Chart-toppers used to focus on long-players. Now, in the streaming era, they can release tracks whenever they like – and many, including Ariana Grande, have decided to do just that

What’s your favourite Ariana Grande single of the past nine months? Was it April’s No Tears Left to Cry, or July’s ballad God Is a Woman? Maybe it was September’s anti-anxiety anthem, Breathin. Perhaps you weren’t a fan of Sweetener, the album that housed all three, and preferred November’s Thank U, Next, a single from a forthcoming album of the same title released this Friday. That global chart-topper was followed a month later by Imagine, which has now been replaced by 7 Rings.

Grande’s more-is-more attitude not only demonstrates how rapidly streaming culture has reshaped the way music is released, but, as she outlined in a recent interview with Billboard, how it liberates her from the music industry’s traditionally long-winded release cycle (“Do the teaser before the single, then do the single, and wait to do the preorder, and radio has to impact before the video, and we have to do the discount on this day”). Instead, she releases music direct to her fans, “in the way that a rapper does”.

Grande’s rapid-fire release strategy aligns her with a host of emerging pop artists who pepper streaming services with tracks, collaborations, acoustic covers, EPs and so-called “retail mixtapes” (basically an unofficial album) on an almost weekly basis.

“It’s genuinely creative freedom,” argues publicist Rob Chute, whose employer Toast works with the rising solo artists Mabel, Billie Eilish and Grace Carter. “You can put out what you want, when you want, and don’t have to stick to one genre or idea.”

Australian pop star Betty Who says it is about circumnavigating the music business “middlemen” rather than seeing which songs connect with fans. “I don’t feel like I’m trying to find what sticks. I get to make the music I want to make and I don’t have to get permission from anybody.”

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