By: Ned Sedlak
Drake, Bjork, two new Kanye West songs, Madonna, Bitch Better Have My Money, Kendrick Lamar, Zac Brown Band, Sam Smith, Passion Pit, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Built to Spill, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, the biggest Record Store Day ever, Lord Huron, Father John Misty, Mark Ronson, Courtney Barnett, Alabama Shakes.
There’s no shortage of quality new music this year. I keep telling people this will be remembered as a golden year for music. Surprise releases from Drake, Bjork, and a rushed release from Kendrick Lamar, with new Kanye/Paul McCartney songs, could be enough in any given year to at least put it in the conversation. Add in everything else that’s come out this year, from superstar to developing indie bands, and viola! When you look around at the music this year, you are just left with a jaw-dropping amount to explore.
This pace should continue well into May and June of this year, with a slate including Mumford & Sons, Hot Chip, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Jamie XX, Florence & The Machine, Sun Kil Moon, Hudson Mohawk, and perhaps Rihanna and/or Kanye West. All before July. This schedule before July is very important, perhaps extra important to any superstars trying to gouge big first week numbers.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry
, the international braintrust of the recording industry, changed the release dates, different in many territories, to a global day: Friday. The reasons behind this include many convoluted interests and beliefs. For example, people have more disposable income on Fridays, so perhaps they will buy more records when they are out for the weekend. This puts physical retail at a theoretical disadvantage, as any brick-and-mortar store who orders product for the weekend will not have an opportunity to restock if they fall short on inventory. The restock won’t arrive until Monday
the following week. But none of this matters for digital and digital retail is happy to have the release match across the world – this could cut down on material available elsewhere leaking into other territories cutting into sales.
It’s a great thing for the global industry, depending who you ask. A disaster to others.
Getting your next blockbuster release out before July, however, becomes important. Not a lot of people are trusting that the release day switch will go as smoothly as planned. Netting a huge first week sales number will be more difficult if orders are skewed based on fear or inaccurate forecasts. Most labels will avoid scheduling a marquee release in July because of this. To keep up this embarrassment of new release riches, the collective industry will need to overcome a slow July and really kill it come September/October – when the largest releases of the year traditionally release.
Furthermore, despite the feast of 2015 releases, sales are slow. This year will likely set the new record for smallest #1 album. This week’s top 10 records sold a combined 303k units. Discrete sales are truly dwindling.
I’m not here to drive another nail in the industry’s coffin. When I look around at all the music in the world, I am encouraged by the absolute abundance of quality artists. Concentrating so much of it in one year is special, but highly challenging. Can the industry and its artists continue this blockbuster year of names despite the commercial conditions? I sure fucking hope so. This is a special year and the ongoing and upcoming challenges will be a hell of a ride.