The International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) represents a $15 billion industry. It has approximately 1,300 member labels in 61 countries. As of July 10, the majority of those countries have agreed to release music at 1 a.m. local time on Fridays. The change is intended to synchronize the release date with when consumers have leisure time and to crack down on piracy.
In the United States, new music previously arrived in stores on Tuesdays to encourage consumers to shop on an otherwise stagnant retail day of the week. Releasing music on Fridays may rejuvenate physical sales, as people have more free time on the weekends and “are more likely to go out and buy a new album,” said Theo Cateforis, department chair of Music Histories and Culture at Syracuse University. He said that the local effect will be felt most strongly in physical record stores such as Armory Square’s Sound Garden, but that New Music Fridays likely won’t have the positive impact on sales that the IFPI is hoping for.
Alayna Alderman, vice president and co-owner of Record Archive in Rochester, said that the IFPI was making a lot more hype than necessary. “Our customers are already in tune with this change,” Alderman said. “It’s too soon to tell whether this will affect much other than when people come in to the store.”
The IFPI has been working to curb physical and digital piracy for decades. Now that music becomes available at the same time in different parts of the world, the window for pirates to illegally duplicate and release music onto the black market has diminished, said David Rezak, director of the Bandier Program at Syracuse University.
“In high-piracy grade nations, major labels often set a phantom release date and then dump the album early to get ahead of the pirates,” said Rezak. Some labels would make a big promotion for one day and then drop it four weeks early to get ahead of the black market. Thanks to New Music Fridays, this practice is no longer necessary. Theoretically.
Opponents of the IFPI’s decision say that this shift benefits only major record labels like Sony or Warner Music Group. Rezak agrees: “The majors aren’t involved much with niche artists, so this sidelines them.”
Yet standardizing the drop date ensures that smaller labels and independent artists’ work also become available to the global market without delay. Rezak said that this is certainly advantageous for fringe artists.
Ron Keck, principal owner of Armory Square’s SubCat Studios, said that he can’t imagine this will have much of an impact on recording artists because of the lag between recording an album and its release. Also, with the advent of the internet, physical sales have dropped dramatically.
“The music industry is upside down,” Keck said. “Computers and technology have made everything instantly available.”
Keck said he doesn’t think that this will help much with the piracy issue, either. He said that equalizing the drop day won’t have much of an impact on a world that is used to downloading music for free, and that technology will keep ahead of the curve.
“Money talks,” Keck said. “People will wait for free stuff.”
People still buy physical records after live shows because there’s something “special” about being at a performance, Keck said.
But there’s no way to tell yet whether the IFPI’s change will boost sales in stores, or if they’ll continue to “drop” in the digital age.
Jeremy Reynolds is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism program at Syracuse University.