Release therapy: What the music biz can learn from Hollywood about blockbuster scheduling

Green Day

For those of us in the music business, the movie industry’s ability to schedule releases years in advance remains mind-boggling.

For the biggest forthcoming blockbusters, the studios already know the exact day they will drop in cinemas, sometimes up to three years ahead of time. And, most of the time, they actually stick to it.

Compare that to music. Here we are, a few weeks into Q4, and the music industry still doesn’t know for sure everything that will be released before Christmas, let alone the public.

Of course, there are huge differences between the businesses. Studios need to secure screens, record companies are less concerned with shop space than ever. There are more moving parts and schedules to coordinate on a film, even when compared to the multiple songwriters and producers now employed on most hit albums.

And, of course, music is by definition a more spontaneous art form, especially now the distance between writing a song and releasing it has narrowed spectacularly.

No one wants to lose the thrill of a big record dropping from the sky, and it sounds like there could yet be a couple of those this Q4. But even so, you can’t help thinking that the biggest releases, particularly at this actual purchase-focused time of year, would benefit from more forward planning. In the Q3 analysis you'll find in the new issue of Music Week, available now, we explore the stats that show the year is flattening out in terms of peaks and troughs, while the dominance of catalogue on streaming makes it harder for new releases to make an impact at any time of year.

Up against that, it surely makes sense to give the public as much notice as possible that something they’ll want is coming. In the old days, competition between labels meant you had to keep your powder dry, but with streaming freeing record companies from release-driven boom and bust, that’s surely less of a factor. Especially as the proliferation of collaborations means everybody pretty much knows what each other is up to anyway.

Green Day, at least, been paying attention. They announced the February 7, 2020 release of their new album last month – exceptional notice by rock’n’roll standards, if pretty last minute for Hollywood. And by doing so at the same time as their hotly-anticipated Hella Mega Tour alongside Fall Out Boy and Weezer, they ensured a lot more buzz than new records by punk rock veterans usually seem to generate.

Coincidence? We’ll see. But seeing the future shouldn’t just be for the movies.

* Music Week's special Q4 preview is now online. To see Universal Music's plans, click here. For Now That's What I Call Music, click here. For Sony Music, click here. For Warner Music, click here. For BMG, click here. And for PIAS, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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