How is song order on albums determined?

I was just wondering whether there is a specific formula (perhaps strategy is a better word) for determining what order songs are placed in when a new CD is put together. Often, it seems like the big, hit single goes at the beginning, but not always.

I have noticed that, on many of my CDs, my favorite song is track number 3. This does not always means that it was the biggest hit, just that it is my favorite. Hell, some of my favorite albums produced no “hits” at all.

Anyway, people’s input/experiences on this issue would be welcome.

Seems to me an album is paced like the scenes in a movie: First cut draws you in, third cut is the producer’s favorite, second-to-last is the artist’s favorite, final cut is a sort of denouement, and lots of other dross is there as filler. Of course, I Am Not A Musician…

Depends on the artist. Some have control over their own albums. Sometimes it is the producer. Or record company. Or the lead singer’s girlfriend’s astrologer. Or focus groups. Or the drummer (ok this doesn’t happen.)

Garth Brooks puts his favorite song as the last track of each album.

I can’t speak for all musicians, but when I released my CD I took a couple of factors into play when deciding what order to place the tracks. First of all, Krokodil is absolutely right; it is like a movie. You don’t want to overload the listeners (hopefully there’s more than one) by the fifth track, so you kind of pace yourself… Maybe start with an uptempo one then back off, then hit 'em with a one-two punch, then back off a little more…

As for me personally, my CD consists of original piano solos, so I also considered the keys they were written in, as well as the rhythms. I didn’t want three songs in a row that were all in 6/8 and in the key of F, for example. So I tried to find keys that sounded good back-to-back, with a change in some of the rhythmic aspects. Whether or not other musicians/bands do this, I have no idea.

As for the CDs I listen to, I usually find I’m especially prone to track 7, for some reason.

Roger Friedman, the entertainment reporter for Fox, says the 3rd track is usually reserved for the hit/single.

Thanks, Yellow Tail, for the explenation of that, I’ve noticed that as well.

What about a coherent development/progression of mood, rather than a strategic placement ?

(Classical repertoire and Pink Floyd albums excluded)

You can’t put the first single first, since then it’s too easy for people to listen to just that. So that goes second or maybe third. Slow or depressing songs go in the back half. The filler gets dumped at the end. Similar songs shouldn’t go next to each other, since then someone might realize they sound alike.

I always wondered about this as well until I was in the college Jazz ensemble. What we were told was the same as above as to why we played our songs in that order was the same as above due to key and tempo. The reasoning that was given was that people will become bored if to many songs in the same key are played together. I believed him since he was the music theory instructor.

As for me I usually find the 6th song on a lot of albums to be my favorite.

If this were really the rule, Green Day and REM would never have released an album. :slight_smile: