Monday, March 24, 2008

The Wacky, Depressing State of Release Dates

By Evan Rytlewski
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Thing have been volatile for a long time, but the music industry is now officially in chaos. The ice age has arrived. The sun has zoomed in. Engines have stopped running. The industry is drowning, and now the major labels that snapped up prime real estate by the river are paying the price.

The latest casualty of the industry’s prolonged decline is the reliable CD release date. The days when anticipated albums came out on a set day are long over. Last week, in an effort to curb leaks—amazingly, six years after The Eminem Show debacle, the industry still hasn’t devised a solution for leaks, a telling sign of why its suffering so much—The Raconteurs announced that they planned to release a new, out-of-nowhere album this Tuesday. Even with such a modest goal—prevent an album from leaking to the Internet for just seven days—the band failed: iTunes accidentally put the album up for sale, and within hours it was available on file-sharing networks. Whoops.

Responding to their own leak problems, Gnarls Barkley, meanwhile, moved up their new album’s release several weeks, announcing last week that it would be on sale online immediately, and on sale in stores whenever it happened to arrive in stores. Sloppy.

So, to sum up: Starting tomorrow, two important bands will have albums on sale, but many consumers will be completely unaware. If major labels are trying to copy the stealth-release marketing plan of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails’ online albums, they’ve missed the point horribly.

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