Only Famous Artists Can Release Music on the Fly

Emma Dahl

Normally, before an artist releases a new album, there’s a considerable amount of strategic advertising.

Hype is a powerful tool in the music industry, and it’s often utilized to its full extent. But recently, there has been a trend of music being released without any buildup whatsoever. The first and most prominent example that comes to mind is Beyoncé’s incredible self-titled album that she put out at the end of last year. It came as a total surprise to fans and critics alike, and spent at least three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart. Another example of a band releasing music without warning was Coldplay’s recent single, “Midnight,” a chilling deviation from the bright and colorful excess of “Mylo Xyloto.” The only indication that the band had something in store was a tweet from band manager Phil Harvey saying “Something new at 0:00 in Ulaanbaatar #midnight PH.” (Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia).

Is there an advantage to releasing music in this way? Can it be more beneficial to release music without telling anyone?

I think how successful this method is depends a lot on the level of fame that a given band or artist has achieved. Everyone––and I mean everyone––knows who Beyoncé is. If she released new music, there was a null chance it would go unnoticed. Coldplay is also well known and has a dedicated fan base that traces their every move, and a new single is immediately recognized and spread throughout the internet like wildfire.

However, if the band was a small indie group, and they didn’t bother to advertise their new album, they would be out of luck. Take any small and obscure band as an example. Listing their names would just prove the point, as many of the bands would be unrecognizable. Maybe you’ve heard of Sons of Adrian? Hundred Waters? Probably not, simply because they don’t advertise their albums before they’re released. The success of dropping an unannounced album completely depends on the amount of exposure the band has had before the release of their new album. Releasing an album without any hype at all can only be afforded by popular and famous musicians. It’s an efficient way to get attention without having to pay a lot of money for advertisements and marketing. The surprise of realizing a well-known and popular artist dropped music may even work more efficiently than building a lot of anticipation. The excitement of new music probably sends countless listeners straight to iTunes to purchase it for themselves.

The popularity of music shouldn’t be determined by how well known or famous the artist is before they release an album. It should be the caliber of the music, the strength of the lyricism and the prowess of the songwriting that propels an album up the charts as opposed to the reputation of the artist. Using a hype vacuum is obviously a legitimate technique for selling one’s music, but I think listeners should be careful not to get caught up in the excitement of an unannounced album and should instead judge the music by its quality, not the element of surprise.