You think it's hard being a recording artist in 2018? Try being a record producer.
According to Eric "E. Dan" Dan—one of three producers who make up Pittsburgh-based music production and engineering squad ID Labs—the reason why Atlantic Records will often label a full-length release as a "street album," "commercial mixtape" or "compilation album" is to avoid having to fairly compensate the producers who worked on the project.
Referring to Wiz Khalifa's Khalifa project, E. Dan explained to fellow producer DJ Pain 1 in an interview for BeatStars: "The Khalifa album, I don't know what they called it, a 'street album'? They came up with some really clever name that essentially meant, 'Everyone involved, you're going to get paid half what you normally do.' I've seen it happen often over the last few years. Anything to save a buck for these labels."
In 2016, Wiz Khalifa, who is signed to Atlantic Records, released Khalifa, a 13-track project which, according to Wiz, is not a full-length album, but rather a "compilation album" made up of material that didn't make the cut for prior Khalifa albums. On it, E. Dan scored six placements, but according to the producer, because of marketing semantics, he was not paid his regular rate.
The same thing also happened to E. Dan in 2013, when Atlantic Records signee Snow Tha Product freely released Good Nights & Bad Mornings 2: The Hangover, a mixtape that contains four of his productions.
"They called it a mixtape," E. Dan said. "They didn't treat it like it was an album, which is just their way of not paying me a whole lot."
Though Khalifa might not have been a proper album release, the label certainly treated it that way. The month before its release, the Travis Scott-assisted "Bake Sale" was formally released as a single, reaching as high as No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It's highly unlikely that Atlantic Records is the only major label employing this somewhat unsavory business tactic to save on production costs, but just because everyone is doing something doesn't mean it should be accepted as kosher.
DJBooth has reached out to a representative at Atlantic and will update if/when they respond.
Update: Rook from J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, Matt McNeal (manager to Dreamville MC Cozz), Benny Cassette and DJ Burn One are also familiar with this tactic.