Quick: on what day does new music appear in the marketplace? Answer: It depends.
Here in North America, Tuesday has been the agreed-upon new release day for for years. Except if you’re someone like Taylor Swift who decides that Monday is a better day for a particular album. Or in the case of Lady Gaga, Friday. But for the vast majority of new music, Tuesday is the day.
But that’s a full 24 hours behind the UK and Germany, which prefer to unleash the hounds on Mondays. Japan disagrees. It thinks Wednesday is the best day. “Not so, mate!” says Australia. “Everyone knows that Friday is the perfect day!” (Germany agreed and in 2009 moved their release day to Friday.)
Back in the pre-Internet days, none of this mattered. Unless you put a record on a plane and Concorded it over from North America, there was no fear that a UK release would bugger up sales in North America. But now that a DRM-free MP3 can be sent around the planet in milliseconds–well, you can see the problem.
This can be illustrated by last year’s release of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. This much-anticipated album was released on Friday in Australia, Germany, Sweden and a few other countries. Almost immediately, piracy sites saw a huge spike in traffic in countries where the album wasn’t scheduled to be released until Monday or Tuesday.
So why doesn’t the music industry just get its shit together and declare [X]day to be when all new music comes out? That would make it a helluva lot easier to compile charts on a global basis–and charts are the way the music industry keeps score. Wouldn’t this be beneficial to all involved?
The Wall Street Journal points out that there seems to be some kind of consensus regarding Friday, although some retailers are worried that this will simply allow people to wait until the weekend to buy their new music, causing a slump in midweek business. I’ve also heard through various sources that iTunes would like to keep new release day to Tuesday.
Why have a coordinated release day for any record? Because back in the Olden Days, it was rather chaotic. Records came out…whenever. But because of shipping and stocking issues, not all markets got their new supplies on the same days. That meant there might be, for example, a new Black Sabbath record in the stores in Toronto but it would be five or six days before it showed up in Winnipeg. That caused all kinds of chart statistics problems and inventory issues. Declaring a common day made things much easier.
But in this digital world, we have no such issues. So the debate continues over a global release day. So I ask you: what day would you prefer? Or does it even matter?