For decades, major labels have been releasing singles via terrestrial radio and occasionally with an accompanying video, only to have users wait weeks before they can purchase the same song. The conventional wisdom among industry types was that the delay would build a buzz for the single and increase sales. Now, Universal and Sony have announced they will abandon the traditional “release window” in the U.K. beginning February 1.
“This change is a big shift from established music industry practice which has seen upfront radio play as part of the pre-promotion of a record—with songs often not released for sale for at least a month after they have first been heard on radio,” representatives from Universal Music Group wrote in a released statement.
Many executives believe the bulk of illegal downloading occurs in the weeks leading up to a single’s official release, when there is no other way to obtain it other than a low-quality radio recording. The death of the release window has other implications in the UK, since the country has worked out different net neutrality laws between law enforcement and Internet Service Providers. But, with America’s net neutrality laws currently being reconfigured, the move may foreshadow similar moves here—especially for Universal artists such as Cee-Lo, Rihanna and B.o.B, who chart well in both countries.
“We live in an immediate world,” Universal Music’s David Joseph said in a statement. “On Air, On Sale is good news for any music fan and exciting for our artists who can now go into the studio knowing they don’t have to wait weeks or sometimes months to see the music they have created go on sale.”