As the way we purchase and consume music has changed, so has the way it gets promoted to us. In the past, when a new album was released, you might have heard some of the songs live or perhaps on the radio or if they had been released as singles, but everything else was fresh and new and exciting when you finally got your hands on the album. That’s a rarity these days…
Instead, there’s a steady dripfeed or torrent (pun intended) of music available to listen to in the weeks building up to release, and Bruce Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball has been particularly notable in the way it’s been promoted. Almost every day for the last week has seen a different music website with a different exclusive song to stream.
Given that there had already been a single released earlier in the year and that two of the songs had been released in live forms before, there’s not a lot of potential for surprises when the album actually comes out next week. And so, while I have listened to the single, I’ve avoided the rest of the streaming songs, because I’d rather wait.
For the same reason, I won’t be listening to the six new Counting Crows songs available to stream from their upcoming covers album Underwater Sunshine. It’s obvious why these songs get put out there; to raise the profile of new music, even by established artists such as these, to build up online and social media hype and make sure people know that the new music is going to be released.
Of course, there’s also the issue of piracy to deal with, with lots of albums available on filesharing sites before the release date, and putting the music out there to listen to for free could be a way to get punters to wait until they can get it legally. But I still think it’s a bit of a shame, in the same way as seeing a movie trailer that almost shows you the whole plot.
There’s also a bit of the staunch traditionalist in my argument, because hearing individual songs here and there from the album, like Wrecking Ball, risks devaluing its worth as a whole, just as much as the ability to buy individual tracks from iTunes. For me, an album should be listened to as an album, especially the first time you hear it.
If you’ve heard half the songs on audio streams already, you’re not getting that experience and you’re missing out on the excitement of discovering a load of new songs at the same time. Of course, if that doesn’t matter to you, then feel free to listen to the streams, it’s a free internet (for now) and I wouldn’t demand an end to the practice. But I’ll choose not to and will save it for next Monday morning when I download Wrecking Ball and listen to it on the way to work.