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Why Release Dates?

April 30, 2010

Last night at Webster Hall, I was pleased to hear that Frightened Rabbit‘s opening band, Maps and Atlases, was actually really good.  Not too surprising as Frightened Rabbit is really starting to gain steam.  You would think that they would have some quality support on their tour.  Maps and Atlases definitely impressed with their complicated song structures and an amazing drummer.  This is however, besides the point.

Towards the end of their set, the band announced that they have a new record coming out in June.   I’ve heard bands announce these things countless times, but it really stuck me as odd and antiquated last night.  Turns out that Maps and Atlases were recently signed to Barsuk Records and will be releasing their “debut” album June 29th.  I don’t mean to call out Barsuk’s marketing strategy on this one because I know that most indies are still using this “build to climax” release strategy.  Now I understand all of the traditional reasons why record labels (especially majors) do this.  They need to pitch the long lead press outlets months in advance for the chance that they might get a review or feature in a major magazine.  They also want to have all of their marketing efforts reach a frenzy point around the release date so the buzz will continue to build on itself.  These reasons make sense if you have an extensive radio campaign as part of the marketing plan but do they really matter for smaller indie bands?

Traditional (print) press is definitely losing it’s influence at least from a record sales standpoint.  Buzz builds most when people have the music in their hands.  Attention spans are so short now, you can’t expect someone to wait for a release date for an unknown band.  Why not put the music out as soon as it’s finished?  Then it doesn’t matter if it leaks.  People are going to steal the music no matter when you put it out so at least give the people that want to buy the music an option to do so.  In a nutshell, everything should be focused on building fans, not on securing press.  The press will come once an audience is in place.

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