One of the things I have been pondering about over the past few weeks is why record labels would want and/or prefer to release a Summer-themed record in the Fall. Maybe they would like for an album to be considered for year-end awards such as the Grammy’s, or for an artist to fulfill a contractual obligation during a calendar year? Taking a quick look at some of the noteworthy Fall releases this year, we can see several high-profile and established artists such as: Thrice, The 1975, Coheed & Cambria, Saves the Day, and Twenty One Pilots.
Judging by the singles released from these artists during the Summer, The 1975, Saves the Day and Twenty One Pilots’ albums may have been more thematically poised for immediate success if they were released in June or July. Other artists such as Thrice and Coheed seem to “fit” with the Fall themes, judging solely on what I have heard from the released music. I still expect the Twenty One Pilots and The 1975 albums to be hugely successful regardless of when they were released, however, these albums will genuinely marinate and sink into our consciousness throughout the rest of 2018 and bleed into the Winter of 2019. The question I am posing is, what makes an album with a clear thematic season attached to it get the album release date that eventually helps or hinders its eventual success?
For starters, let’s use the example of a well-received Fall-themed record in AFI’s, Sing the Sorrow. Any guesses on what date this album hit the streets? March 11, 2003. For a record so synonymous with autumn and the “Silver and Grey” that goes along with the changing of seasons, the timing of this release seemed a little odd. Yes, AFI became a major household name after the success of Sing the Sorrow, but if the record label had strongly considered the themes found throughout the album, many of us might have had an easier time digesting this classic LP. The first single released from that album was “Girl’s Not Grey,” which sounded like a solid punk rock Summer jam, but again, why release that single back in the dead of Winter before the album’s eventual release in March?
It only gets stranger when you look at AFI’s subsequent release, Decemberunderground, that had a release date of June 6, 2006. Really? You have yet another chance to own the Winter and all the snowy packaging surrounding AFI’s second major-label effort, and you ship it off to the stores in the Spring. Sure, the first single of “Miss Murder” was hitting the airwaves towards the end of Winter in March or so, but this seemed like another missed opportunity to take full advantage of the themes surrounding the album.
On the other side of the coin, what happens when a bonafide Summer record drops in the Winter? Look no further than what happened to Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness on their sophomore release Zombies on Broadway. A February 10th release date, in my opinion, truly detracted away from the hype and buzz surrounding this Summer-themed album. Even my colleague, Craig Manning, made these points in his album review by explaining how so many of these songs are built for a long Summer drive, similar to the Everything in Transit album. I can’t exactly blast “Island Radio” with the windows down if I have to scrape the ice off of my car first.
Lastly, what happens when the label gets it right? Yellowcard’s Southern Air hit the record shelves on August 13, 2012, and it went on to be one of their most well-received records from both critics and fans alike. Whether or not the timing of the release had a lot to do with its success can continue to be debated for years to come. I’d like to think that labels such as Hopeless Records honestly get what their artists are trying to accomplish and can continue to market their bands in meaningful ways.
Most labels have been relying for far too long on their algorithms and other formulas of what makes an album a success or failure. If the labels would stop to consider the art they are helping release to the masses before they set a release date in stone, they may be surprised by the short-term (and long-term) reaction each LP gets. Or, maybe they would be better served to include the artists in their decision-making processes so that everything “clicks” at just the right time. For argument’s sake, let’s try and bring some of the creativity back to the art of the album release date and its associated packaging.