For half a century, new albums were released in America on Tuesdays. Since 2015, they have been released on Fridays. People who encounter new music casually, and who stopped buying albums altogether, may never have noticed, but obsessives have adjusted our lives accordingly. This goes doubly for professionals, especially those in the music industry itself, whose livelihoods depend on the marketing of music to consumers.
All of that makes a current panic undergone by Chris Brown a little curious. Brown released a new album this week titled Heartbreak on a Full Moon. You may remember that it has 45 songs. You probably haven’t listened to it for various reasons, one of which may be that it has 45 songs. Brown has made it clear that the first week sales number for this album—his first in two years—are important to him. On Monday, he posted a screenshot on Instagram instructing his fans to stream the songs from the album that were put on streaming services before its release date so that the album could be powered to No. 1.
There is only one problem. Brown did not release his album today, on Friday. Instead, he released it on Tuesday, timed to Halloween. (There is supposed to be some sort of implied connection between Halloween and the phrase Heartbreak on a Full Moon, but it doesn’t seem very well thought out.) In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with this—from a consumer perspective, it doesn’t really matter when albums are released nowadays. But Nielsen, which collects the data on albums sales that makes up each week’s Billboard 200, has a strict organizing principle when it comes to counting stats. Albums are released on Friday, and Nielsen counts them beginning on Thursday night and going through the following Wednesday. So if you were to, say, release your album on a Tuesday in order to coincide with that year’s Halloween, with the week of album sales ending on Wednesday, your first week sales will obviously have much fewer days to be counted.
Chris Brown, it turns out (and as flagged by That Grape Juice), did not know this. Yesterday he posted the following note on Instagram:
“So I’m hearing that I will only be credited for 3 days of sales for my first week,” he wrote. “DONT UNDERSTAND how that is…” (The three days he’s referring to, by my count, would be Monday night, the album release day of Tuesday, and Wednesday, when counting stops.) Instead of being counted along with albums, like Sam Smith’s, that were released today, Brown will be counted with albums that were released in the previous counting week: namely Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, and the collaboration between Offset, Metro Boomin, and 21 Savage.
That album sales are counted this way is not some grand industry secret. There is a reason why, even in an age where few people buy physical copies of music, almost all albums are released on a single day. That Chris Brown, a professional pop musician, was somehow unaware of this is almost unbelievable. Everybody who cares about album sales knows when and why albums are released. And Brown, who apparently does care, should know this, too. His last album, Royalty, was released on a Friday, on December 18, 2015.
Per Billboard, Heartbreak on a Full Moon is slated to debut with 45,000 equivalent album units moved. This isn’t bad, but it’s far from No. 1. He’ll be far behind Clarkson and Chesney, and possibly the Metro/21/Offset album, too. I would say “live and learn,” but that doesn’t really seem to be Chris Brown’s thing.