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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

Streaming is king

Something changed over the summer. The change was probably imperceptible to most people, but it is meant to fundamentally affect the music industry.

For years -- since 1989 in fact -- new music in the United States had gone on sale on Tuesdays; in Canada and the U.K., Mondays; and in Australia and Germany, Fridays. According to Keith Caulfield, co-director of charts at Billboard, the primary reason for these mandated national release dates was shipping time.In a world where physical media was king, an album carried by one record store but not by its neighbor could make the difference between surviving and going out of business. Mandated release days evened the playing field by ensuring everyone had their stock at the same time.

Fast-forward to the age of digital music, and these national release days are a problem because they vary from country to country. A Monday release date in the U.K. allows a listener there to upload the album to the internet before it officially launches overseas in, for example, the United States, encouraging piracy abroad.

The solution? The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, an organization representing music labels, has unified the various release days into one global release day: Friday. Friday was chosen based on a very limited survey of consumer preferences, which included questions about when they would prefer to receive new music. It did not, however, take into account the preferences of the owners of physical music stores.

The new release schedule may pose a threat to these stores' business models, which have been built around the Tuesday release day for two and a half decades. However, according to a report by NPR, album sales were down four percent last year while album consumption increased alongside the rise of streaming services like Spotify. If anything, this is indicative of the supremacy of consumption via online streaming. The change is not a nail in music stores’ coffins; it is a (belated) passing of the baton.