Earlier this morning, Kid Cudi followed in the footsteps of Beyonce and, with "no promo", delivered a "surprise" album release on the masses. The "no promo" trend is gaining steam after the success of Beyonce's new album. And sure, this trend will likely only serve major label artists and those with somewhat established fanbases initially, but who knows what the future holds for independent artists as well. Here are the 10 Benefits of Releasing Your Album With No Promotion.
IT'S HARD TO ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T EXIST
How many times have you heard this? "Artist X's album has leaked 10 days before the release date." A lot, right? Releasing a major label album with no promotion is one easy way to beat the downloaders. Sure, once the album drops it's going to be out there...but that initial rush of excitement and the "I need it this very second" attitude once the album hits iTunes assures that more people, at least off the top, will buy instead of download (these are the hardcore fans that don't want to spend a second looking for a reliable download link - they want it the minute it goes on-sale).
Much of the problems of illegal downloading comes from the fact that copies of the album need to be printed up well ahead of time for record stores, the master is at the label well in advance, promo copies of the album are floating around...there are just so many opportunities when an album has a release date well in advance for it to fall in the wrong hands...but if the artist is off finishing their album with a select group of people and then turns it into the label to be released mere days later, the chances of it becoming available online early are slim to none.
IT DOESN'T MATTER IF THE SINGLE WORKS...THERE IS NO SINGLE
Singles. Back in the day, your album wasn't even getting a look at the label unless you had a single impacting at radio or, at the very least, buzzing strong in the streets (more a Hip-Hop thing). Now, with the advantage of the "surprise" release, it doesn't matter if the single isn't working. Why? There is...no...single. This is the beauty of the "no promo" release. No set-up is required (ok internally set-up is required but no external set-up). The artist and label don't have to squabble about what song is best to set-up the album or which song will do well at radio. Sure, the label still may push back when they hear the album and ask the artist to go back in the studio and record "a hit", but the "hit" or single doesn't have anything to do with the album release.
LETTING THE FANS DECIDE THE HITS
Best track on the album JAY Z - Oceans Feat. Frank Ocean http://t.co/wHfathiQ8T— Jamel Herring (@JamelHerring) July 16, 2013
The nice thing about being able to buy music a la carte and social networking is that the fans can dictate the "hits." The album drops with no promo and then the label, the artist and their team review early sales and see which songs people are getting behind. Then, the machine can get going to push certain songs to radio and put more promo dollars behind certain tracks.
The alternative, an album with plenty of advance promo, the label and artist are at the mercy of the selected song. If that song isn't impacting or doing well, it puts the whole project at risk.
The cost of a full page magazine ad can be upwards of $25,000. TV advertising can range from $35,000 to $2 million per 30 second spot. A radio campaign is thousands and thousands of additional dollars. It used to be, an album needed advertising pre-release, during initial release cycle and then post-release if there was still something to support. Now with the "no promo" release, the pre-release advertising/promo budget is gone. That's big money saved for the record label and the artist (who doesn't have to recoup). Sure, this trend is bad news for magazines, radio, TV and other advertising mediums, but for the struggling music biz, this is great news.
LOWER EXPECTATIONS - BOTH FOR THE LABEL AND THE ARTIST
Believe it or not, there was a time when if a major label album was released and only sold 100,000 copies during the first week, it was dead in the water. Nowadays, labels salivate for those kinds of numbers and it singles for them a release worth putting more budget and power behind. The great thing about the "no promo" release is that it lowers the expectations for both the label and the artist. It's hard to be disappointed with an album selling...oh...50,000 copies with no promotion. But if there was extensive promotion behind that 50,000 selling album, it would be considered a colossal failure.
The new "surprise" release trend provides a new level of comfort for both the label and the artist. Money-wise, outside of the recording budget (which have shrunk anyways), the label isn't bound to a project if it's a failure. And for the artist, there is a sense of calm in the release that doesn't come with a 3-month build-up.
NO DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN AN ALBUM DOESN'T MAKE ITS RELEASE DATE
I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, I used to get heated when an album didn't meet its release date. This was mostly a Hip-Hop thing but it happened all the time. I wrote another piece about release dates here and why they should be done away with. Disappointing fans is never a good marketing strategy. The "no promo" release ensures that fans disappointment of albums not being released on-time is no longer there. Release dates, in general, have never been great from a customer service standpoint for the recording industry.
YOU DICTATE THE COMPETITION
Remember Def Jam's 'Month of the Man' promotion from November 1994? If you were committed to a release date that month, Def Jam steamrolled it with a debut album from Method Man and a new album from Redman.
Countless times in the past (whether it be music or film), releases suffered because the decision makers decided to release one of their key projects on a certain date. The other projects releasing that date thought it was wide open for the taking and then BOOM, there goes months of hard work and a lot of money.
The "no promo" release allows the label and artist to dictate their competition. Coldplay releasing a new album October 10? Maybe that's not the best day to put out our rising star's second album. The ability to sit back and "pick your spot" is an underrated luxury in any industry, but especially the music biz.
IT'S A "REWARD" FOR FANS
Ok, so it isn't really a "reward" for fans...because a "reward" for fans would be their favourite artist releasing their album as a "surprise"...and then giving it away for free (Jay-Z did this to an extent). But, this is still the music BUSINESS after all...and money needs to be made. In a way though, the "surprise" release is a "reward" because it's like the artist is saying "I love my fans so much, here is my entire brand new album right now - no waiting." It also serves to make the music industry look like less of an evil monster...even though, well, ya know.
NO PROMOTION IS PROMOTION IN ITSELF
What's the irony of the "no promo" release? It's promotion in itself. Did you take a look at the blogsphere/websites after Beyonce surprised everyone and dropped her new album out of the blue? Do a little Google search for "Beyonce Surprise Album"...it tells the story.
The buzz after an artist releases a "surprise" album is greater than anything the artist could have generated with a 3-month set-up. For huge artists like Beyonce, she likely doubled her buzz had she done a traditional album set-up. And for a lower scale artist like Kid Cudi, there is no way he could have impacted the press better than with his "out of nowhere" release of "Satellite Flight." The only way an artist like Kid Cudi could have equalled that kind of buzz would have been to have a monster hit single leading up to the release of the album (and sometimes even monster hit singles don't work).
PEOPLE HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS
Let's face it, most people don't remember what they read about yesterday let alone 3 months earlier in a magazine ad. Announcing release dates months out, talking about something that is happening in the summer in the winter, releasing a single and then 3 months later releasing an album...these things don't work in 2014. People have very short attention spans, and, in an attention span sensitive world, the "surprise" album release is the perfect compliment to music fans.
Save for a select few artists, people don't anticipate anymore...actually, people don't WANT to anticipate anymore. Look at 'House of Cards' on Netflix. Do you think people would be as invested in that show if it wasn't delivered in an 'all-you-can-eat' format? I don't think so.