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Music release dates in 2020 will be meaningless 

click to enlarge FKA Twigs' Magdalene
  • FKA Twigs' Magdalene

Last week, we talked about how major labels may well kill the CD in 2020. In the meantime, the concept of a release date for a new album, which has sustained sites like metacritic.com, has become all but meaningless. A given new work may have five different release dates. The streaming version of an album doesn’t always come first, though most labels treat CDs and LPs as afterthoughts.

Let’s take FKA Twigs’ Magdalene as an example. The album came out in a special curated version only in Target stores in early October. This was followed by a streaming version in the middle of the month, and finally by CD and LP versions for mere commoners at month’s end. The same multiple dates occurred for Denver death metal band Blood Incantation and Brooklyn’s queer pop sensation King Princess. The strategy often seems to be, “How much will you pay to get a physical copy early, or at all?” Copies of releases on or near release dates could go for $30 or more — Neil Young’s LP version of Colorado, which preceded the CD, fetched $40.

An optimist would say this turns the release of a new album into a scavenger hunt of sorts, putting a sense of adventure into record-buying. One can always find a release later, at inflated prices, from eBay or discogs.com. But as we said last week in regard to the death of the CD, how does such a strategy benefit either the major label or the consumer?

Those who don’t like big business will be happy to see music revert to small labels and Bandcamp. But the large-scale music industry seems to be going through a self-inflicted series of fatal wounds, which will have huge effects in 2020.

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