Sunday, March 28, 2010

The New Release Schedule

Here's an excerpt from my Music 3.0 Internet Music Guidebook, about how the release schedule has changed and will continue to do so. But there are definite advantages to the latest timing in your releases. Read on.
"M30 requires new thinking regarding song releases. If we go back to the 50’s, vinyl singles had a notoriously fast turnaround despite the labor intensive manufacturing required to actually make a vinyl record. At that time, it was not uncommon to have a single (with a song on each side) on the streets within days of recording (or even writing) the song! Of course, the quick turnaround was helped by the fact that the song was usually recorded in a few hours since there was little or no overdubbing, so it was literally possible to record a song on Monday and have it on the radio on Wednesday of the same week. Perhaps the last time a record turnaround happened this quickly was the 1970 release of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Ohio documenting the Kent State shootings.
When the emphasis on releases turned from singles to albums, the length of time between releases increased accordingly, which was natural considering that more songs were being recorded. During the M1.0 (Music 1.0) days there was a limitation on just how many songs could actually be recorded for an album since it was a limitation of the vinyl itself. 23 minutes per side was the goal to get the loudest and highest fidelity record. Any more and it became more difficult to fit the extra time without having the overall level of the record decrease as the noise floor increased. As a result, artists were confined to about 45 to 50 minutes per album (or less), but consumers didn’t seem to mind since they still felt they were getting value if they liked the songs.
The time limitation lifted with the introduction of the CD in M1.5 (Music 1.5). When first released, the CD had a maximum playing time of 74 minutes (the number rumored to be chosen because it could fit the entire movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) which was later increased to a full 80 minutes. No longer saddled with the vinyl album’s built-in time limitation, artists were able to stretch out and add more and longer songs to each album release. This soon proved to be a double-edged sword, since it now took longer to finish each release because of the inclusion of all those extra songs.
But more songs doesn’t necessarily make for a better record and actually proved to even backfire in the face of the artist’s popularity. While 40 to 45 minutes was a time bite easily digestible for a listener, 60 to 70 was not. The extra songs were not only little appreciated but even worse, thought of as mere filler. The consumer began to think (sometimes rightfully so) that the songs were there just for the sake of being there and began to feel ripped off.
Over the years the time between releases gradually lengthened to the point where a superstar act might take several years between releases. While this might’ve worked in M1.5 and 2.0, that strategy can never work in M30 as the tribe has an insatiable appetite for product, and what’s worse, the tribe can actually dissipate if the product does not come at regular intervals - the shorter the better.
And with CD sales way down, the album format itself seems to be going the way of the vinyl single of the 50’s and 60’s. Consumers in M30 buy just the songs they want - they buy singles. Which brings about a new philosophy regarding record making and their releases.
In M30, artists will record fewer songs but have more frequent releases. It’s better to release two songs every 6, 8 or 12 weeks than to wait a year for one release of 10 songs. This benefits the artist in a few ways:
  • The artist keeps their tribe happy with a constant supply of new music. New music keeps the tribe interested and keeps the buzz and dialog going. 
  • The artist gains increased exposure for every song. In a 10 song album release, it’s easy for a fan, reviewer or radio programmer to focus on just one or two songs while the others fall in priority. When releases are in twos, each song gets equal attention and has the ability to live and die on its own merits. 
  • The album still can still be compiled after all the songs have been individually released. At the end of the year, or at the end of the artist’s creative cycle, the songs are then put into an album that can be released in any format. The advantage is that the album has much advanced exposure and publicity thanks to numerous single releases. Plus it can be treated as a marketing event to the artist’s advantage.
Make no mistake, the album format is not dead in M30, but the emphasis has shifted to the individual song."
For some additional excerpts from the book, visit my website.

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