Dropping, Dripping, or Streaming

by | Jan 16, 2020 | Commentary & Observations, Music Business, Music Tech

When an album “drops,” it’s industry slang for saying an album has been released to the public. It’s origins come from the newspaper industry, where delivery trucks would drop bundles of newspapers off at news stands on city streets. It’s a slang that basically means that a retailer has “dropped” the album on the shelf. Despite physical formats (CD’s, vinyl, etc.) accounting for less than half of all music sales, the phrase “new album drops” continues to be used, for the same reason the term “album” is still being used – the music industry as a whole historically hates change.

(FYI – when records were first released, they typically had one song per side. Record companies would package multiple discs in a sleeved book, much like a photo album. The phrase “record album” originates from these books. Since the book packaging overlapped with later LP and even tape formats, the name “album” just stuck.)

In an era where streaming accounts for a whopping 80% of all music consumption, most artists and/or record labels are releasing complete albums on streaming platforms simultaneously with physical releases (as well as digital downloads, another format that itself is on the decline). As I’ve said in the past, streaming is a great format for casual listeners who may not otherwise fork out the money for a CD (but may still be curious enough to give it a listen), but it requires a completely different business model to be successful compared to physical sales (a model that some artists absolutely refuse to even consider).

One solution I’d recommended a couple years back was to release “limited” streaming versions of full albums – take 4-6 of the best songs from an album and make them available for streaming. These songs would essentially serve as the equivalent of radio singles, in that they would get listeners’ attention and help drive sales of the full-length release. This process is known in marketing circles as “dripping content,” or allowing pieces of a product to be made available a little a time to build up a brand.

A perfect example of this process has been executed beautifully by Legacy Five with their Pure Love album. Rather than release the full album to streaming platforms along with the download and physical release on August 23, 2019, L5 and Daywind instead released ONE song to streaming (the first radio single, “What Kind of Man”), while making the full album available for purchase via download (such as iTunes) and CD. The following December, three more songs were released to streaming. To date, the full album still is not available for streaming, but enough of it is available to allow listeners to decide if it’s worth forking out the money to purchase.

And I will it admit – it worked for me! After listening to the four songs made available on Spotify, I liked what I heard enough to hop over to iTunes and purchase the full album (in lieu of a full review, I will point you to DBM’s thoughts on the album, as well as let the fact that they won me over with their limited streaming release speak for itself). In fact, they may have won me over enough to purchase the vinyl release when it drops next week (see what I did there?). Job well done, Legacy Five and Daywind! Whether or not my previous articles had any influence (I’d like to think it did, but who knows?!), your marketing strategy worked on me.

In my opinion, this is a wonderful way to make use of streaming without sacrificing the higher (in the short-term, anyway) return on physical/download releases. Treating streaming as a modern-day equivalent to terrestrial radio and releasing singles for consumption will not only gain you some spare change, but if done correctly, will build up hype for a full album – one that is only available in specific formats. Granted, it can definitely be done wrong (just ask anyone who had a single tank at radio), but with the right material, you could get the best of both worlds.

Kyle Boreing

Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.

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