Releasing a pop album today is a vastly different process than it was even just a few years ago. As an artist, you must use unorthodox strategies to steal the public’s attention away from such dynamic entertainments as mobile-optimized leaf peeping and whatever awful event is unfolding in the news. Here’s what you have to do in order to successfully launch an album in the modern age:
— Make sure you’re breathlessly acclaimed and very famous.
— Employ a bleeding-edge team of publicists, marketeers, personal-brand consultants, food stylists, lobbyists, and doulas. An album release is all about collaboration. However, don’t rely on your team too much — fire everyone AT LEAST once, declare publicly that you don’t need handlers, then secretly hire them all back. And for God’s sake, do not employ anyone born before the Clinton Administration or decorated with between three and twelve tattoos.
— It’s often easiest to simply not have an album to launch in the first place. After all, do pop stars actually “release” music anymore? What even is music at this point? These questions are impossible to answer. This process concerns something bigger than “music” as we once understood it. Mainly the concurrent release of a line of athleisure socks.
— Nevertheless, you must have a polished, bravura record in the can. This completed LP isn’t the album you’re launching for “commercial release,” whatever that means in 2016 (no one knows). No, right before you drop the album that may not exist in the first place, you should offer a bonus album for free, via a platform not usually associated with music, such as the Federal Government or Oprah. Once this ancillary album is downloaded millions of times and has cemented your place in the pop pantheon, disown it and focus on the real album, which, again, will likely become so entwined with the socks that it is wearable on one’s feet.
— Besides socks, your album must be accompanied by AT LEAST three of the following: a VR platform, a recipe book, a line of toe-less hiking boots (up to you if they pair with the socks), an IPO, some lewd robots, a home-improvement web series, a green-energy initiative, a sculpture garden, a charter school, a livestream of an especially weird forest, a parenting manifesto, a pop-up industry convention where it’s unclear what the industry is, a war, a human child.
— If for some reason you’ve decided to actually write and record music to release, make sure you’re not finished with it when it comes out. If the album doesn’t continuously evolve after release, you’ll lose the attention of your fans. Do people care about butterflies after they emerge from the chrysalis and complete their metamorphosis? Only to hunt them down for their stasis.
— Sign with a major label, fulfill your contract with an album of tossed-off B-sides, then release the actual album independently — so, underwritten by institutional financing — on a failing streaming service, without notice, under a new name, with album art and track listings that change continually. Then take it down and put up an entirely different album. (This is not the same album as the one you’re offering as a free pre-launch download or the one you’re dumping on your label, so make sure you have three finished albums in the hopper in addition to the “real” release.) Then take that one down, put the first one — the real album that may not actually exist — back up, with purposefully terrible album art that imitates both Matthew Barney and Criss Angel: Mindfreak. Will this fluidity anger your fans? Yes. Will it galvanize your detractors? Yes. But it’s better to count on hate than bet on love. (The T-shirts with this mantra printed on them will be your main revenue stream, as the athleisure socks will only be available in limited quantity).
— Institute an embargo on any music critics — and for good measure, listeners — in perpetuity, unless they can procure a notarized document proving they haven’t heard music made before 2010.
— In general, make it as difficult as possible for your fans to hear the album. They should have to incur a new class of high-interest debt to be able to listen to it. They should have to achieve a state of enlightenment that mankind hasn’t even begun to conceive of. They should have to own a smartwatch. They should have to be Oprah.