Music Industry Grapples With “Street Date” Debate
In an effort to fight piracy and regain some lost buzz, music industry groups are aiming to release new albums on the same day worldwide. However, a proposal for a Friday "street date" is being met with resistance from brick-and-mortar independent retailers, which want the rest of the world to adopt the traditional American day: Tuesday.
Whatever they decide, we at least know the day will end in “y.”
Recently, Billboard reported that the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is seriously considering a move toward a standard release day—Friday—for new albums, no matter what country an album drops in. But not everyone’s on board with releasing new music on the cusp of the weekend. Why the disagreement?
The case for Friday: Currently, the first major market to sell albums each week is Australia, which issues new releases on Fridays. Because this is four days before new music is released in the United States—which has a Tuesday tradition—people have a chance to download pirated copies of albums before American consumers can buy them in stores. Last year’s exclusive iTunes release of the album Beyoncé, which was unleashed without warning on a Friday morning, demonstrated the technique’s success as a buzz-building strategy. Friday has drawn strong support from the major record labels as well as industry groups such as IFPI and the Recording Industry Association of America, according to Billboard.
The case for Tuesday or Wednesday: Unfortunately for brick-and-mortar retailers—particularly small-scale, independent ones—changing the “street date” comes with major downsides. The Department of Record Stores, a trade group that represents 100 indie retailers in the U.S. and Canada, says the idea of a global release date makes sense, but it contends that releasing new albums on Fridays would lead to lower sales and says the rest of the world should release albums earlier in the week, as the biggest markets, North America and the United Kingdom, do. “The worldwide change should be made in a positive way, and it should be done to maximize opportunities to increase sales for all retail partners,” the group said in a note emailed to industry members. The group would prefer Tuesday, which would push back Britain’s Monday releases by a day, but could live with Wednesday.
For what it’s worth, some industry executives see their point.
“This global street date is necessary for the industry, but unfortunately it will be awkward for the physical retailers to change their ways of doing business,” one executive told Billboard earlier this month. “Now, they could have two-thirds of their sales in one day.”
The move would come with some other significant changes—to music charts, distribution pipelines, promotion, and so on. And other industries that sell media, such as video games and movies, could face similar shifts because their release dates are tied to the music industry’s.
What day of the week would you prefer to pick up a new album? Offer up your take in the comments.