Wednesday, July 8, 2015

TMFW 96 - Goodbye, New Music Tuesdays

In my music-buying, record-store-visting heyday, New Music Tuesdays were often a ritual.  In summer months, I would ride my bike (and later drive the 1986 Crown Victoria that I shared with my sister) up to Streetside Records to see been released that day.  For bands that I really really loved, I would seek out a late night store that stayed open past midnight so I could get my hands on a new album the first minute it was possible.  I am pretty sure I would just go home and go to bed after that, so the gesture was kind of pointless.  But it still felt good to be among other music lovers who were anxious to get the latest thing.

I always appreciated that it was New Music Tuesday, but never knew why they chose to release records on that day.  So I decided to find out for today's TMFW.  Are you ready?  The reason for Tuesday releases, nobody really knows for sure. 

There are lots of writeups about why new music comes out on Tuesdays, with lots of explanations offered (including some that seem totally wrong).  Basically, the story seems to be this:

At first, in the olden days (i.e. pre-1989), there was no such thing as a universal release day.  Instead, music retailers put their new records on sale as soon as they got them.  But because of differences in warehousing and shipping and logistics, that meant that one store might get a shipment on Saturday morning while another down the street might not get theirs until Monday afternoon.  Word would get around that the groovy new record could be had at one store and everyone would go there to buy it, leaving the other retailer upset that he missed his chance.

So, faced with unhappy retailers who didn't want to gamble on their shipping company's efficiency, the record industry made a universal release date and set it on Friday.  But they found that the records had to compete with movies that came out that day, including both press reviews and newspaper advertising space (remember those days?  When availability and pricing for newspaper advertisements were a business consideration?), so Friday was quickly out. 

So, not wanting to compete with the movies, the record industry moved the date to Monday.  But the day before Monday is Sunday, and shipments are not typically delivered on Sunday, and workers are usually lightly staffed on Sunday.  So getting the album, putting it into inventory, and getting it on the floor for the big release day was mostly a Monday morning job.  And if your supplier didn't show up first thing Monday morning, you ran the same risk that you originally had of getting the product after your competition and losing sales. 

So, not wanting to staff their stores on Sunday and (again) not wanting to bet on shipping times, the record industry moved the date to Tuesday.  This leveled the playing field for retailers, who could all receive the shipment on Monday and spend the slow sales day getting the new stuff ready for release.  It gave more prominence to the records themselves, as reviewers could devote more time and column space to a Tuesday review than they could to a Friday review.  And it had the extra bonus of boosting "first day" numbers because the industry could count on the whole entire day for sales instead of partial days lost to receiving, inventory, and stocking. 

For all those reasons above, Tuesday makes perfect sense.

Which is probably why the record industry just changed it. 

After 25 years, last Tuesday, June 30, was the final "New Music Tuesday" as we know it.  Starting this week, the universal release date has been changed to Friday, citing global piracy concerns (because other countries release on Friday and a pirated album in Australia is - digitally speaking - a pirated album everywhere) and the increased purchase of music digitally.  In other words, nobody is really getting up and riding their bike to Streetside Records anymore.  They are just going on iTunes, and they would just as soon do that on a Friday than on a Tuesday.  Not everybody is happy with the move, saying that it will hurt indie music and favor the big labels.  The industry's response has been, basically, "deal with it." 

I haven't gone to the store for a CD in 10 years, I bet.  But I will surely miss the Tuesday release date.  Stupid old music industry.


BONUS ANECDOTE - When I was a younger man, I worked at Blockbuster Video for a summer.  Each Monday night, we would unpack and make shelf space for the New Releases.  And each Tuesday morning, a small but devoted group of tapeheads would be there at 10:00 a.m. to get the new releases that day.  I wonder if nowadays they wake up early on Tuesday and queue up at the Redbox outside of CVS.

BONUS ANECDOTE 1.5:  In 2008, when Blockbuster was still struggling to make a go of it in the face of Netflix and digital movie distribution, The Onion made a brilliant video that highlighted the "Blockbuster Video Living Museum" and spoofed the business model of driving to a store to rent a movie.   I still get a kick out of it.

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