The Album Rollout Is Shrinking

Do you remember the days waiting months for your favorite artist’s newest record? Do you remember the build up? What about waiting for their newest music video to debut on MTV, or first hearing their singles on the radio? Those days are long gone. Brevity has permeated throughout the music industry in a way that, for the most part, has made these archaic methods album promotion inefficient. In response, artists have turned to spontaneity, oversaturation, and snippets. You’ve had to have noticed; it’d be impossible not to, but do you realize how we got here, or where exactly we are?

“Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days; we’ve called it In Rainbows.” That was all the warning Radiohead would give before the release their 2007 album, In Rainbows and, in turn,help redirect album promotion for the next decade. They ignored making the traditional rounds on TV, radio, and print, instead, opting only for the internet. They delivered the succinct announcement in a blog post; nothing more, nothing less. This wouldn’t be the only unusual aspect to their release; they also sold the album with a “pay what you want” model. This allowed users to get the album for whatever price they’d like and was intended to compete with the unstoppable force that was music piracy. In a sense, this model predicted streaming services but, at the time, it was considered an acceptance defeat in the battle against piracy and a devaluation music.

The Album Rollout Is Shrinking

Beyonce performing during the 59th Grammy Awards, 2017 – Christopher Polk/Getty s 

Beyoncé took brevity and made it her mantra with the way she released her eponymous fifth album. At one instant, there was nothing, then next, there was an entire Beyoncé album for fans to consume. The album hit iTunes in the wee hours the morning on December 13th, 2013; a complete surprise to fans and critics alike. Excluding leaks, this was virtually unheard . Beyoncé sold over 800,000 digital copies in its first three days after hitting streaming services.Its success is pro that spending months going through a circuit promotion is no longer necessary for big artists.

Artists took note. From 2013 on, releasing albums with little to no warning has almost become the norm. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Blonde, and more all used this strategy to surprising success. The influence concision didn’t end with just announcements and releases; the way with which artists promote their album in between was bound to change as well.

Snippets are the pinnacle brevity. Artists now distribute– although sometimes leaked unintentionally– brief bite-sized rations a song to their fans; in effect, leaving them starved, begging for more like Oliver Twist until the full track is released. This model can be traced back to iTunes previews, but it truly gained steam as a marketing force during the height the SoundCloud era with artists like Playboi CartiLil Uzi Vert and more. It’s further bolstered by the format platforms such as Instagram and Twitter which limit users content to one-minute videos or character controlled tweets.

The Album Rollout Is Shrinking

Lil Nas X performing at 2019 Stagecoach Festival – Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty s

For a time, Playboi Carti’s career was, in essence, a personified song snippet. He existed as an enigmatic figure behind the curtain Soundcloud loosies. No one could predict the power snippets; his ficial mixtape was so far f, it was considered mythical. Now, snippets have grown into something more. They have become one the most effective ways marketing, not just an album, but even a single. Look to the number one song in the country right now, “Old Town Road.” This song found its virality after fans on TikTok used a snippet the track as the basis the “Yeehaw Challenge” way back in December 2018. Yes, the number one song in the country, rode its way to the top f the power a (viral) snippet.

All these moments have led us here, but where is here? To find out, look no further than Tyler, The Creator’s Igor, and it’s battle for the top spot againstDJ Khaled’s Father Asahd. Tyler knows exactly where we are; in fact, Tyler has such a tight grip on marketing an album in 2019, that Igor won the fight against Father Asahd, landing the number one spot on the Billboard charts. Igor dropped on May, 17th, but we only have to turn back seventeen days, to May 1st to find the inflection point, where Tyler, yes literally transmogrified into another character, but also began promoting his album. Igor was ficially announced on May 6th, in an even more curt fashion than In Rainbows, with a post reading simply, “Igor – 5/17.” The announcement gave fans (almost) the same number days to prepare for the album. Throughout the next eleven days, Tyler would abandon singles altogether, instead opting for snippets (all which garnered at least two million views on Instagram) to promote the album. The first ficial single, “Earfquake” was only released after the album was available.

The Album Rollout Is Shrinking

DJ Khaled and his son Asahd Khaled at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards – Jamie McCarthy/Getty s

Compare Tyler’s strategy to that DJ Khaled. You’ll have to dig last year’s calendar out the trash (ironically where you’ll find Father Asahd as well)  and turn back to March 2018 to find the announcement for Father Asahd. While turning back, take note what you find in between. Over the course thirteen months, Khaled released five singles for his album, teased an endless number collaborations and even released a trailer for the album. This all sounds great, and even just ten years ago, it would likely have been enough to earn him the number one spot regardless how terrible the project is; however, spontaneity garners excitement in 2019, snippets garner excitement in 2019, and most importantly, brevity garners excitement in 2019. Khaled failed where Tyler succeeded. Where Tyler transformed into Igor, Khaled transformed into an old man yelling at a cloud.

It’d be impossible to determine exactly why the trend towards concision refuses to slow down, but it’s undeniably had its impact on the music industry. Perhaps it’s a shorting attention span worldwide, or the allure refreshing ways to engage with music; regardless, the music industry, as we know it today, exists within a zeitgeist dominated by brevity.