Skipping Super Tuesday: September Release Dates Explained

Every September there's one huge day for new album releases. There's no rule about it, but tons of labels — major and independent, putting out both physical and digital-only releases — hold their biggest albums for the same day.

There are a few obvious reasons people selling music would want to hold albums that are ready in July or August for September: TV shows that feature performances are back with new episodes; people go out and buy albums since they're not on vacation anymore. Some theorize that labels overwhelm customers with new music on purpose. They hope you say, "Since I'm already here, I might as well pick up three CDs instead of just one." And the labels make the Sept. 30th deadline for Grammy nominations.

This year Super Tuesday happens next week on Sept. 14th. There are so many albums streeting that day that NPR is premiering 14 of them a week ahead.

But some albums buck the second Tuesday trend. We wondered why — so we asked an executive at one of the majors and the director of publicity for one of the biggest indie labels why they're releasing records this week that could be big for them. And then we asked one label why it stuck to the 14th.

Martin Kierszenbaum, chairman of Cherrytree Records, which distributes Robyn's new album, says the label and the artist weren't super strategic about their decision. They just wanted to get the music out as soon as possible. And, he says, maybe release dates don't matter that much anymore.

Body Talk Pt. 2 is the second of three albums Robyn is releasing this year. She told NPR's Jacki Lyden her decision to do that was "really selfish" — she said she wants to be able to put out her music when it's done. Kierszenbaum says he was willing to support that.

"As soon as I heard [Robin say] that, I spent a lot of time on cherrytreerecords.com, and we were starting to get the same feedback from everybody: that people wanted to hear music more often, in smaller volume, and more topical, more current. In other words, when the artist made it. They wanted to hear it right away. They didn't want to have to wait between the time it was created and recorded and produced and then issued. So we decided it was an opportunity, not only to support Robyn's instincts but also to see if this new system would work."

So far so good, Kierszenbaum says.

"Think about it: wherever you can get music — a la carte, at any time — those things become less and less important. What becomes more important in this asynchronous world is that whenever you get exposed to something, via click-through or stream or any kind of exposure, is that it resonates... Now that everything is so transparent and asynchronous, its more about making that impression."

But sometimes timing really is everything. The band Interpol, which re-signed with Matador Records earlier this year, waited until summer's end to drop its new release. Nils Bernstein, artist liaison and director of publicity at Matador, says it was a matter of avoiding the summer sales slump — when fans are spending time outdoors and on vacation, away from retailers on and offline. And it always helps to have the record in stores when the band is out headlining, not playing festivals.

"Interpol were free this week, but not next, so we really wanted to set up some cool events for fans but make sure the record was available. Our distributor [ADA] let us go with September 7 since it's such a major release this fall."

Timing helps get press coverage — even if you're one among many. Tomas Cookman, president and founder of Nacional Records, says the label decided to release Bostich + Fussible's Bulevar 2000 on the 14th partly because it makes sense and partly for a hook.

"It's the first real Tuesday when the season of "fall" hits across the country. Most schools are back in session at this point and many workers are back in their offices following summer vacations. So while some albums may get lost amidst the summer holidays, now is the right time to launch fall campaigns.

For Nacional Records, this particular release date coincided really well with the Mexican bicentennial anniversary (Sept 15th) and Hispanic Heritage Month. From a retail and media perspective, this makes an important release from such an iconic artist even more timely."

There is, of course one more question: Why Tuesdays in the first place? Why not Thursday, or Saturday? We'll answer that later today.

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