Are Surprise Albums the Best Way to Release Music?

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The idea of an album release date has been a dying phenomenon for years now especially with pre-release streams and constant leaks to what should ultimately be a grand unveiling. With that, long gone are the days of early promotion and scheduled interviews; instead artists are rolling the dice and dropping music online — usually for free download or stream in some form — at the drop of a hat.

For artists it’s a great way to capitalize on excitement and avoid leaks, but the downsides can almost outweigh the pros. Surprise releases are entirely a product of the digital age. The first time we collectively freaked out over a surprise album was back in 2013 when Beyonce dropped her self-titled visual album Beyonce. Equipped with radio hits and club anthems (not to mention a video for each song), everyone (myself included) got swept up in the mania, and just like that a trend was born. While Beyonce’s known for her ability to be a trailblazer, is it really the best strategy to release music? The short version is yes if your career is comparable to the likes of Beyonce, Adele, Drake or Kanye West. But being that those artists are in the top tier of the musical hierarchy, the real answer is no. Here are some problems to think about:

1) Surprise releases do nothing for new or independent artists

As the saying goes, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” New or independent artists are probably better off sticking to a standard album rollout. Give fans a taste of what’s to come and try to generate as much attention as possible.  Keep it simple.

2) Not all genres of music can effectively use the strategy

Take country music for instance.  Radio play is critical to the success of an artist’s album. It also drives sales. Dropping a surprise album for a country music singer would not bode well. Traditional marketing, press and radio play is the fuel that keeps this fire burning.

3) Surprise compromise the consumer experience

Don’t get me wrong, I love a surprise album, but in all honesty the excitement can be so overwhelming  that it can cloud the actual experience. A race to quote and meme your favorite artist is how fans are consuming music instead of actually enjoying the music itself.’

Surprise albums are great if you have the following but for everybody else the strategy is dangerous. Not many artists can get the outcome they hope for with little to no promotion in advance. Hopefully the surprise release trend will start to wane when we start to value music the way it was intended to be.

Surprise or not, you can download a ton of albums for free on the Trebel app!

About Tanya Payne

My life mostly consists of eating candy and ignoring emails but when I'm not doing those things I'm being a daughter, sister, aunt and dog lover.
Twitter: @tanya_payne
IG: @tanyaxpayne

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