Categories
Thinking

The Release Date Ritual

Think­ing about the music indus­try’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to release dates got me think­ing about the Roy­al Tenen­baums. You remem­ber the scene where Eli Cash is on a show very sim­i­lar to Char­lie Rose and he says, “Wildcat…was writ­ten in a kind of obso­lete ver­nac­u­lar”? I think release dates are part of the music indus­try’s obso­lete ver­nac­u­lar. I’m guess­ing not many on the label side would admit it pub­licly, but they will even­tu­al­ly. Release dates just don’t mat­ter to any­one any­more.

Think­ing about the music indus­try’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to release dates got me think­ing about the Roy­al Tenen­baums. You remem­ber the scene where Eli Cash is on a show very sim­i­lar to Char­lie Rose and he says, “Wild­cat…was writ­ten in a kind of obso­lete ver­nac­u­lar”? I think release dates are part of the music indus­try’s obso­lete ver­nac­u­lar. I’m guess­ing not many on the label side would admit it pub­licly, but they will even­tu­al­ly. Release dates just don’t mat­ter to any­one any­more. O.K. I lied. They do. Sort of.

I guess that it, too, is part of a “kind of obso­lete ver­nac­u­lar,” as if to say, not quite yet. But when the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album, It’s Blitz, leaked ear­li­er this week, I could­n’t help but smile. Here’s an album that won’t street until April, yet it’s every­where you turn around online. This was­n’t like the U2 leak, where the labels did due dili­gence for a while until they real­ized the game of whack-a-mole was going to kill them. This leaked every­where!

Blogs like Stere­ogum jumped right on the case. See, edi­to­r­i­al has adapt­ed. They’ve had no choice. Part of what I learned as a free­lancer was that it was­n’t good enough to wait around to request an album to pitch it. Leak blogs were sim­ply too fast. If you’re not on top of them, you’re left out in the cold. We had to change the way we did things to meet the chang­ing habits of the most intense music con­sumers. The prob­lem is that the indus­try has­n’t caught up yet.

If every­one agrees that leaks are inevitable, then why is any­one pre­tend­ing they’re not. Even Pitch­fork holds fast to release dates, which just seems absurd. We have to change the rules that print media set for us!

The real dif­fi­cul­ty in react­ing when an album leaks is the con­tin­ued reliance on CD sales. If it weren’t for CDs, online out­lets could flip a switch and make mp3s avail­able. That would be easy, right? It would, but it would offend brick and mor­tar shops, which are still the indus­try’s bread and but­ter, immense­ly. That would be a bad thing. The last thing labels want to do is give retail­ers, espe­cial­ly big box stores, any excuse to pare back their music inven­to­ry fur­ther.

But some­thing has to change, and overnight­ing ship­ments of prod­uct to those big box stores isn’t going to fix the prob­lem.

So what’s the best solu­tion? I think it’s a mat­ter of reach­ing out to online out­lets the moment an album leaks. Just pick a few to start and set up inter­views, per­for­mances, what­ev­er you can do to get out in front of the pub­lic­i­ty again. Give your­self a chance to sal­vage some brand aware­ness. If you don’t, edi­to­r­i­al will have a field day with your release and all your plan­ning will be for naught. It’s hard enough in this busi­ness as it is. Why make it hard­er?

1 reply on “The Release Date Ritual”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.