I first learned about the Tuesday music release date when I began copping the ICE magazine newsletter in about 11th grade. They used to have it on the sales counter of Rhino Records in New Paltz, NY, a place I have been shopping since it opened up in town 25 years ago this year. I would go right to their Upcoming Releases section and take inventory. Then, each Tuesday, I would take the $10-$15 I’d have put aside the previous Friday when I got paid from my job at the local movie house and headed back over to Rhino or the Strawberries in Newburgh -wherever I was closest to that day – and picked up the albums I had circled in that month’s ICE, mostly on cassette until I entered the 80s in 1995 with my first CD player.
I picked up some of my favorite records in this manner. There were times when we’d actually skip school on Tuesdays to pick up an album we were waiting for and listen to it all day hanging out. We did that for the
soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s The Doors, Use Your Illusion, Achtung Baby, Efil4Zaggin, Check Your Head and Angel Dust.
Going to the record store on Tuesday soon became routine after that, right up until this very day actually as I write this at the tender age of 41. Sure, ICE is long, long gone, and sadly missed might I add. But thanks to the likes of sites like Pause and Play and Consequence of Sound (not to
mention Pitchfork’s quarterly roundup), the fine art of the Upcoming Release schedule remains a viable tool for nebbish record collectors like me. And it is we who will, unfortunately, be feeling the seismic shift that is the switch from Tuesday to Friday as the global release day.
Here in the States, Tuesday became the standard release day in April 1989, following discussions at the previous month’s National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) convention (March 3-7). Before then, Monday was the recognized release day for new albums in the U.S.. So at least for those my age and younger, It’s all we have ever known. Sure, there are stores out there, mom-and-pops in particular, who have managed to get away with selling new releases on Fridays under the counter for decades. I always got a kick out of picking up a record the day I wasn’t supposed.
But there was always something about that upcoming Tuesday, knowing all the new albums you’ve been waiting weeks, months or even years to purchase arrive on that day, gave many of us something to very much look forward to at the beginning of the working week. By Friday, most of us who still very much live paycheck to paycheck don’t really rush out to the record shop to pick up what they gotta pick up. In fact, the lot of us are usually so tired from busting our hump five days straight we’re mostly looking forward to unwinding at home or heading out with our friends and family to kick off the weekend. But on Tuesdays, if we still have a nice $20 left in our pockets to burn, we’d head right over to our local FYE, Barnes and Noble or mom-and-pop indie shop to grab whatever it is you are looking to grab that particular day.
Unfortunately, the ones who are going to be affected the most on account of this shift are the underground and independent labels who are already marginalized in the shuffle of weekly changeovers as it is, especially at what big box stores are still left in the American suburbs. As someone who works part-time in the music section of my local Barnes and Noble, the only way for new titles from the likes of Sub Pop, Matador or Warp Records are in any way highlighted or placed up front as highlights of the new release week, its because I manually put them there without fail. If you go to the B&N down the street, that might not be the case. And that’s not even mentioning the little shops I frequent still on a monthly basis, like the aforementioned Rhino or its neighbor across the street on Main St. in New Paltz, Jack’s Rhythms, who have come to rely on that steady uptick in the early business week by the regulars who come in every Tuesday to raid the arrivals shelf.
My pal, AMG editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine, recently wrote up an excellent piece for Radio.com offering readers an FAQ on the Friday switch. And he quotes Beggars Group chairman Martin Mills as saying the change is just another case of music industry inside baseball and that the move “will lead to a market in which the mainstream minates, and the niche, which can be tomorrow’s mainstream, is further marginalized. I fear it will further cement the dominance of the few—and
that is exactly what it is intended to do.”
The man has a great point, but given that some of the most popular mainstream acts, including Beyonce, U2, Drake and even Thom Yorke, have been taking to dropping their new albums online by surprise without any kind of traditional pre-release leadup, will this switch from Tuesday To Friday even matter? Especially when you think about a whole new generation of kids who barely adhere to the concept of buying music at a record store let alone acknowledging a specified street date when albums arrive at retail, particularly because every new album leaks no matter how many thumbs they use to plug the dam.
However, from what I observe at my gig at B&N, there are still plenty of people who still buy their music the old fashioned way, especially now that this new trend towards vinyl (or “vinyls” as the kids call them) is alive and kicking. There is also a steady clientele who still come in and pick up the latest titles in classical and jazz every week, two genres that still thrive upon the old fashioned way of music consumption without so much as a care as to whats hot and happening online. That’s not to mention the reissue junkies who absolutely must have the latest box set or deluxe edition in its naturally intended format, as the small flood of folks who came in just recently for the 40th anniversary version of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti.
So while the February 26th announcement by the International Federation Of The Phonographic that this summer, the new Friday global release date will go into effect will surely make a few in the record industry 1 Percent, for those of us who have been looking forward to their Tuesday run, it’s going to be a most annoying and unnecessary transition.