In the age of Spotify and illegal downloading, musicians and record labels face the struggle of trying to find ways to connect with audiences in new and exciting ways. I’m stating the obvious when I say that physical CDs just aren’t hip anymore. Rarely do you see anyone walking around with a portable CD player (unless they’re doing it in an ironic hipster kind of way) or running out to their nearest Sam Goody (shoutout 90’s record stores) as soon as an album drops.
Nowadays, some artists have simply forgone the tired tactics of actually promoting an album. Instead, artists are dropping their albums in unconventional ways and bringing more attention to their music through the act of surprise. Here are a few notable album from the last couple of years:
In Rainbows Radiohead (2007)
Radiohead’s last few albums have been released with relatively little notice to fans. For the release of their seventh album, In Rainbows, Radiohead decided to offer their album through a “pay-what-you-want-option.” This gave audiences a sense of being in control of their music consumption and Radiohead still somehow managed to come out of it with millions more in their pocket. That’s pretty impressive for something that audiences could’ve simply gotten for free!
Beyonce Beyonce (2013)
I distinctly remember this album drop from my freshman year dorm room. Me and my two Beyonce-loving roommates flipped out and spent our Friday night in awe of the Queen B. Not only did Beyonce release this 14 track album with no warning at all, she released it as a “visual album,” with a music video accompanying every. single. song. That’s something only Bey could pull off, am I right?
Songs of Innocence U2 (2014)
U2 took the surprise album release one step further than most and didn’t even give people the option of downloading their free album. Nope. Instead U2 partnered with Apple and made their album available on iCloud to all Apple users. This meant that anyone with an Apple device could simply open up their iTunes and there it was: a free U2 album that they didn’t even ask for.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late Drake (2015)
The latest surprise album to hit the scene is Drake’s. He released this album via soundcloud for a few hours before replacing it with the words “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” and making it available for purchasing on iTunes. The buzz around this album has been surprisingly big considering it is composed of 17 throwaway tracks Drake is using to get out of his current contract. If this is Drake phoning it in, I can’t wait to see what’s he’s really got planned for his next album release.
I’m still unsure whether I like this trend of surprise album releases, but it’s clear that that’s where the music industry is headed at the moment. I’d bet money that Kendrick Lamar and/or Kanye West will be joining the surprise-album crew sometime soon. Until then, I’ll be waiting.