This year we’ve experienced the unannounced release of Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade, Kanye West’s ever updating The Life of Pablo, and Frank Ocean’s announced, yet super delayed and completely overdue, double album release of Blond and Endless. With these innovative pieces of work being released, it’s fair to say that technology and social media are heavily influencing the way artists release music, and therefore how we as consumers are experiencing the product.
Streaming Services Have Redefined ‘The Album’
What used to be promotional singles followed by an announced album release has forever been changed by streaming services. Even the content within an album is different now, and it’s amazing. So, Kanye West released The Life of Pablo in February of this year exclusively on Tidal. It has since been released on more platforms, but that’s not important. What is noteworthy, is Kanye plans on updating his music on the album.
Since the release, an additional track has been added and remastered versions of several songs have updated. So, he basically created an interactive, ever-changing experience for him and the public to share. Thanks, Kanye!
Lemonade. I’m not going to talk about the album because we literally all know about it. Rather, I want to focus on how it came to be. Albums usually have release dates, even if they don’t actually get released, they have a date. Lemonade was dropped unannounced, because who wants to pay for marketing. Also, it’s a movie, which we also already knew. What the album is and how it was released are directly related to how we use technology and social media.
Dropping subtle hints on Instagram she left behind all traditional methods of album promotion. In fact, promotion for the album consisted of fans tweeting bumblebee and lemon emojis while fixating on the identity of Becky, furious over her blessed locks.
Power Shifts to Artists
Blond and Endless, released two days apart after a four-year hiatus, shifted control to the artist. Streaming services significantly played a role in how Frank Ocean released his work. It was genius and it was totally legal.
Endless fulfilled his contract with Def Jam, allowing him to release his more profitable Blond independently. Because of the availability of streaming services and social media tools, artists no longer need representatives to facilitate their careers. Artists like Frank used to rely on labels to get radio play, but with internet listening services becoming increasingly popular, labels might become obsolete.
2016 has brought forth the most innovative albums we’ve seen. Artists are redefining promotional and marketing techniques, raising the bar for album content and presenting their work in interesting new ways. From unannounced album releases to visual albums to artists taking control of their work, we have seen technology and social media play a huge role in shaping today’s music.
One can only hope the trend progresses and the bar is continually raised. With social media and technology evolving so rapidly, expect to see music follow in their footsteps.
Image via Flickr by Aktiv I Oslo.no