Friday, December 13, 2013

All albums should be surprise albums

Glad to see Beyonce has put out a new album on iTunes only. It's said to be "a surprise album".

All albums used to be surprise albums. In the 60s long players would just appear in the window of your local record shop. That's how I first saw Sgt Pepper. The first I saw of the new Bob Dylan or Rolling Stones sleeve wasn't on an advert in the NME. It was in my own High Street. You can probably imagine how thrilling that was.

By the time we'd reached the 90s the softening up process, the teaser campaign, the carefully choreographed series of "exclusives", had been developed into a fine art and the relationship between the music business and the media was so incestuous that you tired of hearing about the damned albums by the time they came out. I was always bothered about the idea of the BBC, particularly, playing records for months before we poor saps out there in radioland got the chance to buy them. Of course they always made sure to tell us when we would be able to buy them. Some people might call that advertising. In the case of the "U2=BBC" campaign of 2009 even the BBC thought it had gone too far. Afterwards.

Surprise albums are better in every respect. We'll be the ones to decide how nice a surprise they are. That way the media can get back to doing what they used to do, which was reflect public enthusiasm rather than trying to mould it.


  1. Happens outside the mainstream too. One my favourite albums of the year was Iain Jennings' "My Dark Surprise", which appeared almost out of the blue back in May

  2. Bowie played a masterstroke with his new material

    The lead off single was average at best, but, being released free of fanfare, endless press and inevitable promo fatigue - and on his birthday, give it a fresh heft and reception, he'd never have had going through the usual spin cycle

  3. It was a key moment in the history of hype. Deprived of the usual chorus of taste makers trying to make them enthusiastic, people went ahead and made themselves enthusiastic. In the case of that record they effectively hyped themselves.