I think we can safely say that we’ve reached a point where release dates are totally 100% irrelevant. Albums still leak, of course, and albums stream online in advance of their “official” release date, and sometimes a digital release will precede a physical release by days if not weeks. One of my favorite records of 2015, Elder’s Lore, is coming out tomorrow — on a FRIDAY — because why not? And then you’ve got, like, the biggest albums in the world — Beyoncé, Black Messiah, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, that U2 record — just coming out when-the-fuck-ever they want. Kanye West said in an interview last week, discussing his upcoming album, “I’m trying to get it finished. I’m trying to get it to the people … Release dates is played out. So the surprise is going to be a surprise. There go the surprise.”
He’s right, of course: Release dates are a vestige of an outmoded system. And staggered global release dates — albums come out in the UK on Monday and in the US on Tuesday, etc. — are truly, like, some atavistic blue-law shit. Well not anymore! Today, the international record industry association IFPI announces that everyone is getting on the same page, at last, and FRIDAY will be the official record release day worldwide. From their statement:
Following consultation with artists, musicians unions, record companies and retailers, it was confirmed today that the release day for new music will be aligned internationally on a Friday.
Release days currently vary from one country to another, causing frustration for consumers when music fans in other parts of the world can access new releases before them. As well as helping music fans, the move will benefit artists who want to harness social media to promote their new music. It also creates the opportunity to re-ignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music.
The move to an aligned global release day will also reduce the risk of piracy by narrowing the gap between release days in different countries.
I can’t see how this affects artists — who will increasingly drop albums at 3 AM on a Saturday with no warning because they don’t need to “re-ignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music” when they can simply IGNITE excitement and a sense of occasion — or consumers — who will have to alter their habits very little if at all to accommodate this shift. As far as I can tell (and I’m looking at this selfishly, I admit!) this will largely impact music publicists and people who write about music, as well as people who work in places where music is sold. I’m firmly in the Kanye camp here — release dates IS played out — but maybe you guys disagree? You can read more from the IFPI here and here, and from “industry leaders” here.