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The music industry is hoping that timing is everything or least a way to cut down on piracy. The idea here - if you release new music everywhere at the same time, fewer people will rush to get music early and illegally. Beginning today, new music around the world is being released on Fridays. This might be why you didn't find any new music on iTunes or in your local music store earlier this week. NPR's Leah Scarpelli reports.
LEAH SCARPELLI, BYLINE: Albums used to come out in the U.S. on Tuesdays. In the pre-digital era, that had a lot to do with shipping, says Keith Caulfield, co-director of charts at Billboard.
KEITH CAULFIELD: One particular retailer might get that album on, say, Monday morning before they open, and they can have it on their shelf. Boom, great. So if you walk in and you want Michael Jackson's new "Bad" album, they will have it.
(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL JACKSON SONG, "BAD")
SCARPELLI: However, a store a couple blocks down the road may have not got their shipment, and, well, they're going to be out of luck until maybe later that day when the album would probably show up.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD")
MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) Because I'm bad, I'm bad, come on. Really, really bad...
SCARPELLI: In 1989, the recording industry settled on Tuesday as the day every retailer could start selling new releases at the same time, but that was just in the US. Albums came out on Mondays in the UK and Canada, Fridays in Australia and Germany, until the industry decided it needed a global standard.
ADRIAN STRAIN: In the digital world, you can't make consumers wait.
SCARPELLI: Adrian Strain is head of communications for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry or IFPI. It's a trade group representing over 1,300 record labels worldwide. Under the old system, a fan in Britain could, say, buy a new album on Monday and upload it so her friend in Australia could hear it before it came out there on Friday. Strain says a global release schedule, which is being dubbed New Music Fridays...
STRAIN: Should give less reason for those people who can't get the new release legally to go to illegal sites.
SCARPELLI: The IFPI asked consumers across eight countries when they would like to get new music. Of those who expressed an opinion, 68 percent said Friday or Saturday, but album sales have been declining for years. Nielsen SoundScan just released its mid-year report saying total album sales are down 4 percent over the same period last year. Total album consumption was up thanks in part to the growth in music streaming services. So does it really matter anymore when an album comes out? It does to the people who still sell them.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sign that right there for me, please.
SCARPELLI: Amoeba Music in Hollywood calls itself the world's largest independent record store. Co-founder Marc Weinstein says he was not consulted about the new global album release day.
MARC WEINSTEIN: It's not something we would choose to have happen. I mean, it's a logistic nightmare on a lot of levels.
SCARPELLI: Weinstein says Amoeba now has to change its ad schedule, weekend staffing and live in-store performances, which were typically held when albums came out on Tuesdays.
WEINSTEIN: It gave us an opportunity to get, like, a bump in the middle of the week when a lot of people would come in on a Tuesday, which wouldn't normally be a busy day.
SCARPELLI: And with many stores already struggling to survive...
WEINSTEIN: This is going to be perceived as kind of another nail in the coffin for brick-and-mortar retail. And it's kind of sad that no one takes any of that into account when they make these kind of fundamental changes in the way things work.
SCARPELLI: The IFPI's Adrian Strain says not everyone will be happy with such a big change but he says the industry can only follow what it thinks the music fan wants. Leah Scarpelli, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD")
JACKSON: (Singing) And the whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again, who's bad?
GREENE: Who's bad? MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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