In the digital age, it's becoming more and more clear that release dates are no longer the important event they once were. It's the pre-release strategy that matters.

Look at the consumer response to new albums by Coldplay and Lil Wayne. Sure, both were likely destined for big sales numbers no matter what just based on their stature in their respective genres. But both augmented their appeal by releasing samples of their work well in advance of the album's availability.

In the past, that was done only via radio airplay. In the digital age, you need to do much more. Most notably, both released singles well in advance of the album's street date to generate visibility and excitement over the coming album, as well as to let fans sample what's in store.

Coldplay stuck to one song, but many formats: free download, “Guitar Hero” download, an iPod commercial, etc. Lil Wayne stuck to one format -- downloads --but multiple songs.

Their subsequent sales success should put to rest any lingering concern that selling pre-release singles may have a negative impact on album sales. This was a point of much debate in the early days of iTunes and digital distribution, with some labels refusing to sell singles before the album date for fear of cannibalizing sales.

The fact is there’s a lot more music out there available in a lot more ways than ever before, and music fans are sponges for all of it. To get noticed in this cacophony, you have to make a lot of noise, and radio airplay alone just isn't going to cut it any longer.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with the rush-release strategy taken by Gnarls Barkley and the Raconteurs. There are benefits in eschewing the pre-release circus and just putting the whole thing out there right away. But that's another column.

The point here is that if you're going to play the pre-release marketing game, play it right. Use all the new tools at your disposal in the new media environment and don't let fear rule your decisions.

The time for dipping toes into the digital pool is over. Come on in, the water's fine.


It's been a few weeks since Weezer put out their much ballyhooed video for the single "Pork and Beans," but it's still just grating on me.

By and large, the press and industry pundits praised the video as being so clever, innovative and cutting-edge -- mainly because it featured a host of YouTube stars either lip-synching or doing their shtick in the background.

But I saw it as simple pandering to the YouTube audience. "Hey, let's get our video noticed on YouTube by putting a bunch of YouTube stars in it." Rather than doing something cool and innovative (like OK Go's treadmill video for "Here We Go Again"), Weezer just borrowed (exploited?) the creativity of others, riding on their coattails to score a cheap Internet click.

What's more, they're not even the first to do it. The Barenaked Ladies first compiled a collection of Internet stars in February 2007 for its single "Sound of Your Voice."

I like the song and I like Weezer, and I particularly like Weezer’s overall YouTube strategy of having its own channel where it posts not only music videos, but also personal messages and what not. But the silliest part of the whole video was that, despite its obvious attempt at sidling up to the Internet cool kids, it wasn't embeddable on other sites, completely negating the whole point of creating a viral video in the first place.

So, while creating good music videos that can get a lot of viral attention online is all very much a good thing, can we leave the YouTube stars alone now, please?