So last week Taylor Swift surprise dropped her amazing new album folklore. In conjunction, she released music videos for every single song. When this is all said and done there will no doubt be endless interviews, exclusive content promotions, and bundles. That being said – by and large… surprise drops are basically never a good idea, especially for metal bands.
Surprise drops haven’t worked for even the biggest metal bands. They don’t work because of metals promotion cycle, the gamble you are taking with doing one and of course the simple fact that you aren’t going to be able to crack the mainstream metal conscious if you do one.
3. Why Metal’s Promotion Cycle Works Against Surprise Drops
Metal is a genre that is frequently very conservative. (This often acts against their best interests, but that’s besides the point.) The point is that because metal is a preternaturally conservative genre it means that people don’t like seeing new things, they are programmed for the usual schedule of three or four singles, then album release, getting it all at once confuses people.
Furthermore, if you can’t benefit from a PR person routinely sending this to press people to get them familiar with it they probably won’t be willing to do a full album premiere if you are a relatively unknown band. This is a key component of the promotional cycle for unsigned bands and you can’t just shoot yourself in the foot and lose that.
2. Why Surprise Releases Are Always A Loss
If you look at surprise releases in metal history, they almost always underperform. The most obvious example is Avenged Sevenfold whose surprise release of The Stage meant that the guys had to overcompensate in order to make up for how poorly it did, adding songs to many bonus editions and all sorts of other goodies.
Surprise releases eschew so many of the things that metal bands ad labels rely on. With a surprise release, you have no pre-order, no singles, no chance to build up hype. This is something you can do even as a small band with social media posting and engaging with people. A surprise drop strips you of that.
1. Why You Won’t Crack The General Metal Consciousness
If you miss out on your pre-order window then people simply are going to forget about you. The pre-order window is essential just for getting people warmed up to your record even if they don’t buy. If you are trying to get listens, collect data on fans and grow, then you’re going to want to start that process months out, not the day of release.
And finally – all the big publications, especially the print ones, require a ton of lead time. They don’t really want to cover something random that no one has heard of that is already released. If you miss out on these opportunities, from ads to marketing to press you’re shooting yourself in the foot – so why do it this way?
As you can see, surprise drops are almost always a bad idea, stressful and prone to ruin your band for a long time. They go against the general current of how metal is released, operate as a loss almost all the time, and basically can’t crack the general consciousness as a result. So as with drugs, just say not to surprise releases.
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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