Is Pushing An Album Back Ever Good For Its Health?

noah | February 4, 2008 4:40 am

Today Kelefa Sanneh wrote about All $tar, a Nashville rapper who’s been the city’s “next big thing” for three years now–excxept for the fact that his debut album, Street Ball, has been in limbo since 2005, thanks to his label, Cash Money/Universal, going over the preparation for the album with what seems to be the finest-tooth comb ever. (Sanneh: “…it’s not uncommon for rappers to wait months or years while labels try to figure out the right single, the right track selection, the right marketing plan.”) What struck me is that I’ve heard about so many delayed albums lately–from Amerie to All $tar to Nicole Scherzinger–that I can’t help but wonder if the music industry is further shooting its sales hopes in the foot by stoking negative buzz around albums by somewhat established stars or high-profile up-and-comers. Especially in the current environment of music, where people seem to have many excuses for ignoring records at the ready. After the jump, a few arguments against pushing release dates, marketing-department-emanating objections be damned.

Announcing that an album’s been pushed back is a really easy way to unleash the stink of failure around the project. Probably the biggest argument in favor of avoiding delays, particularly in these schadenfreude-laden times. Pushing back an album is more and more seeming like the recorded-music industry’s equivalent of not screening a film for critics, except in the case of delayed albums no one can actually legally listen to the music and prove the critics (or, in these cases, the suits) wrong by turning what was seen as a flop into a hit.

The global music/leak market.Take Van Hunt, who parted ways with Blue Note before his third album, Popular hit stores–but after releases of the album were sent to music writers. Popular actually leaked last month, shortly before Van Hunt announced the breakup. And the ease with which one can acquire import editions of albums is important, too; I bought the German edition of Amerie’s Because I Love It via last year. As of now, it’s apparently being released Stateside sometime this spring–but I remember being told that it was coming out “this spring” last year, too. Prolonging the release of albums serves to depress said records’ sales more and more, thanks to the increased availability of music, not to mention the sharp decrease in traditional retail outlets that music buyers would visit every Tuesday.

The potential for datedness. This was inspired by reading an Entertainment Weekly article about the long-delayed Amy Heckerling movie I Could Never Be Your Woman, which was written in 1997 and titled with what I think is a White Town reference. It’s getting a direct-to-DVD release this week, and full of references to Will & Grace and the WB. In pop music, where the trends seem to go by at even greater speed, the potential for datedness is even worse (T-Pain being the last six months’ Akon, etc.). Why leave an album on the shelf when, especially in the case of pop music, doing so only allows it to sound even more worthy of being passed over?

Waiting (and Waiting) for a Big Rap Moment [NYT] Idolator’s coverage of delayed albums