You might have noticed that today was a really light release day for new albums. That’s because earlier this year, the decision was made to move Official(ish) New Music Release Day to Friday as opposed to the old system where release dates varied internationally (Tuesday for us Americans, Monday for the Brits). The reasons for the move range between reasonable (release dates currently differ by country) to official sounding (consumer researched showed a new music preference of Saturday and Friday for those with a preference–a weird qualifier, but sure), to buzzword vomit (the move “will benefit artists who want to harness social media to promote their new music”). There’s also a “this will stop piracy, we’re sure of it!” side note tossed in, as is the music industry’s standard. And shit, everyone loves Friday; might as well cop that new Owl City record while you’re at it, right?
I can’t say I’m excited.
Look, I know this happening, there’s nothing any of us can do to stop it, and no form of rage is as impotent as Blogger Rage, but sometimes you’ve gotta get something out of your system, you know? So think of this as less an argument for why we should switch back to Tuesday, and more about what this decision says about the state of music consumption.
The very idea of moving release day is an admission that, on some level, official release dates are played out. In a world of reputable prerelease streams, surprise album drops, early digital access, and just about everything leaking, the idea of buying/listening to something for the first time on release day is quaint enough to come with a landline and print newspaper subscription. For example, I’m hyped beyond belief for the new Titus Andronicus album out at the tail end of this month. I can already legally stream five songs from it, and find the rest of the album with a well placed Google search. I’m sure it’ll be on NPR in a week or two. A release date, to a point, is now more of a formality or filing of papers than an event in and of itself.
Moving the release day instead of outright ending it still acknowledges it still has relevancy due to its stability, that we’re thankfully not switching to a culture of surprise releases. Actually, let’s air something out here: if release days are played out, they are far, far less played out than surprise releases. Surprise releases are only exciting for as long as they’re subversive; Beyonce was a daring move because no one expected an A-lister like Bey to just drop an album on us (and demand we buy it). Now that they’re conventional, that “stop everything and listen” hype has been replaced with a weary shrug. When Tyga scare jumps a new record at us, all it means is Cash Money got to scrimp on the advertising budget. I’m not saying that we’ll see an end of surprise drops (sadly), but as they become more common, they become more tedious. The world still needs a release day.
In fact, the announcement is trying to play up the importance of a release day. The Friday move, it says, is done as a way to “re-ignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music.” I get the sentiment, but this is a spectacularly blind decision. Friday already has an occasion. It’s called Friday. Pizza day at the cafeteria, jeans day at work, expanded Happy Hour, new movies at the theater, and the start of the weekend. Fun, fun, fun, motherfuckers. Fridays are already their own “work all day, play all night” marathon; if there’s a day that needs its excitement and sense of occasion reignited, it sure shit ain’t this one.
Moving to Friday also implicitly equates new music and new movies, the form of entertainment whose release is closest to “excitement and occasion”. Again, I get it, but I feel like something’s lost in the middle here: that “music experience” that everyone’s so ready to reclaim. If I’m at the movies, I’m paying to sink into a seat, shut the hell up, keep my eyes forward, experience sensory overload for two hours, and walk away. New music, even when its overwhelming, is entirely different. It’s something I might experience right now after buying it, but I might experience it later. I might experience it one way right now, and in an entirely different one later. It might mean different things in different contexts. And I’m probably going to experience it in solitude.
Tuesday understood that. Tuesday understood that, as the most ho-hum night of the week, it was the best night to get into new music for the first time. It understood that music is something you sink into by letting it accompany you in the following days and weeks, fitting in the quiet times, like a commute or doing chores. And, perched as far away from excitement as possible, Tuesday was great for letting music play the long game; if something really hit you, you had uninterrupted days to let it unfurl in your head. For example, I remember grabbing Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs the day it came out, and obsessing over it all week, letting it play uninterrupted every evening. With the switch, I’m not sure how New Music time is going to fit in the loose and always changing weekend schedule. So, thank you, Tuesday. We got shit done.
I suppose we’ll have the next month or so to see the transition pan out. I can’t say if physical sales with soar because people will make going to the record store a Friday night outing, or slump because it doesn’t fit their schedule. It might boost sagging digital sales, if only because Friday is for impulse buying, but we’ll see. I can’t imagine that it’ll helping streaming much; it’s not like people are going to start staying in and holding Currents listening parties. Most of all, I’m nervous this is going to mean giving fewer albums the time they might deserve, and in a world where music is more and more becoming everywhere and nowhere, that’s the last thing we want. And don’t get me wrong, I love Fridays, but I don’t think they’ll want to share. Meanwhile, Tuesday has all the time in the world.