Last week, the critically adored producer Four Tet released his latest album, New Energy. The album is pretty good, but when I checked my phone and opened Apple Music’s The A-List: Electronic playlist, something was off:
Four Tet didn’t just hold down the first two slots—his entire album was front-loaded onto the playlist.
On the rest of Apple Music’s playlists, a new album can occasionally place a few tracks. But the whole album? Oh no. Playlists increasingly are becoming the go-to battleground for labels and artists fighting for listeners’ attention. Often, this is in the context of Spotify’s major playlists like Rap Caviar, but Apple Music’s curation team holds similar relationships and are constantly getting pitched new music by artists, labels, and managers.
That’s why the playlist front-loading of Four Tet caught my attention. A track or two is fine, but essentially telling playlist listeners that this album is going to take up a fourth of the playlist is strange. It’d be like turning on the radio and hearing album deep cuts on the day of release.
A week later, the A-List: Electronic playlist is a bit more diverse:
Perhaps it was a curation error or simply a stealth promotional campaign, but front loading an entire album on a playlist is certainly not a bad way to make sure that people hear your work—even if it comes at the expense of other artists.
I reached out to Four Tet for comment, but was told he’s not doing press for New Energy. Apple Music didn’t respond to requests for comment at the time of writing, but we’ll update this post if we hear back.