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In the era of digital music, album song order still matters

According to a music industry expert, even in the era of streaming music services, song order matters.

What was the last full length album you bought and listened to from beginning to end? Can you even remember?

Since the invention of the iPod and the rise of streaming music services like Pandora, the idea that what order songs appear on an album has any kind of signifcance has begun to seem counterintuitive. But, according to a recent feature by Billboard Magazine's Gary Trust, the earlier a song appears on an album, the more likely it is to be listened to.

"The best lesson to take from studying albums' track sequences may be that even in an era of streaming, in which listener behavior seemingly reflects a tendency to sample only portions of releases, the album format appears to have a bright future," writes Trust. He advises bands to put their best material up front -- where a public with an ever-shortening attention span might hear it.


So if Gary's theory that the best song on an album should be played first holds true, then there really shouldn't be any last-track hits, right? Not really. There are too many great last tracks on albums to count. Last week we asked for your favorite album closer on our Facebook wall, and we used some of your responses to program the music in today's show.

Here's what we played:

"Sprawl II" by Arcade Fire
"The End" by the Beatles
"Gouge Away" by the Pixies
"Champagne Supernova" by Oasis
"Find the River" by R.E.M.
"Purple Rain" by Prince

You can follow the music playlists for our shows here.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Steve Miller Band 'Number 5' album ended one side of the record with the lyric: "And in a while I know it's gonna change." Sure enough shhhh, pop, whir, click, and the record changed.

Would like to discuss the whole "concept" LP in general. We might have come full circle. Once there was only the single before the LP came along. The LP helped Frank Sinatra's career to continue. I believe he was one of the first to create the "concept" LP which has lasted to this day. I have often wondered about the idea of the "concept" LP for sometime now and your story reopened my thinking of that idea. Not sure if the younger generation will ever be able to sit down to listen to the whole "concept" LP so I wonder if the artist should even bother. Perhaps a follow up story on this subject should be in the making.

"The End" is a great last track...if it were actually the last track. The actual last track on "Abbey Road" is the quick, throw-away ditty "Her Majesty". The intention of the story seemed to be about the final, closing music, the finish, the piece that brings it all down. "The End", unfortunately, does not meet those criteria.

My first LP was "Meet The Beatles". OK, so that dates me. But I have analyzed every album since then as to the order of the songs as well as the album art. I remember sitting by the stereo for hours listening to the latest album until I knew every lyric and beat. I would try to imagine what song would open the concert and what song would close it. I always considered the sequence of songs to be very important to the build up of the album. That is why I have always listen to albums from beginning to end. That is, until I determined which songs were throw-aways. And, even as big of a Beatle fan as I am, they had some throw-aways, like Mr. Kite. And although I am extremely prejudiced, The Beatles "The End" is the extreme classic. I think Adeles "21" has a very excellent line up. By the way, I hate streaming. The definition of Album is a collection with a connection, not a pick and choose without rhyme oe reason. But I did enjoy the interview.

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