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Beyonce, Drake, Kendrick Lamar & the Era of Surprise Releases

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So it’s becoming pointless to have an album release date. Or at least I think so.

Beyonce, Drake and now Kendrick Lamar are changing the way the music industry works. Out with the old and win the new. RIP to release dates!

To Pimp A Butterfly- Kendrick Lamar album art. Courtesy of LAtimes.com.

To Pimp A Butterfly- Kendrick Lamar album art. Courtesy of LAtimes.com.

First off, I want to congratulate Kendrick Lamar on making a fantastic album. It’s beautifully produced, and goes so hard. Even if you’re not a fan of the West Coast. Or stopped loving Kendrick when he went off on all of your favorite rapper’s on Big Sean’s “Control”, you can’t deny that he absolutely killed the game with To Pimp A Butterfly. But back to the topic!

I remember when I was much younger, it was all about anticipation. 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was slated to drop February 4, 2003 and the radio kept repeating it so much it was ingrained in my head. The Sam Goody (throwback to the old Kings Plaza in Brooklyn!) had a huge sign posted outside enticing shoppers to line up & grab a CD on the release date.

At every award show in the 2000s, artists conspicuously plug a line for when their album was going to drop.

“Oh my God, thank you so much for this award! Go cop my album! March 19th! I’d like to thank all my fans…[speech goes on] ALBUM NAME in STORES NEXT WEEK THANK U I LOVE YOU ” *exits stage left*

It became expected and almost amusing the way artists got creative with it. Back then the anticipation was so real, it was almost tangible.

Fast forward 10 years later and everything has changed. No one purchases or uses CD’s anymore. So much so that it is unclear if Drake has decided to completely forego a hard-copy release of his latest, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.

Drake performing 2015.

The music industry is constantly changing as technology evolves and our social tastes shift. Music labels have to meet the demands of consumers in our culture today. People don’t want to wait for the release date to purchase their music. I mean, a lot of people don’t even want to purchase the music! Links to album leaks are pretty much currency or gold in this age of the Internet.

But it raises the debate, is a release date necessary?

Yes, because it gives the consumer a date to look forward to just like the old days, and a good idea of a two week window before said date to search the Internet for leaks. There’s also time for the artist to build up anticipation with marketing appearances and social media teases to hype things up.

Big Sean constantly posted snippets of tracks of Dark Sky Paradise on Instagram. When it hit stores, he posted a video of him buying over 20 copies while telling fans “if no one support me, Ima support myself. I believe in this music man, for real.”

Yes, because don’t you just HATE IT when your favorite artist keeps dropping singles here & there, or is featured on someone else’s song and you have NO IDEA when you’ll hear a full album from them? I know I felt like this all summer with Drake. I was a step away from breaking out in hives if I didn’t get an album from the 6God. (Yes, I’m a huge Drake fan. Can’t you tell?)

Yes, because don’t you just hate it when your favorite artist keeps saying, “Soon, we’re working on it. But y’all will get something real soon” when they’re asked about their new music in interviews. Fan armies get CRAZY when they don’t get what’s promised to them. We just don’t want to wait.

But on the flip side, there are rock solid reasons why the answer to our question is no & why music release dates are now irrelevant.

They aren’t necessary anymore.
Listeners are clearly enjoying the real feel of a genuine surprise. Twitter becomes an absolute madhouse of everyone trying to find a link for download.

When Kendrick Lamar’s album leaked:

Kendrick Lamar link leak

There are numbers to prove it.
Beyonce’s self-titled album raked in 828, 773 copies in THREE DAYS, setting the record for the fastest selling album in iTunes history. Beyonce didn’t bother telling anyone what was coming, she just put her music out there & let it self itself. Drake’s IYRTITL sold an impressive 495, 000 in the same amount of time. The hysteria surrounding new music from Drake’s new album was insane.The amount of memes that were created within just a few hours of the album art was perfection.

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Millennials are damn good at trolling the Internet. We love it, and obviously have a knack for creative humor.

More & more artists are doing the same thing.

Beyonce isn’t the first artist to surprise release their body of work or randomly announce a release date. Frank Ocean did it in 2012 with “Channel Orange”. Skrillex did it last March by leaking each track one by one till all 11 songs were out. But ever since Beyonce did it, people now refer to this as “pulling a Beyonce”.

It’s clear that there’s a shift in this era of music and I think we can expect for this model to stay. Many other artists are jumping on this train. Release dates just sound and feel so outdated. “Less is more” seems to be the best way to describe this trend. Forego the massive marketing campaigns. Give the fans what they want & let them spread the word. The vast majority of us are impatient. We want our music as soon as we can get it and don’t want to be told to wait.

I wonder who’s going to be next! Rihanna? Kanye? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

[Images: Courtesy of mechanicaldummy.com, nymag.com, blog.fishline.com, and Twitter]

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