Streaming services threaten recorded music’s traditional schedule. Full access to Spotify, Apple Music and their ilk requires a paid monthly subscription, whereas album and song downloads are a la carte. As consumers gradually move away from buying a particular album and toward paying $10 a month into the record business as a whole, industry observers and executives see less imperative behind an October street date.
“You need not release your big titles at Christmas in the access world,” says Republic Records founder/president Avery Lipman, referring to the subscription-streaming future. “If anything, you may not want to release your biggest titles there. Advertising rates are more expensive, generally, during that time of year. You may want to spread it around.”
The portion of albums sold during the October-to-December period already has been drifting downward. From 1999 to 2007, the fourth quarter averaged 33.1 percent of annual sales, ranging from as high as 35.1 percent in 2003 to a low of 32.1 percent in 2004, according to Nielsen Music data. Since 2008 (the year Spotify launched), fourth-quarter sales have averaged 31 percent, bottoming at 29.1 percent in 2013. “Giving the gift of a CD isn’t what it used to be,” says Russ Crupnick, managing director at research firm MusicWatch. “To me, it increasingly makes sense to fill up more of the calendar to get attention for releases.”