Drake continues to exert dominance over the music landscape with a new album that has broken records and demonstrated how extensively streaming has changed the role of longstanding industry standards and expectations. Scorpion dropped on June 29, and it quickly racked up enough streams to crack multiple records. The double album now holds the single-day streaming records for Spotify and Apple Music. It also secured more than 1 billion streams in its first week, including a record-high 745.9 million on-demand audio streams. Unsurprisingly, Scorpion also topped the Billboard 200 chart for the week ending July 5 with with 732,000 equivalent album units.
The Billboard performance is worth particular note, since it’s the first chart to incorporate changes in how streams are weighted. The Billboard 200 and Hot 100 lists are both giving more priority to streams from paid subscribers over those from free listeners. Charting organizations have been slowly changing to reflect the importance of streaming in the contemporary music market. This type of consistent dominance of both streaming records and charts by the upper echelon of performers indicates that those shifts have made the charts an accurate reflection of popularity. However, those same intense swings have led to questions about the role of charts in today’s music industry. Are they simple reflections of financial success? Or are they gatekeeping up-and-coming artists while letting a handful of performers who have good relationships with streaming platforms remain entrenched at the top?
Not everybody is feeling the Drake love. Spotify took a new promotional angle for Scorpion, with a full-court press to tout the rapper’s new release. Drake saw prominent placement across the streaming service, getting high placement on editorial playlists and with his image even appearing on collections that didn’t have his music. Some users raised outcry, claiming that the heavy promotion equated to advertising in their ad-free subscription accounts. Some subscribers even pushed Spotify for refunds in the wake of the promotions. Billboard reported that some, but not all, of the critics were successful in receiving refunds for a month of listening. It seems like the reaction may dissuade Spotify from making a second go at this style of artist promotion.