New Music Fridays: The Global Music Release Day Arrives!

Featured Image by Jereme Rauckman via Flickr

Happy Inaugural Global Release Day from all of us here at Rock On Philly! As we experience the very first of many New Music Fridays, many music fans both here in Philadelphia and around the globe may find themselves wondering what this new global release day for new music is all about and what the story behind this change may be. After a lengthy period of research and consultation with record labels, music retailers, artist reps, music unions and chart companies, it was announced on June 11th by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) that, as of today, July 10th 2015, all new musical albums and singles around the world will be released at a globally aligned time frame at the beginning of the day on Friday of each week in more than 45 countries. Having held conferences to research the advantages of choosing Friday, IFPI moved forward on the measure. Spokesman Alex Jacob said at that time “The proposal is for Friday because, taking all factors into account, Friday brings the most benefits overall for the industry at a global level… The key benefits include higher consumer footfall and online traffic levels over the weekend period, as well as increased social media activity which can help create a buzz around new releases and increased willingness to spend.” This new release day certainly appears to have a number of benefits!

Previously, music was released on varying days around the world in different countries and markets around the world. This could get a little awkward on account of artists’ new material having already been made available in other parts of the world while fans elsewhere had to wait a full weekend to enjoy the same new music. As advances in technologies and accessibilities via the internet, digital downloads and streaming media content are components of a worldwide web instead of a regional market, a change has been initiated to reflect that and, hopefully, economize its efficiency and potential to maximize the benefits for consumerism and the collecting and measuring of subsequent consumer data to progress and advance a music industry that has honestly been ‘playing catch up’ for most of the last fifteen years. Now, music fans will be able to access the same new music on the same day worldwide.

When I was eight teen years old I remember working at a Sam Goody music store in a local mall in Massachusetts where we still carried a rack on the wall for cassettes. Compact disks had become firmly established as the contemporary format by which music was consumed during that era, and the industry had gradually shifted from 1980 to 2001 to adapt the regulations of distributing and monetizing the CD to a revenue structure that appropriated only about $0.50-2 to the artists in an album sale. Thus, there was still a sizable and substantial margin of profit being made from unit sales-per-unit of albums. One that it seems labels still aim to leverage today through exclusive streaming licensing deals and artist agreements. Amidst this boom in the music industry, in 1989, Tuesday was established as the official day of retail release in the United States and The United Kingdom for new albums to hit shelves, before then Monday had been the day that albums were made available for consumer purchase. I recall experiencing Napster’s rise, peak, and fall first hand…

… at which point I became increasingly aware that the aforementioned revenue base had collapsed beneath the increasing weight of digital file-sharing and music piracy to create a distance and divide between artists and those who profited from the sale of their albums, as the purchasing of those albums had become optional and unnecessary and the monetary worth per unit was eventually, over time, scaled down to a more honest price bracket. This new millennium shaking of the album-sale-money tree drew the ire and legal action of some pretty big name artists from the pre-Napster era of the music industry. Among those who were particularly outspoken against music piracy were Lars Ulrich of Metallica as well as Dr. Dre (who coincidentally happened to share the same attorney, by the way.)

Until that point in the history of the business of media distribution, despite a steady rise in digital technology, music had only been exclusively accessible through physical storage devices. Just as the transitional process of economic re-calibration surrounding the introduction of new formats of physical media (and the re-formatting of previously-existing albums) experienced success and reached a place of market stability, a new one would be very suddenly introduced. 33rpm Vinyl records held steadfast a the primary medium by which music was recorded and distributed until the emergence of eight tracks and cassette tapes which, in turn, were followed by the compact disc. During the compact disc era, record labels and industry professionals made an excess of expendable revenue through the pricing structure of album sales, resulting in a ton of money being thrown around in the signings of many bands, some who still enjoy success in the present day and many of whom have come and gone, whether we knew it or not. Fortunately, no matter what form or medium it comes in, music has been and will continue to be enjoyed by the average consumer, now on an unprecedented and global scale thanks to the internet and digital streaming media platforms.

