Let me tell you a little bit about the dark ages of the music industry, aka the years before 2015, when music was released on Tuesday.
What’s that, you say? Music was released on Tuesday? Yes, and back before the digital era it was a truly wonderful, and exciting time. People gathered at record stores, sometimes lining up at midnight, making new album releases a truly communal thing.
When it came to music journalists, in the pre-digital era we’d receive CDs in the mail months in advance, and the number of albums would be such that we could get through them over the course of a week, and give repeated spins to the ones we were going to write about.
Now, thanks to streaming, and specifically Spotify, almost all new music comes out on Friday, and rather than a few dozen albums, the streaming revolution has resulted in a weekly overflow of so much new music that artists, journalists, and publicists are drowning in the flood.
For the artists – most of them aren’t being heard, and this is because “New Music Friday” really only works for one type of artist – the biggest of the big names.
When one of music’s heavyweights releases something new, the entire album gets streamed by their fan base, and because of Billboard’s misguided policy regarding “album-equivalent units,” every song on the album ends up charting on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week.
Even for those big name artists, however, the high is a just a temporary one. After the initial week of release, the album is usually forgotten about, as people return to their regular playlists.
Seriously, has anyone talked about Lorde’s latest album since the week it came out?
For the journalists – we spend a large chunk of our Friday morning, and early afternoon, receiving upwards of 50 to 100 emails per hour – yes, per hour – regarding new singles and albums. There isn’t enough time to read each email, let alone listen to the music.
I know one writer who has a policy of simply deleting every email sent on Friday because it’s just too much all at once, and he knows he’ll never be able to wade through them all to find the needle in the proverbial haystack.
Personally, I try open most emails, and skim them for a few key words that will tell me if I should slide the message into one of the column-specific folders I created to help organize my inbox. That said, I do tend to delete the emails from publicists who never respond to my interview requests, and/or never share the features that are written about their artists.
Trying to reach a journalist with new music on a Friday is a bit like trying to meet someone at Grand Central Station in the middle of rush hour – sure, you can make it happen, but why not find a time when there’s less congestion, and it’s easier to talk?
For the publicists – unless they’re working one of the big albums of the week, they know their press releases are more than likely going to get lost in the shuffle of a deck that is completely stacked against them.
Their email is just one in a sea of hundreds, and unless there’s a personal connection with a writer, there’s a pretty good chance the press release will never be read in full, if at all.
I legitimately feel for my friends in PR on “New Music Friday,” because they know what they’re up against, and every week they continue to try their best to push through.
All this being said, a question you may have is – if “New Music Friday” is so bad, why does everyone continue to partake in it? The answer is the evil empire that is Spotify. Spotify currently controls the narrative, and in a very short amount of time they’ve managed to engrain in people the idea that new music is supposed to come out on Friday.
As long as they continue to control this narrative – a narrative that financially benefits the streaming service far more than the artists, because Spotify makes a ton of money when the big name artists get plays – we’ll be stuck with “New Music Friday,” along with its myriad of problems.
Labels: Music Commentary