodak Black, paired with tracks from its lesser-known signings that hadn't yet been attached to an artist's album. The compilation's success -- it spent four weeks in the top 10 without being available for sale -- sparked a change in Billboard's chart rules that stipulated only streams of songs from the album, and not individual paid downloads, would count towards its chart position.
It also inspired imitators, with RCA (The RCA-List on Sept. 30, The RCA-List Vol. 2 on Nov. 4) and now Def Jam (Direct Deposit Vol. 1, released Dec. 2) sensing an opportunity to leverage the growing influence of streaming playlists to squeeze some extra chart juice out of successful singles and shine a light on new artists -- as well as the label's brand -- in the process.
"This is like if a playlist jumped out of a streaming environment and is living in the wild, because it's been made into a product," says John Fleckenstein, evp at RCA Records. "If one more person listens to another song on that compilation that they wouldn't normally have done, that's a plus for us, and that's driving revenue."