Record Industry Considering a Standard, Global Album Release Day

The change was spurred in part by Beyonce's most recent surprise release, as well as piracy from Down Under.

The music industry is on the verge of adopting a global street date that could see all countries issuing new releases on a Friday, probably beginning a year from now, in July 2015, according to industry sources.

While some sources say its a done deal as far as the major labels and the IFPI and RIAA are concerned, other sources insist the issue has yet to be fully decided. The main reason why the industry is moving toward a global street date -- instead of letting each territory pick the day that they feel is best for their respective markets, which is the way it works now -- is to cut down on global piracy.

With Australia now having a Friday street date, digital piracy begins almost immediately around the globe, as the new release is shared across the web before fans in the U.K. (which has a Monday street date) or the U.S. (which has a Tuesday street date) have a chance to purchase the music legally.

With varying street dates in different markets, the labels are able move their artists around in order to take advantage of marketing opportunities that coincide with the changed street date. Now, labels can still do that on the week of release, but will have less opportunity to schedule a high-profile appearance on the release date itself.

While sources say that digital music service providers like the Friday street date, not all physical merchants have given the change their blessing; some indie labels and indie merchants are opposed to having the global street date on Friday. They say they like the concept of having street dates early in the week because they feel it helps sell more CDs -- devout customers of an artist will come in on Tuesday while others will come in on payday, which is usually at the end of the week. Yet, in the end, brick-and-mortar stores and indie labels may not have much say in picking which day of the week functions as the global street date.

"This global streetdate is necessary for the industry but unfortunately it will be awkward for the physical retailers to change their ways of doing business," says one label executive. "Now, they could have two-thirds of their sales in one day," which would impact retail operation.

But Trans World Entertainment chairman and CEO Robert J. Higgins says he is all for moving the street date to Friday. In fact, he thinks all of the product lines he carries should move to Friday. "Its a smart move," he tells Billboard. "When we have a music or video title come out on a Friday, we have done better sales over the two week-period that we would do with a Tuesday street date."

Meanwhile, preparing for a universal street date is not without issues for all parties, which is why there is so much lead time ahead of the contemplated shift.

Among the issues that have to be addressed to accommodate the shift is that physical pipeline scheduling will have to be revamped, and discussions on whether and how to change the various music charts around the world. Beyond the music industry -- which created the notion of an industry streetdate for new releases and established Tuesday as that day in the U.S. -- other entertainment software industries have adopted Tuesday as well, first the home video industry and then the book industry. Now that the various entertainment companies have taught the U.S. consumer to go to stores on a Tuesday, will those other industries follow suit and change with the music industry?

A version of this article first appeared in the Aug. 16th issue of Billboard Magazine