Times have certainly changed in the modern technological era since the initial digital boom, one which has seen Metallica upload their music to Spotify and Dr. Dre followed in the streaming footsteps of Spotify when the “Beats” brand he launched with Interscope co-founder and Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, developed Beats Music. Beats Music was recently bought by Apple in a well-publicized acquisition, as the company is only continuing to build momentum towards competing with major streaming services by launching the newest version of their rebooted Apple Music complete with unique features such as sound-quality control… Like Tidal, daring to test how much of value sound quality really is to the consumer; or, if the average consumer can tell the difference.

As well as the re-boot of Beats streaming service re-imagined in a radio format to both challenge Sirius XM and satellite providers as well as iHeart Media as WiFi and streaming capabilities continue to progress, being made available as part of the IOS 8.4 update on iPhones…

Basically, a lot has happened in streaming music that has and continues to impact the broader music industry landscape long term. Even as Jay Z has followed suit from Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s ventures in the purchasing of Swedish streaming service “Aspiro” which is now better known to the world as “Tidal”, the question has become: “How long before a company waiting in the wings (like Microsoft), who does not want to miss the streaming music gravy train, jumps in and acquires Tidal (as Apple did Beats), as an affordable alternative to buying Spotify?”

Meanwhile amidst the modern state of the recording industry and business of music, formatting types have garnered significance to varying parties in different ways such as nationally recognized days of retail celebration including the 2007 conception of Record Store Day on the third Saturday of every April, which inspired the 2013 launch of Cassette Day. Artists have begun to take creative approaches towards releasing their new music, as well. In December of 2013 Beyoncé sent seismic quakes through the music world in minutes by releasing a surprise album. On Record Store Day of 2014, Jack White released his hit single (and title-track from his forthcoming new album) “Lazaretto,” breaking the world-record for the fastest studio-to-store record.

The album was then released through his Nashville-based Third Man Records imprint to great success, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and becoming the biggest selling vinyl album of the year while even as well as the record for the first week sales, long held by Pearl Jam for “Vitalogy”. The Ultra LP comes with a number of unique special and secretly hidden features, unlike any record pressed before. Even as recently as last month, rapper Drake took a cue from the success of Beyoncé and released a surprise album to iTunes on Friday February 13th breaking the first week streaming record for plays on Spotify.

The Beyoncé surprise release and the amount of content it brought with it caused for industry professionals to examine release regulations closer under the microscope and to begin to question the industry standard of Tuesday as the designate day of the week for new album releases.

Amidst an online world where anything and everything is brought under the microscope, the music industry has begun to respond instead of react, making greater strides at a practical and tangible level both inside and outside the context of the digital world. Following about seven months of exploration, it was announced that the weekly album release day will change from Tuesday to Friday, effective this Summer. The decision to make this change came on the heels of Beyoncé’s surprise release as well as an emergent pattern in music piracy as a result of a variety of street ‘release-days’ for music at different times in different music markets around the world. While the release day in the United States and the United Kingdom was Tuesday, it was Friday in Australia. Which means the music could easily be leaked and/or pirated between Friday and when it made its debut out West. And this happened… A lot.

At a time in which musical artists are looking for a creative edge in promoting sales of a new album and a consumer era where viral marketing and pop-up retail outlets are experiencing great success, a change in the distribution regulations raises questions as to what these changes might mean for creative album release and marketing efforts, as the change promotes greater pro-activity in distinguishing oneself as an artist or band amidst a diverse spectrum of competition across the musical landscape, which had increased in volume thanks to the exposure and resources of the internet and various digital and social media platforms. Various other parties around the music industry stand to potentially be impacted, including independent labels as well as commercial retailers and major music charts.

