Today is Friday, and we all know what that means: It’s the end of the work week! It’s time to make weekend plans. You can check out new movies in theaters. Oh, and football is back, so that means there are games on Saturday and Sunday. And you’ll also have time to catch up with all of your favorite TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.
Have I forgotten anything? I don’t think so — oh wait, new albums come out today, too, right?
For three years, “New Music Friday” has been a weekly record industry-sanctioned quasi-holiday. The release date was moved from Tuesday in 2015 to curb piracy — before then, there were different release dates in different countries around the world, which enabled a music fan in the UK (where new albums came out every Monday) to upload and illegally share that music with fans who otherwise had to wait another day or so. It was decided that albums should instead come out at the same time everywhere, right before the weekend, which data supposedly showed that most music fans preferred.
The problem is that releasing music on Friday is bad because it devalues new albums. Therefore, it’s time that we recognize this change was a mistake, and restore Tuesday as the proper “new music” day.
Back in 2015, brick-and-mortar record stores and independent labels complained about moving the release date, claiming that selling the latest albums at the end rather than the middle of the week would make it more difficult to keep shelves stocked with product as well as stymie the promotion of lesser-known artists ahead of the weekend memory hole. When albums came out on Tuesday, stores could order more stock ahead of the weekend rush for an especially popular record, whether it was Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ The Wind, Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II,, or Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. And smaller labels could rely on reviews published that week to keep a critically acclaimed sleeper album in the news at least through the weekend.
Now that the record industry has shifted focus to streaming, the concerns of brick-and-mortar stores are essentially ignored. Why cater to old-fashioned retailers when Spotify and Apple Music can brand “New Music Friday” for their latest playlists?
While music sales continue their inexorable decline, streaming numbers appear to be perpetually rising. Does any of this have to do with new music coming out on Friday? We can’t know for sure, but I kind of doubt it. Let’s say for the sake of argument that people stream more music on Friday and Saturday, just as record stores generally did their best business on those days. The upside of putting out new music on Tuesday was that it attracted customers on a day when business would’ve otherwise been slow. Friday and Saturday were already popular days for more casual fans to shop, but the diehards who had to buy the album immediately came earlier in the week.
Why wouldn’t this logic also be true in the streaming world? If new music comes out on Tuesday, it will still be new on Friday and Saturday, and there’s a greater likelihood that those listeners will have already heard about the latest releases from music websites and their friends in social media. But when new music comes out on Friday, it is swept up in the rush of all the other content being foisted on the public before the forthcoming weekend.
“It clogs media,” Matador Records founder Chris Lombardi warned in 2015. “You’re gonna be competing with stuff with a massive campaign behind it: Lots of advertising, lots of editorial real estate on blogs and newspapers and magazines.”
I admit that my dislike of “New Music Friday” stems at least partly from my job. As a critic, I’m either writing about albums days or even weeks before most people get to hear them, or the following week when many listeners have already moved on. When albums came out on Tuesday, it allowed that music a little extra space to breathe in the marketplace, giving it more time to provoke real conversations among fans. But now that Friday is the industry standard, the pace at which new albums seem to come and go from public consciousness has been accelerated.
There’s a reason why PR people always release embarrassing press releases on Friday — they know it’s the best way to minimize the impact of that news. Once Monday comes around, people naturally reset themselves for a new week, instantly relegating nearly everything that occurred just a few days prior to the dustbin of history. That’s fine if you’re trying to downplay a sex scandal or a problematic quarterly earnings report. But it’s not so good when you’re talking about new music.
All of that industry talk aside: As a music fan, I miss the specialness that album release day used to have. You know what I like about Tuesday now? Absolutely nothing. It inspires no feeling in me whatsoever. At least Monday is a day you can hate — it elicits genuine emotion, which I appreciate. Wednesday is hump day, and Thursday is a preemptive weekend day, especially in the summer. But Tuesday is utterly bland, flavorless, and ultimately blank. It’s a dry husk in the calendar’s Nowheresville neighborhood.
But it wasn’t always like this. Tuesday used to be the day when new albums arrived! It gave an otherwise useless 24-hour allotment of our lives a sense of purpose and excitement. Why would you take away the one good thing about a day and hand it to a different day that already has an abundance of attributes? Tuesday is under-privileged and Friday is Jeff Bezos, and yet we funneled the wealth toward the already rich. This is terrible. Let’s make Tuesday great again.