FRIDAYS GIVE US new movies. Sundays give us God (or the opposite of God, True Detective). Wednesdays are "hump day," and contain the sweet, sweet promise of a Thursday-morning hangover. Saturdays are just inherently awesome.
Until this week, Tuesday—the second-worst day of the week—always had one redeeming thing going for it: new music. (Mondays are hopeless and will forever suck; just ask Garfield.) In the United States, brand-new albums have historically hit the shelves on that otherwise unexceptional day, injecting a spike of anticipation into the first half of everyone's week.
Not anymore. This is the first week that new albums will instead come out on Friday. There's an ostensibly logical reason for making the switch: Up until now, a single, unified record-release date wasn't shared across the globe. The United Kingdom, for instance, used to drop its new albums on Mondays; Australia on Fridays; Japan on Wednesdays.
Now 45 countries, including the US, are synchronizing their calendars so that all the major labels (and many independent ones) will release new music on the same day: Friday. Who's responsible for such a big shift in retail? The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI)—an organization that represents the globe's music biz and presumably operates out of the spaceship on the cover of ELO's Out of the Blue—made the call earlier this year, consolidating rumors that had been circulating for months. According to the IFPI's research, Friday emerged as the day most consumers wanted to have access to their new music. The shift also doubles as a method of combating piracy, defeating online leaks that would previously trickle across the globe as an album was released in one country before it hit shelves in another.
This is baloney, kind of. The shift to Friday is the result of an agenda that was pushed through by the European major labels and their parent companies, with protests from American labels and retailers falling on deaf ears. (Jim Urie, former head of Universal Music Group Distribution, voiced his opposition to the change; a few weeks later he announced his retirement.) According to Terry Currier, owner of the Music Millennium record store in Portland, the retail scene throughout much of Europe is notably different from America. Their weekly newspaper circulars come out on Friday, not Sunday, and a majority of all physical music sales happen in nontraditional outlets like grocery stores, big box retailers, and highway rest stops. The change benefits Europe's business model, and the US was obliged to go along.
Independent retailers across the US have been vocal about their opposition to Friday release dates. Currier says, "The reason why we were fighting it so heavily is that it's going to drive all the business to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For the independent stores who carry a lot of catalog, it was ideal for us to have a Tuesday street date because it drove business earlier in the week. People get paid on Friday and they're going to shop on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But they're not going to necessarily shop those other days of the week. For independent record stores, Monday is the worst business day of the week, then Tuesday rebounds because there are cool new things that people want to come down and get."
It's theoretically possible for a small independent label to ignore the decree, and release music on whichever day they choose. And in the digital age, you could argue that everything is available instantaneously on a global basis, anyway. But Tuesday has always been a great day to buy records. Friday is already jam-packed with a lot going for it, culturally speaking. Dinner plans are made, friends go out to shows or dance clubs, vacations are launched, movies are premiered. Will people be able to cram in an after-work stop at the record store, too?
Record Store Day organizers and independent retailers have counteracted with Vinyl Tuesday, a new program that will put new, vinyl-only material in independent stores on Tuesdays. It remains to be seen how the program will be implemented, but it's meant to help smaller and independent record stores get customers in throughout the week.
"Tuesday was kind of a tradition to us all," Currier says, and he's talking about not just selling music, but buying and listening to it, too. I have memories as a teenager of buying dozens of new albums on their Tuesday release dates, from exceptional works like Luscious Jackson's Fever In, Fever Out to now-forgotten obscurities like the second Spacehog album (an album that doesn't include "In the Meantime" and is therefore pointless). When I lived by a Tower Records—this was way back in the 1900s, when strange things like Tower Records and Luscious Jackson and Spacehog existed—they even used to even stay open until midnight on Mondays, so that we could get our mitts on new CDs the instant they became legally available. I remember many late nights, carting home fresh purchases and listening to them minutes after they technically went on sale.
Nowadays, of course, consuming new music is vastly different; the landscape has changed so that using the words "consuming" and "music" in the same sentence isn't even that gross anymore. I'm as guilty as anyone of not buying new music on Tuesdays with the same frequency or enthusiasm—partly because, as a music writer, I get new albums sent to me in advance of their release dates, a job perk that will never not be cool to me. (Staying up past midnight on a Monday is starting to sound more and more like a challenge, too.)
But there was something perfect about a new album interrupting the Tuesday doldrums. And that still holds true, even when one can plunge into the mind-boggling amount of new stuff that's added every week to streaming services like Spotify and the newly launched Apple Music. You could sift for gems and prepare an all-killer mix of new stuff for the weekend.
Beginning this Friday, we'll get new albums from, among others, The-Dream, Veruca Salt, and itinerant Portlander Heather Woods Broderick. It'll be the first global Friday release date in history. And who knows? Maybe this will usher in an unprecedented era of post-weekend water-cooler talk about great new music instead of chitchat about movies and TV shows. Maybe Friday will prove to be a gangbusters day for business, and we'll see a renaissance of record buying, giving the industry a jolt in the arm and providing new financial means for thousands of underpaid musicians. It's unlikely, but it remains to be seen.
For now, Tuesdays just got a little quieter.