Last Friday, record stores in Australia decided to put Pink’s Funhouse on sale a day ahead of schedule, what with the album having leaked a couple of weeks ago and the stores wanting to get product in their few remaining customers’ hands in a timely manner. Sales weeks Down Under traditionally run from Saturday to Friday, so albums are usually released on Saturdays in order to maximize first-week sales totals and crow about their records’ No. 1 debuts–but the rogue stores wound up selling enough copies (7,120) on Friday to force Funhouse to debut at No. 4 a week ahead of schedule. The album wound up being removed from the “official” chart, as did AC/DC’s Black Ice.
Stores’ apathy toward holding product back until some sort of arbitrary decided-upon date passes is probably going to grow more and more, what with early leaks of even the biggest albums becoming commonplace and certain bands deciding on their own to break their labels’ release-date stranglehold. But here’s the weird thing: While some stores in Oz are being more footloose than ever about selling major-label product early, smaller bands in the Northern Hemisphere have decided to circle their wagons until release date:
I can remember going to shows and seeing bands play fast and loose with record release dates. You know: “This song’s from a record that’ll be out in three weeks. We’ll have copies of it for sale today.” More and more, though, I’m seeing that not be the case — bands on indie labels will announce that a record will be out in two weeks, or a week, or a few days, but not have it for sale. It doesn’t seem like a case of labels clamping down as much as, well, the obvious internet/leaking/filesharing debate, but it does make for an interesting contrast from years past, and an observable characteristic of how the internet has changed things.
Of course, bands on smaller labels have more to lose in a real sense–they’re generally closer to their revenue streams than an artist who has to fight through the major-label thicket. But I think this practice is a little strange, in that it implies (even unintentionally!) distrust of the fanbase who’s actually going out and seeing shows–particularly for albums that are only out in one or two weeks’ time. (If the record had leaked already, I’d be on the phone right away demanding that my label FedEx me at least a few copies for the merch table.) Have you noticed this change in attitude from the bands you see at all? Will the whole concept of the “release date” become completely out-of-date within the next few years anyway, or will it be replaced by the “release quarter,” just for the sake of labels’ accounting departments?