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Staff Editorial: Surprise Drops- Yay or Nay?

posted April 3, 2015, 9:30 am by Carlita | Filed Under Music News, Staff Editorial | comment 3 Comments


As Kendrick Lamar (intentionally or not, which is still up for debate after viewing his management’s reaction) added his name to the list of surprise releases with his latest drop, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, the discussion stirred up again like dust in the wind, begging the question, “Do we as fans like it?” “Does it make a difference in the end?” or “Would we have bought these albums no matter their release date?” Although Queen Bey’s not the first artist in history to do it, she re-ignited the latest trend, moving almost a million units of her album in 72 hours in December 2013, with artists like Drake, U2, Björk, Run The Jewels and D’Angelo (with his drop coming 14 years after ‘Voodoo’) joining the ranks. I posed these “Surprise Drops- Yay or Nay?” questions to our staff to get a global perspective as we listen to different genres and here are our thoughts below:


I usually wait for my favorite albums to be released with anxiety and write the countdown on my agenda and on my calendar too. Surprise drops destabilize me. I appreciate very much the artists who release their album that way, but this is not always the right choice to make, in my opinion. Sometimes it’s better to wait for something to happen and be prepared to appreciate it, knowing some details before the release. Lower the expectations, lower the delusion, but the surprise effect not always has the impact we wanted it to have. In Italy, surprise releases don’t happen at all; the release could be anticipated (most of the time delayed!) but it is always announced and the audience is always prepared, sometimes even too prepared.


While I’ve enjoyed artists doing more non-traditional album releases, such as Foo Fighters
“Sonic Highways,” I haven’t seen a ton of last second surprise drops in the circles of music I enjoy lately. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy the occurrence and I could certainly see the appeal in all genres.


In today’s mercurial music industry, artists and marketers have to pursue every imaginable avenue to focus attention on the musical products they deliver. The surprise drop is a novel concept, one that I am personally unfamiliar with as of now but even so can see numerous benefits. The traditional build-up of hype surrounding an album’s release could be further expanded by manipulating the surprise drop concept. A rumor is spread about a surprise drop, no official information is given, the artist/marketers continue to fuel the rumor and anticipation is built in a non-traditional and new way. I can also see that, despite the original approach, surprise drops could easily leave more casual fans behind. If the primary goal of the surprise drop is to create a kneejerk reaction of “gotta have it”, it’s aimed at a specific market. The RIGHT market, absolutely. But some of us are going to miss releases this way, it’s inevitable. Discographies are going to get confused, etc. In the end, I see the pros outweighing the cons, and I’m in full support of anything that creates more interest and monetary gain for musicians and artists in general. The surprise drop is another creative way to do exactly that.


I can appreciate a surprise release but of course it depends on the artist and how often it continues to be done. With tweets serving as the bugle and my penchant for being a night-owl, some I downloaded at 12:01 AM and participated in impromptu worldwide listening parties online with everyone giving their initial thoughts on each song out of the gate and with others, I couldn’t have cared less. Regardless of whether you drop it Sunday night to ensure lack of sleep and productivity on Monday mornings for the listening audience or hype a release six months from now, if I don’t like what I hear, I will not stream or buy it and the more this marketing strategy is overutilized, the less effective it can be.


It’s O.K. with me if an artist finds a surprise release helps with marketing its product. It’s a competitive environment, and it’s a time for the entrepreneurial artist. The early release turns the album into a big event. I tend to just look each week to see what album is released this week. Still, there are artists, which see value in the early release. I can’t argue with the final product with Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’, which was released early. As long as the release is legitimate this is a good thing. Whether it’s streaming, YouTube, touring or changing the release date, the artist is challenged to come up with ways to make the product enticing. I’m glad there’s more music out there, and one way or another, I’m going to get access to it.

What do YOU think about surprise releases?

Post in the comments or drop your opinion on your social avenue of choice fbooklogotwitterlogo


One random winner will be selected to receive $15 of Amazon, Apple or a Google Play gift certificate. Just make sure to use the hashtag #SurpriseME
*ends 5-15-15


3 Responses to “Staff Editorial: Surprise Drops- Yay or Nay?”

  1. Profile photo of JustRandomThings JustRandomThings on April 7th, 2015 12:15 am

    Looking at the present music industry, I believe, ‘surprise releases’ may very well be the best way to release an album. Since last year, every (I mean every) album that was scheduled to release on a specific future date, got leaked online about a week or so before the set release date. That is harmful for the industry and the artists in so many ways. Album sales go down and the psychological hit on the artists does worse damage. Madonna was furious when she realized ‘Rebel Heart’ got leaked. So a surprise album release could be the only solution to these unstoppable music leaks. #SurpriseME

  2. Profile photo of Brian Rutherford Brian Rutherford on April 7th, 2015 9:14 am

    that^^^^ goes double for me!

  3. Profile photo of Kevin Sellers Kevin Sellers on April 7th, 2015 5:01 pm

    I never even thought of it like that. Outstanding perspective, JRT. And very, very true.

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