Music Features

Joe Blogs #8: Friday Is New Music Day

In those pre-internet days when everything was in sepia, men never left the house without a hat and a pint of mild cost thrupence ha’penny, you knew where you were with music release dates. New records – both albums and singles – came out at the start of the week, meaning you could traipse down to your high street music emporium on a Monday lunchtime and gorge yourself on the cornucopia of new aural treats. New release day was Tuesday in America, and Friday in Germany and Australia, but what did that matter when you were in the UK?

Now the industry is truly global and consumers’ listening habits are driven by downloads and streaming, the status quo makes less sense. Why should Australia and Germany get new music three days before the UK and a full four days before America? It doesn’t stack up.

Mindful of this, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recently announced that there would be a global release day for new music, and that day would be Friday. Subsequently, it was revealed that 10th July would be the first day that the entire world (or, at least, the planet’s major markets) would be synchronised when it came to putting out music for sale. Bringing all the countries together seems to make sense, but why Friday?

According to the IFPI, Friday is the day of the week that sees the highest footfall for retail – both physical and digital – and so artists can capitalise upon this. Friday is also the day with the most social media activity; another chance to maximise the potential of promotion. However, not all retailers are happy with the choice of day. Seeing as Friday already causes a spike in sales (end of the week, pay day etc.), releasing new music on that day too risks causing a lopsided sales profile throughout the week. Record shops, particularly independents, could find themselves busier than they can handle on Fridays but ghost towns for the rest of the week.

Although a worldwide release date means worldwide promotion towards a single day, it could actually mean artists have to prioritise one country over others. Currently, an artist could feasibly appear in Germany on Friday, the UK on Monday and – if they were speedy about it – America on Tuesday, thus promoting their music on its release day in three different countries. Now, personal appearances on the important day will have to be restricted to one country (or, at the very least, one continent) which could make for an interesting tug of war, especially if an artist is signed to different labels in different territories.

While the IPFI and the rest of the industry are keen to play up the sales opportunities that a move to Fridays affords, surely the more persuasive argument for this conjoined approach is to combat piracy. If an album is released in another territory three or four days before the UK or USA (the two biggest markets), labels and artists are missing out on legitimate sales if that record can be on torrent sites just hours after release.

However, this release date calibration only solves the issue of piracy for albums that are already scheduled to be released in the same week. It does nothing to address the issue that frustrates music fans worldwide: the staggered release date. Due to promotional schedules, record label priorities and a host of reasons we’re not privy to, albums are sometimes released in some countries months before they’re released in others. The most recent high-profile example of this is with Charli XCX’s latest LP, Sucker. Despite Charli being born in Cambridge and raised in Hertfordshire, Sucker was released in December 2014 in America, but over two months later in the UK. In that sense, the industry look to be more concerned with winning the battle rather than fighting the war.

The ruling also means there is less need for an artist to “do a Beyoncé” and globally put out an album unexpectedly one day. While there’s nothing explicitly to stop it happening, there seems to be less benefit for the artist now if their work would hit the shelves on the same day across the globe through the normal channels. Of course, surprise releases are always going to have some impact, but presumably an artist will want to time that surprise to coincide with the day of most purchasing and social media activity for maximum effect which, as we’ve already mentioned, happens to be Friday. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that BEYONCÉ dropped on a Friday.

For the consumer, this change probably doesn’t mean an awful lot. It looks to make sense from a business point of view and, when you consider it, having different release dates for different countries seems anachronistic in the modern age. The arguments against it do exist, but they’re challenges rather than deal-breakers, and no change of this magnitude will ever get 100% support. We’ve been used to the same release date for years, but the announcement is final, and we’re just going to have to deal with it. From July onwards, there’ll be new music Fridays. Cue Rebecca Black soundtrack.