Kane Brown Date Change on Spotify Results in Unfair Promotion
A couple of weeks ago when many country fans were logging into their Spotify accounts or shuffling through playlists, they may have noticed Kane Brown’s latest album Experiment being promoted as a new release. Promoting new releases by big performers in popular country is nothing new for Spotify. The streaming giant regularly engages in this practice on landing pages and in suggestion feeds, matching a user’s streaming habits to whatever they think that user might be interested in that has just been released. These suggestions are considered prime real estate on the streaming format since they can result in thousands or millions of streams for whatever is being promoted.
What was strange about this particular incident is that Experiment by Kane Brown was not a new release at all. The record was released on November 9th, 2018, some nine months ago. As can be seen in the screenshot at the bottom of this article, the album was being promoted right beside Kenny Chesney’s single “Tip of My Tongue” released on July 12th, the new Chris Young single “Town Ain’t Big Enough” also released on July 12th, and Ryan Hurd’s Panorama EP released July 19th.
Despite the easily-verifiable original release date for Experiment as November 8th, 2018, Spotify sent Kane Brown’s Experiment through the new release promotional cycle a second time, and currently has the album’s release date listed as July 12th, 2019. Even more strange, when looking at all other formats, from iTunes to Amazon and anywhere else music is sold or streamed, the correct release date from Experiment of November 8th, 2018 is still posted.
A conspiracy theorist might hypothesize that the release date for Experiment was changed on Spotify to send the Kane Brown album through the promotional cycle on Spotify for new releases a second time to embellish the streaming numbers and promote the release. Since Kane Brown has been the party to accusations of manipulating streaming markets in the past, this was the thought that ran through some people’s heads when they saw Experiment re-racked on Spotify. Regardless of the real reason for the date change, that was still the end result.
Checking the Billboard Country Albums chart, the week before the date change for Experiment occurred, the album was at #10 on the charts. The next week, Experiment had shot up to #3 on the Country Albums chart, and had a star beside it, denoting it as one of the greatest gainers on the chart (see below). This week—after the new release feature had ended—Experiment fell dramatically down in the charts to #9. PLEASE NOTE: The Billboard Albums chart runs a week behind the sales cycle, and Billboard also front dates their charts. However the boost seen on the charts would coincide with the featuring of Experiment by Spotify as a new release.
Granted, there are many albums on the Spotify format with incorrect release dates, though they’re mostly older titles that display the date they were added to the Spotify format, and not their original release date, and most are not modern releases like Experiment. Sometimes labels release deluxe editions of albums to re-engage interest in a title, with new songs added. But this isn’t the case with Experiment either. There are also other reasons why a record label might re-upload an album onto Spotify or other formats that are not nefarious, perhaps due to legal or publishing concerns with the metadata on tracks needs to be refreshed. Such a practice wouldn’t be out of the norm, though it is strange the release date would be an oversight, and why Spotify’s curators would not catch that Experiment was being promoted through their format as a new release.
Saving Country Music reached out to both Kane Brown’s record label, Sony Music Nashville, as well as to Spotify, to hopefully receive clarification on why the release date for Experiment was changed. Unfortunately those requests were not returned.
Regardless of the reason for the Kane Brown date change, and the oversight of allowing the title to be promoted as a new release twice, it underscores the concerns of many about the unregulated nature of music streaming, and how it seems as if some artists or titles receive preferential treatment, and that some may have their hands in the pockets of the right people to get their songs, albums, or artists promoted.
The FCC has rules on what is referred to in the radio business as “payola” to make sure such manipulations in the market don’t exist. Streaming giants such as Soptify, which in 2019 have arguably way more power to make or break and artist or title, don’t have anyone looking over their shoulders. Consumers and industry professionals should be mindful of how we’re living in the asterisk era in music at the moment, where the information feeding into charts may either be incorrect, or manipulated behind-the-scenes, resulting in an unfair boost for songs or albums on the charts.
