Hip-Hop music went through a genre-altering phase in the 2000’s when artists like 50 Cent and Cam’ron brought the mixtape to prominence. By 2004, rappers like Lil Wayne, T.I. and Young Jeezy would further turn the mixtape from a collector’s item into a method of breaking new emcees or keeping artists relevant. Now, for established artists, a mixtape is simply being used as a play-on-words to generate revenue.

It all started in 1999, when piracy sites like Napster allowed early Internet users to download the latest music illegally. That spawned Internet torrents like Limewire and Bearshare in the mid-2000’s, allowing music to be stolen at a more frequent rate. As a result, album sales for artists have suffered tremendously in all genres for nearly a decade.

For unknown or up-and-coming artists, a viral mixtape has been a foot in the door, helping to land record deals (see Chief Keef). For established artists like Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, copious amounts of mixtapes have been released to appease fans in anticipation of their latest album release.

But now, artists have been using streaming premiums like Apple Music, Tidal and Spotify to release albums as mixtapes. Unlike free mixtape outlets like Spinrilla, LiveMixtapes and Datpiff that simply require users to create a free login, these streaming sites carry a monthly charge. Ranging from $4.99 for students to as much as $9.99, members have access to a wide variety of music across different genres. Tidal and Apple Music have engaged in a duel of sorts, to see who can break the latest hot projects or cover a concert or event via Livestream. While Apple Music has Canadian rapper Drake in it’s corner, giving them his latest via his OVO Radio imprint, Tidal has the rights to Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z’s precious catalogue in full.

Drake provides the best example of using the mixtape name to generate sales, as seen in his 2015 project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Despite being pegged by Drake himself as a mixtape of sorts, a hodgepodge of tracks, the liner notes say different. Unlike your ordinary mixtape, IYRTITL was released through Drake’s label Cash Money Records. Not only did Drake’s popularity push the project to No. 1 on the Billboard Charts, but it sold 2 Million copies worldwide.

Since, artists have followed Drake’s blueprint, releasing works on mixtape premiums while they are listened to on premium services for a fee. Artists receive money from streaming entities for their works, which in the truest sense would make these projects an album.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with feeding the demands of your fanbase and reaping the benefits, it is worth noting the changes being made to financially keep the music industry afloat. As changing technology continues to weaken the stranglehold record labels have on consumers, the music industry is forced to adapt by any means necessary.