Music is an industry of change, constantly in a state of adaption to accommodate convenience. A big change occurred in 1989, the year it was decided that American album releases would be changed from Monday to Tuesday. The decision was made to give retailers the chance to stock new albums at the same time since a Monday shipment meant some retailers received new album stock at different times―changing the day would place everyone on a leveled playing field.
The music industry hates imbalance, which is why it adjusted to the times by making tiny tweaks to benefit the entire business. Albums coming out on Tuesday was a convenient business move, one that I spent most of my life living by. I bought, played and downloaded music on the second day of the week. Tuesday was synonymous with new music.
"For the past few decades, new album releases (and most commercially available singles) are released Tuesday each week in the U.S. Tuesday became the standard release day in April 1989, following discussions at the previous month's National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) convention (March 3-7). Before then, Monday had long been the standard release day for new albums in the U.S." - Why Are Albums Released on Tuesday (For Now) in the U.S.
Although American and international releases were on two different release schedules (NPRstates that U.K. and France release dates were Mondays, in Germany it was Friday), it wasn’t a problem until the internet became a hub for sharing, uploading and downloading. If international retailers got albums days before the U.S., there was nothing to stop consumers from ripping the album and sending it through online channels to their friends, and beyond.
To combat the internet, a move was made to change album release dates to Friday in 2015―ensuring that all albums would be released at once on a worldwide scale. Making this move happened as streaming was slowly becoming the industry norm; album shipping and piracy are no longer the thorns in the sides of the majors.
When the only way to access music was through retailers, shipping was a crucial deciding factor, but these days, physical copies are often unleashed one to two weeks after the fact, if at all. Albums tend to hit streaming services late Thursday night, opening up the opportunity for a community listen before anyone can hold a physical copy.
It was a successful transition, perfectly adapting to the times, and I hate it.
Working as a music journalist has taught me how much news happens during the week; when things are busy, they are endless. Albums used to be the center of conversation during the week, even if they leaked there would be chatter leading up to and following the Tuesday release. Post-release discussion was a nearly all-week affair.
Nowadays, buildup exists leading up to the Thursday night release, followed by an initial wave of reactionary posts, and by Monday—only 72 hours later—we're right back in the thick of the new week's news cycle. The album no longer feels like the crown jewel—the eye of our storm—but rather an earthquake with a small Friday morning aftershock. After that, the writers aren’t writing, the people aren’t reading, and...are the people even listening? Weekends tend to be for active entertainment and not sitting on your phone listening to all the latest releases.
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We spent all week in the house, in the office, on our computers―time we would spend with albums, but over the past two years, they often arrive late to the party.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the days that end the week, and we are programmed to see them as days to go out, get shit done and be free. Music can be a part of that, but we immersed ourselves differently when we had the entire week to live with a project. It became part of the week, part of the news cycle, but what was once the climax now feels more like a falling action. It's not completely Friday's fault—the addition of social media and constant commentary is another reason why it seems like we’re jumping from project to project like Frogger hopping across the street—but the chosen release day exacerbates the issue.
Listening to a new album the second it's released feels like going to see a late-night Thursday screening of the latest blockbuster in a theater that will be packed with people, except that system works well for movies and seems to have an adverse effect on music. The new Drake album might be in heavy rotation at a weekend event, but many albums remain solitary, headphone-recommended listens. It’s cool for getting ready to go out or helping you to stay "in the know" about the latest trending topics, but ending the week with new releases means increased competition for people's Saturday-Sunday free time, which means many albums don't make it into the conversation the following week.
Only the biggest artists are able to keep the buzz going for longer than a few days. By Monday, it’s hard to keep the momentum going for a project that reached its interest apex during the weekend. If artists (and labels) spent an entire week of promoting post-release content to keep the project buzzing it might be different, but by Tuesday, we are all already looking to see what’s coming next. The industry doesn’t get a chance to digest projects; the rush to get think-pieces out hasn’t changed but the expiration date of these pieces has moved up dramatically.
I’m more likely to spend my Tuesday playing music once my work day is done, versus Thursday or Friday when there are more opportunities to leave technology and step out into the real world. Of course, this is all circumstantial, my life isn’t how the world operates for everyone, but through this lens exists the reason why albums are dying and being replaced by playlists. The driving force behind this shift is singles, which are able to be experienced beyond the entire body of work, and that’s important during this era of hyperactivity. In a time where there’s so little time, singles have a similar impact as they did during the ringtone era. Terrible time for albums, but great for anyone who has a cellphone.
Tuesday will always be special, it was the day I spent most of my life relating to acquiring music. The fun, the thrill, the anticipation was a rush in itself. I connected all these feelings to Tuesday, a day that’s far more empty now than ever.
Changing the release date to Friday makes sense from an industry perspective, streaming has mostly curbed piracy, but the experience just isn’t the same. The death of new music Tuesday was the end of an era, another change in the industry, and I’m still trying to adapt.
It was the best of times, I just didn’t know it.
By Yoh, aka New Article Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Sparklehausen