This Friday a major change within the music industry takes place. July 10th, 2015 sees a global release date coming into effect. Since rumours of the idea first emerged, it has been a topic that has split opinions. As we find out, some are concerned how it will effect music fans and those involved within the music industry. Other welcome the idea. It’s an interesting change that could be considered a quick fix to the overdue issue of piracy, or alternatively be a lasting solution.
The industry struture of gearing towards a Monday release has now been put out of the window in favour of a Friday release. So instead of starting your week with new music to pick up, you now have to wait until the end of the week. Whilst this may not matter to those who obtain their music as freely as possible and when, for (true) music fans who care about giving back, the change has the potential to have mixed results. As a music fan you can either welcome the change and see the release date of an anticipated as a “celebration”. Or as we discuss later on, can potentially damage the potential reach of a release as it gets overshadowed by a major act.
It is easy to write off the change as merely an easy alteration. Whilst before albums would be released in the UK on a Monday, they are now set to be released on a Friday. What difference does five days make? You may not think it isn’t much, but when the idea of releases happening on Monday being in place for so long, a simple change can effect how a business is run. “All of us have only ever known Monday release dates, and our working week is geared around that” says Jon Tolley from Kingston-based independent record store Banquet Records. Yet he admits it’s merely “a shift but nothing that crazy. Just a bit weird.”
For many the concept is one that makes sense, especially when online piracy has been damaging the industry for a number of years. The idea of a release taking place on the same day counters the potential of leaks. Hayden Trobee from Colorado group Tigerwine sees the move as a reasonable idea; “As far as consumer traffic is concerned, releasing any product at a time when more people would have access to it seems like a wise decision.”
In an age where music is easy to access digitally in a variety of ways, the notion of an album being made available worldwide at the same time is something that can benefit consumers as producer and author Jesse Cannon told us:
“Anything that can be done to make campaigns more uniform and minimize leaks makes sense. I think it’s smart since most people are paid on Friday, by the time Tuesday rolled around, the portion of their income to spend on entertainment may have been sucked away by movies or concerts. This allows consumers to impulsively buy music right when their bank account is most ripe for the picking.”
Without a doubt, the barriers of accessing music that hasn’t been readily available in your country have been nearly non-existent for a number of years. An idea that Frances Moore, the head of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), echoed this past February:
“Music fans live in the digital world of today. Their love for new music doesn’t recognise national borders. They want music when it’s available on the internet – not when it’s ready to be released in their country. An aligned global release day puts an end to the frustration of not being able to access releases in their country when the music is available in another country.”
It is a sentiment that John Allen of London punk label Disconnect Disconnect Records backs:
“I think it’s sensible to have releases on the same day throughout the world, although with things like Bandcamp and album streams etc being such a big part of music now, having staggered release days for regions doesn’t really matter.”
Yet some think it is only an advantage to those with financial backing. “The ones with the most money will win again” says of John Scott from Chicago progressive rockers Hidden Hospitals. Furthermore it is the bigger retailers who have been heavily involved in the change. “It’s the Amazon’s (who’ve never really bought in to the idea of aiming to get stock to the customer on the day of release) and the major labels who are backing this.” says Tolley.
For some, the main concern is how the global release date will effect independent acts and labels. “I think it will probably add to the oversaturation in the music market.” states Sea of Storms’ Brandon Peck, “independent releases will get overshadowed by the releases of bigger artists on bigger labels.” The issue of bigger artists getting the spotlight and ultimately more sales is another concern for Banquet Records’ Jon Tolley:
“In independent music retail, we are currently blessed with two spikes in the week. The Monday when new albums come out, and the weekend when casual shoppers enter the store. The Monday release gives new albums their chance to shine and allow retailers to react to the demand and change their orders racking in time for the weekend. You’ve all seen how midweek charts have all our fave bands’ new albums chart high, and then they fall by the wayside lost in the Asda / Sainsbury’s / iTunes major sellers like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Florence And The Machine albums and the like. Whilst in the punk-rock world the charts might not be the biggest and most important thing, it does matter if we want to get music past the already-fans.”
Although some believe the change will hinder independent acts, some independent labels find the change a welcome opportunity, as Crooked Noise Records’ Tom Newman explains: “It’s a great move, that will hopefully re-engage audiences with the way new music is released, especially since artists and industry personnel alike are going to have to come up with creative and exciting new release strategies.”
Likewise Disconnect Disconnect Records’ John Allen shares the same sentiment; “The independent market survives and thrives through its ability to adapt, so I doubt it’ll make a massive amount of difference.”
From a business stand point, the idea of having a cohesive, worldwide release seems logical especially for those behind the scenes as Bomber Music’s Donagh O’Leary explains:
“It should have been brought in as soon as the digital market share hit 25%. It makes releases simpler, previously having staggered release dates in the UK and Europe made digital marketing and video release dates etc awkward. It cuts down the amount of work and boosts the effects of marketing and PR.”
Whether or not the change effects independent labels and acts will tell over time. However it should play a role in fixing the damage piracy has done. Admittedly leaks will still be inevitable but with streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music becoming more widespread and the vinyl format being as popular as it has been in years, its clear that consumers are more than willing to support their favourite bands; no matter how big or small the price is.
In conclusion, the concept of a global release date is a simple transition yet could potentially change the music industry for the better in the long term.