In the wake of a slew of articles proclaiming the death of pretty much everything (guitar music, journalism, dubstep…), I’m jumping on the bandwagon, and proclaiming that traditional single and album releases are dead. Press release writers and spin doctors, better watch your backs, the end is nigh.
In the last month alone, there have been four huge album announcements – David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Justin Timberlake, and The Strokes – all of which deviated from the traditional early-review-release, teaser-trailer, single, single, album template which has dominated the industry for decades. Even less well-established artists are dropping the traditional pomp and ceremony, with the internet enabling many to cut out the middle-man.
The big four were all major announcements, essentially come-back records for highly-established artists with a level of anticipation that would have been strong irrespective of publicising tactics. Bowie and MBV in particular were all but guaranteed solid initial sales and a buzz of excitement around such long awaited releases. While Timberlake and The Strokes haven’t been away for quite so long, both have retained a colossal following and have iconic releases under their belts.
If it’s not likely to bring any substantial boost to their guaranteed sales, pre-release marketing is no longer worth the risk of exposing the record to leaks and downloads (which clearly would sap initial sales). If a record comes out unannounced – as with MBV – are the masses more likely to buy it in the shocked heat of the moment, rather than anticipating the release and deciding to download it for free?