Op-Ed: Release Date – By Bob Lefsetz

You sell in the fourth quarter.

You stream all year-round.

Once again the music business is on the cutting edge, the canary in the coal mine. Movies are fourth quarter dependent. What are people gonna see during the holidays? Thanksgiving to Christmas? They've got free time, they're oftentimes not working, they've got to get out of the house, why not go to a movie?

And during the summer, when kids are out of school.

But they listen to music all twelve months. And one could argue the holidays are when they listen to new music the least.

The record business has been focused on the fourth quarter for nearly a century. Hold back your heavy hitters. Market like crazy. Get those discs into people's hands. Their parents have to buy gifts. It's a cornucopia of consumption.

But now the wheel has turned.

Just like Bob Seger and Taylor Swift are now on Spotify, soon the physical and file paradigm will die. There will be no reason to fourth quarter load. If anything, you want to stay out of the maelstrom, when the tsunami of hit product is released. And accounting has changed. Labels shipped in the fourth quarter and got returns thereafter, making their numbers and then dealing with the detriment in the aftermath.

If you're releasing new music today, your best bet is to do it when no one else is. Assuming you're going to get press attention to begin with.

And the way you cut through the clutter is not with front-loaded publicity, but marketing after the fact. Music has turned into curling. Sliding the stone is only the beginning, then the brushpeople start doing their work, reducing friction, making a good slide go into the appropriate spot.

And the sweeping looks insignificant. But it's oh-so-important.

Now you create the record and see if it responds. If it doesn't, if there's no data to support your story, you're screwed. It all comes down to the data. Do people save it on Spotify, do they listen to it again and again. And then it's a long hard slog to the top.

Release date is just the beginning, arguably the least important part of the journey.

There was a story on Randy Newman's new album in every publication known to man. But not a single track has eclipsed 100,000 plays on Spotify, not even close. This is ass-backwards. The man needed a one listen single, which he arguably had with his Trump song, which he left off the album, but now his new work is already in the rearview mirror.

Whereas those acts without airplay, who are not part of the broken media scene, are the ones that are triumphing on streaming services, like Logic.

This is a sea change.

The fourth quarter is about to be history.

It's about streams, not sales!

Never forget that.

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