Why some artists are breaking the industry's Friday-release rule: "It's a little bit less about the chart game, a little bit more about the global reach game."
Major Lazer's single "Know No Better" has racked up over 119 million streams on Spotify since the six-song EP of the same name was released June 1. But the EP sold only 1,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Music.
The reason for the tepid start: It was released on a Thursday, an increasingly popular yet risky tactic that artists and their labels are using to maximize exposure and stand out from the Friday pack.
"It's a little bit less about the chart game, a little bit more about the global reach game," says Zack Gershen, executive vp at mTheory, a management services firm that advises Major Lazer and advocates violating the Friday-release rule.
Though Friday has been the global industry's official day for new music for the past two years, star acts are jumping the gun with increasing frequency. The strategy can help cut through the noise while giving the Australian, Asian and European markets more time to drive music up the global streaming charts and through social media, since Australia's Friday is well underway by the time New York's officially begins. The year's biggest hit, the Justin Bieber-assisted remix of "Despacito," arrived on a Monday.
Going early is a gamble for several reasons. First-week sales of a Thursday release appear puny (because the music has been on the market for only a sliver of the Friday-to-Friday week), while an early release that might have been No. 1 could start slipping on the charts by the time Friday competitors enter the race. Early releasers also risk getting overlooked by fans who are used to searching for new tunes on Fridays.
Tom Corson, president/COO of RCA Records, which recently put out Kesha's "Praying" and Miley Cyrus' "Malibu" on separate Thursdays, supports the strategy but notes that it requires a lot of extra work, and "the streaming services and platforms don't always like it either."
But for stars such as Sam Hunt, who released "Drinkin' Too Much" on a Sunday and "Body Like a Back Road" on a Wednesday, breaking the rule appears to be paying off.
"You're separating yourself from everything else that's coming out on Friday," says Hunt's manager, Brad Belanger. "Anybody can pop up big sales for one or two weeks. It's where are you at week 16 -- that's what I'm interested in."