Photo pulled from Earl Sweatshirt’s official Facebook page.
Recently, there has been a trend of artists giving little to no notice for album releases. Sometimes this works in the artists’ favor, like when Beyoncé released her self-titled album to a high degree of critical acclaim and sold more than 800,000 copies on iTunes. But sometimes it’s an egregious error, like when U2 downloaded their most recent LP, “Songs of Innocence,” onto millions of Apple users’ iTunes accounts and Apple had to make a new website dedicated to removing “Songs of Innocence” from non-consenting customers’ iTunes libraries. And sometimes a surprise album release gets completely botched by the record company, like Earl Sweatshirt’s most recent LP, “I don’t like s***, I don’t go outisde.” My question is whether or not this “no promotion” approach to album promotion actually has any merit.
Let’s talk about some of the positive aspects of a surprise album release.
A surprise album release lets the fans choose which songs from the album will be hits, instead of whichever singles had previously been heavily promoted. This is the difference between Ke$ha’s “Kiss ‘n’ tell” being her most-known song instead of “Tik-Tok.”
Another upside to surprise releases is the phrase “Radiohead’s new album, ‘The King of Limbs,’ will be available in a month,” sounds much less exciting compared to the phrase, “Radiohead’s new album, ‘The King of Limbs,’ is available RIGHT F#$%!&@ NOW.” Ironically, this no-promotion approach ends up its own promotion tactic in the end.
Surprise album releases also keep advertising costs low for artists. We already know Spotify barely compensates artists and it’s difficult enough for an artist to make money off their craft today with internet pirating being so prevalent, so the more viable corners artists can cut when getting their content to the public, the better.
Now let’s talk about some of the negatives of a surprise album release.
There’s absolutely no potential for building excitement. Tyler, the Creator’s “Cherry Bomb” came out on Thursday, April 9, with little to no prior notice and I didn’t really give a $#@!. I love “Yonkers” and “Wolf” as much as the next guy, but if you want me to continue to care about the antics of this man-child, you have to give me a little advance notice. Hype-building is one of the more important aspects of album promotion. It’s why fans hated “Chinese Democracy,” and it’s why fans will more than likely hate Dr. Dre’s “Detox” if it ever comes out. Hype can make or break an album, and there’s a fine line artists have to toe for their albums to do well.
Another negative aspect of surprise album releases is we still haven’t heard “Tha Carter V” and I’m upset. I put this album on my calendar back in October, and I’ve yet to see anything more than singles, because Wayne is super pissed at Young Money Records for dragging their feet with his album, so much so that Wayne decided to sue them. For $51 million. Contractual obligations severely hinder artists’ ability to release an album as their own decision.
I don’t think I’m a fan of the, “Oh, by the way, here’s my album,” method of album promotion. In the end, it just seems counter-productive for artists to limit themselves by not advertising their new album will be arriving soon.
Have a fantastic Tuesday.
Sean McCully is The All State‘s Assistant News Editor. He’s constantly refreshing Twitter to make sure he doesn’t miss any album releases.