Surprise Releases: Is This New Music Strategy Working?


Christian Santiago, Staff Writer

With the current age of the internet, the music industries are looking for new and inventive ways to sell records. Lately, it seems albums leaking weeks before they are supposed to come out have been a regular event. Torrent sites like Limewire, PirateBay and uTorrent have made a business out of getting leaks of albums. So, it seems artists nowadays have to get creative with album releases. Enter the newest trend in the music industry: Surprise Releases.

A surprise release is an album, mixtape or project that comes out on the internet without any prior announcements. The recent trend of surprise releases started when Beyonce’s self titled fifth album was released onto iTunes, selling 617,000 copies in its first week alone.  With people seeing the success Beyonce had, many other artists started to follow, the most notable being Drake’s If You’re Reading This Its Too Late (which went Gold in three days).

Another trend similar to surprise releases are releases that dropped with little notice, to build up hype over word of mouth in a short period of time. For example, Kendrick Lamar announced his third LP To Pimp A Butterfly on Instagram, then released it a week earlier than expected. As of writing this, Tyler, The Creator announced his fourth album Cherry Bomb, and on Monday, April 13 it released at #1 on the iTunes top 100 Charts.

So it seems this strategy is working. With bigger and bigger names announcing surprise albums (Kanye announced his next album So Help Me God will be a surprise release, and Frank Ocean’s third album will come out early July), it seems this strategy will be here to stay. But should it stay?

Honestly, surprise album announcements are really cool when a huge name does it, like when Drake did it, or when Kanye is going to do it. But when more and more people start to do it, there’s going to be no more hype around albums. A key component to surprise albums is that the artist is so secretive about the project that he or she will not talk about anything music related at all, or even stay off of social media. Frank Ocean’s announcement of his new album was the first major announcement from him in years. Many fans just wanted to know if he was alive, let alone doing music.

The best part of albums coming out is hype. I remember when Jay-Z’s The Black Album was announced as Jay-Z’s last album, so he was going to put his all in this one album. Now this is interesting, this idea of Jay-Z’s last album got people talking. Is he going to top The Blueprint? Is he going out with a bang? Is the album going to have features?

I also take into account what people are saying about the albums, whether this is coming from a review or from a blog. When a surprise release happens, all I see is the news that an album was released, not the opinions on the albums. The only opinions I see online are super fans calling it “The Hottest Release of the Year!”, but why is this “The Hottest Release of the Year!”. When a huge artist has a surprise release, I automatically get it because it’s new songs from an artist that I love, but what if it turns out to be trash? I just wasted $11.99 on an album I’ll never listen to again.

Overall, I do like this new trend. It’s innovative and it’s working for the artists. But after a while, this trend might come off as annoying or stale. So for now, i’ll just keep refreshing the iTunes main page, hopefully seeing Kanye’s new album.