This post from one of the people I follow on Twitter inspired this. He wrote, "I don't think I can wait another 2+ months for the new Gaga album!" My reply: "I don't understand how the music industry functions any more." And I really don't. I used to not only read but subscribe to Billboard magazine (which is odd for someone who doesn't work in the business) during the 1980s and into the 1990s. And as the years went by and new charts were created, and the methodology for compiling the charts, especially the Hot 100, changed, and as the magazine itself evolved, I lost interest in it.
But things were simpler back then: a record company released the first single from an artist's upcoming album. Then, within a few weeks or so, the album itself would arrive, followed by subsequent singles from that album until it was time for a new album, or perhaps a single from a motion picture soundtrack. (Of course, the number of singles would depend on the popularity of the artist and album.) The advent of music videos tweaked the process a little.
But the modern process is unreal. Singles sales pretty much died until the mp3 format rejuvenated it. Now, I don't know if there's such a thing as a single release unless it's digital. The only CD-singles I ever see are for dance mixes. The only vinyl records I ever see are full-length albums, because there's a segment of the music buyer that prefers the sound of vinyl to digital sounds. And the newfound popularity of buying individual songs seems to have caused people to lose interest in buying full albums, except for certain acts or albums that manage to sell big.
The digital format seems to lend itself to leaks of unreleased songs, which is part of the problem. Let's get back to Lady Gaga.
Her song "Applause" was originally supposed to be released August 19, but leaks changed the plan. It was released a week earlier. Since then there's been a lyric video, the official music video, her MTV Video Music Awards performance and, this past weekend, a performance at something called the iTunes Music Festival in which she sang "Applause" and seven other new songs.
So, less than a month after "Applause" was issued, Gaga has now put out eight of the 15 songs from her album. She said so herself. They're not all for sale but they're on YouTube, whether officially or not. (And hey, YouTube plays now are part of the Billboard methodology for determining a song's rank on the charts.) Artists do this all the time now -- not to this extent, but it's rare that an album comes out without at least two or three songs being previewed via online streaming or YouTube posts.
But Gaga's album, titled "ARTPOP," isn't going to be released until November 11. That's still over two months away, and three months from the debut of "Applause." To me this is a ridiculous amount of time. Think about this: if the dates I got from Wikipedia are correct, and even if they're not, they're close enough by my recollection, Madonna released her single "Like a Prayer" on March 3, 1989. The album of the same name was released on...March 21, 1989 -- only 18 days later! Waiting for three months, in the interim allowing many of the new songs to become well-known well before the album comes out, just wasn't how things were done then.
There's building anticipation, and then there's stretching it out so long that people who aren't diehard Gaga fans may lose interest -- or worse, that the new songs might be received negatively. This seems to be the case with Beyonce, who's recently previewed three or four new songs in commercials but has yet to actually release a single or announce a date for a new album, leading to talk that the songs haven't inspired much interest and rumors that she's thrown out songs and is recording new tracks for the album.
Like I said: I just don't understand how the industry works any more. And don't get me started about Billboard. Here's what the cover used to look like when I was a subscriber:
...and here's a typical cover now:
P.S. Hey, she's not twerking on this cover! What a ripoff!
P.P.S. I really miss the old Billboard logo.