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On U.S. Vs. European Record Release Dates

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Earlier today in response to my Scar Symmetry post, MS commenter “cougar party” asked:

Could someone explain the reason release dates are always different in the US and Europe? I don’t see the logic behind two different dates.

The reason is that bands often have different record labels in different territories. A band may be signed to Nuclear Blast in Europe, but a different label in the U.S.; even when a band is signed to the same label in two territories, the European office often operates differently than the U.S. office. The reason for this is pretty simple; a local label has a much better understanding of how their own market and scene work and can more effectively work a band there, get them in the right press outlets, get them on the right tours, pitch them to the correct radio stations, etc. When it comes to marketing and setting up a record for release, it’s much easier to do a focused, territorial campaign than one that attempts to satisfy all the varying needs of the different regions of the world. A band could be hugely popular in Europe but have little to no following in the U.S., so it could make sense to wait to “release” it in the U.S. until a proper label can get behind it here and spread the word to the masses.

This was all well and good for many decades. Then the Internet came along and fucked everything up.

With the Internet an album is out worldwide the minute it’s out anywhere, which these days is whenever it leaks. The more and more the Internet becomes the main source of a band’s publicity, it makes less and less sense to have separate release dates; the Internet is fully global. Still, there is some benefit to having separate labels in different territories; a U.S. label is going to have no idea, for instance, how to effectively market a band in Japan, but a Japanese label can do a much better job of it. This is very important when different languages come into play, but by no means is it limited to that; I’d trust a U.K. label to do a much better job marketing a band there than any U.S. label could, just as I’d sooner trust a New Yorker over a Californian to tell me where the best hot dog in NYC is.

I predict that as the Internet continues to become an ever bigger part of the picture, staggered release dates will fade. We’ll see.

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