The potential impact of this change makes for an interesting topic, one that compelled me to reach out to some great regional figures and representatives in the music industry for comment regarding…

Tony van Veen – CEO & President of AVL Digital Group (CD Baby, Disc Makers, BookBaby, HostBaby)

I don’t think a global album release day will make a significant impact either way. It’s copied from the film industry. However, there’s a major difference between film and music: people go to the movies on weekends, so it makes sense to open new movies right before the weekend to drive maximum early sales. In music, people listen every single day. As such, a Friday unified release date will not move the needle in terms of driving total volume for any one title, nor for all titles combined. Additionally, with the new coordinated release day, it’s possible for 2nd tier or independent titles to get lost in the noise of major albums dropping on the same day, hurting the independent artists, which could have gotten an extra promotional shot in the arm – even if it was a small one – from launching their album on a Tuesday, and not on the same Friday that that Taylor Swift album dropped. For DIY artists, the global album release day means nothing. For as long as DIY artists have been recording and releasing their own albums, they tend to drop them as soon as they’re shipped by the pressing plant (or uploaded to iTunes and Spotify). I don’t anticipate that changing, though it begs the question: will record stores refuse to release new titles on any day other than a Friday? And if so, is that anti-competitive?

Darren Walters -Moderator for the MEIEA Recording Industry Forum – Co-owner/President of Jade Tree (independent record label)

In regards to the global release day, as a proponent of unifying the global entertainment industry, I believe that his is a move in the right direction. I do wish that it would have followed set standards of the two largest markets (US & UK) and kept the Tuesdays release day; however, I honestly cannot argue that the change in days will dramatically affect the industry one way or another. I do believe that supporting the release of an album through a weekend will be more difficult for an independent label such as Jade Tree where we do not have the resources to work a record seven days a week. It will be interesting to see how others in our position adjust around this new day.

James Donio – President of the Music Business Association

This is obviously a major change for our members and their various businesses within the industry. We are committed to working closely with all of our constituents to ensure a smooth transition to the Friday global street date.

Mark Schulz – Executive Director of The Recording Academy, Philadelphia Chapter

I think it is very important that there is a unified day for releases globally- something that in our digital “I want it when it’s available regardless of where that is” world makes most sense to satisfy consumers and offset piracy. I am not convinced Friday was the right choice, particularly where it affects drawing customers into shops earlier in the week.

I can fondly recall a personally defining musical memory of waiting in a several mile line outside of Tower Records in Boston to meet the Smashing Pumpkins during a meet-and-greet signing promotional event in 2000, I often witness a similar energy and buzz surrounding lines here in Philadelphia at FYE on Broad Street when they are hosting artist signings. I love those waits in line, I still love to go into Newbury Comics in Massachusetts or into Amoeba Music in Hollywood and spend hours searching for hidden treasures amidst their used and vintage music collections. I look forward to my near weekly trips to Repo Records here in Philadelphia on South Street for some happy vinyl hunting. I suppose, for me, the importance of this change is simply that it will not impact the retail culture of music, which has already seen such a massive downsizing with the uprising of Amazon and iTunes, where Walmart and Target have become the biggest retailers of physical music. It has been strange to see so many familiar music stores such as Strawberries and Sam Goody disappear, but it is encouraging to me to see independent stores and chains thriving in a way that may duck any periphery impacts of this transition. I am a huge proponent of progress, and am very interested in data, metrics and analytics. The prospect of consolidating consumer data through our two busiest days of consumerism into the following week and being able to measure the opening sales of albums in a way similar to films intrigues me. Tuesday being the U.S. street date used in the U.S. for releasing new records has been used for so long in retail that it is the third largest sales volume day of the week (after Friday and Saturday). Other entertainment industries (books, DVDs, and video games) in turn adopted Tuesday as the day for their new release also. I can remember leaving High School during lunch on a Tuesday to drive to the next town over and pick up a newly released Offspring album from our local Strawberries… It is the day people here know as our retail release day. Amidst mixed feelings as to whether or not Friday may be the best aligned release day, I am keeping an open mind and high hopes for what an aligned global release day, my support also lies equally with the independent record labels and music retailers whom will ultimately need to (and hopefully will) share in the long term benefits of this change as well in order for it to be deemed a universal success. If you are trying to discover something new to listen to, this article can help you to find new music.


Source: Giphy

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