One of the main advantages of having a surprise release is that an artist has the potential to be the talk of the town for awhile in the media. Without any previous buildup and then releasing a product, especially when done by a huge artist, shocks both music critics, workers in media, as well as fans. Everyone will immediately take to Twitter, blog posts, and other sources of media to express their passionate opinions over an artist's new work.
Also, according to a source from Billboard, "Consumers often complain it's difficult to find out about new music." So, when a surprise, new release album comes out, consumers don't have the option to complain. The artists are directly giving the fans what they want: new music without having to wait. This especially works in the case for Kendrick Lamar since his most recent release, other than his latest untitled unmastered., was not too long ago.
One of the main disadvantages of the surprise release album strategy is the potential risk factor that is involved in doing so. Frankly put, if the surprise release album does not perform well, then there is no backup plan. After all of the dollars are spent to create the album, having the album release and not do as well as it was supposed to could potentially harm an artist's position within a recording company.
On the contrary, the album could perform very well and can propel an already A-list star to even higher heights. One example of this situation is with Beyoncé's self-titled album that came out in 2013. It easily became one of the most talked about things in social media and also became one of the biggest selling albums of 2013, coming in with a staggering 1.3 million copies sold within the first 17 days of its release.
It is smart and advantageous for a normal artist to stick with the traditional, standard album release plan, unless they have some huge cult following that the media is not talking about. It would be a waste of time and money spent for an average artist to have a surprise album release because it will most likely not be big in the media and only super fans of the average artist will want to purchase the album.
Therefore, the surprise album release strategy has both pros and cons. Newer artists and average artists should not be releasing their new material as a surprise. They should go through the standard album release process in order to potentially ensure their success, rather than completely risking it all on taking up this new album release model that only widely popular artists should be embracing.
Adam Turney is currently an intern at New Music Empire. He is a third year at UCLA majoring in Theater with a minor in Music Industry. He is particularly interested in artist development.