Purposeful or accidental, Kane Brown’s Experiment received an unfair advantage by the changing of its release date on Spotify. To make sure such anomalies don’t become the norm, more transparency and oversight should be insisted upon by the public to make sure it’s the appeal of a song that allows it to thrive, not the manipulating of promotional tools and algorhythms.
UPDATE: The reason Experiment was re-uploaded to Spotify could have been due to the addition of a song called “Like a Rodeo” to the track list that was released on July 12th. However the song was sold as a “standalone track,” and not part of Experiment. It is either not available, or only available as a standalone track on other formats. Furthermore, the addition of this song would not, and should not change the release date of the entire Experiment album. At the least, “Like a Rodeo” should have been listed as a new release as opposed to the whole record.
August 6, 2019 @ 10:53 am
Streaming is killing charts and its laughable. They are both being way overvalued, and manipulated beyond the point of repair.
August 6, 2019 @ 11:33 am
As an aside, did you know artists can now re-record, edit, or otherwise change songs on a previously released album on Spotify and re-upload them without fans even knowing?
Kanye West did this a few years ago on an album, saying it was a “living breathing changing creative expression.” Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala recently said they were thinking of doing something similar for their next album. These days even an album isn’t a solid piece of work, it’s an evolving “work in progress.” What the hell?
August 6, 2019 @ 12:45 pm
If you have to stream the song again to determine whether any changes have been made, well, somewhere the arti$t is smiling?
August 6, 2019 @ 12:52 pm
Yep, and in 2017 Future released two albums in back-to-back weeks and months later added a bunch of his recent non-album singles across the two tracklists. It’s all very dumb and the music industry is clearly still scrambling to figure out what the hell is going on.
August 7, 2019 @ 10:41 am
Yeah, Holly Williams’ album The Highway has a few songs that changed slightly after release, at least on Google Play Music. That bugs me a little.
Sir Adam the Great
August 7, 2019 @ 2:29 pm
That’s some George Lucas level of chicanery there.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:09 pm
Man, I don’t know where to start. Maybe I will say that Kane Brown reminds me of fake news. They both have so much in common.
As an aside, the single “Chevy’s and Ford’s” by Billy Ray Cyrus & Johnny McGuire is actually quite good. And I am not a particular Cyrus fan.
August 6, 2019 @ 4:13 pm
If it didn’t have clap tracks I would say it is a good song. But I’m one of those people that just can’t stand them at all in any music I listen to. That makes it hard to enjoy for me.
This is coming from an actual Billy Ray fan.
August 6, 2019 @ 6:25 pm
Agree wholeheartedly with your clap tracks comment. Wish they could be censored!
August 6, 2019 @ 1:21 pm
Shameful but yet legal apparently. You would think though, that all the teens and tweens would already have been streaming it when it first launched. So , the idea is, I guess, to hope other teens who aren’t stans for the Kane, to see it prominently displayed, falsely billed as new release, and snatch it up, thinking it’s new? Huh?
And this works? How dumb are sheeple, I mean people? That’s a rhetorical question.
Used to be the way you milked more money was to re -release an album and remaster it and possibly put bonus cuts on it. This would get people to purchase the same album again. Now in streaming age, we can do something similar only with the exact same product, and much sooner apparently. Got it.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:22 pm
Pretty sure the original album tracks keep the original ISRC codes, so play counts remain the same, but re-releasing the same tracks on a “new” version of the album (with a couple new tracks added) get the benefit of promo and top placement for a “new” album.
In other words the majority of tracks on the “new” album don’t start out with a zero play count, but start from the previous play count and get new play counts stacked on top. Definitely sounds like a conscious effort to juke the numbers and game the system for chart placement, additional exposure, and additional revenue.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:39 pm
Mmmm I was just reading about Valve taking steps to prevent game developers from appearing in coming soon lists on Steam by changing release dates, this seems like a similar thing. Perhaps we are now hearing about one of the flaws that comes with digital distribution of content. I would prefer artists to be able to compete in a free and open market and let the best content win but what is happening here is anything but a free and open market.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:53 pm
Y’all missed one thing here, “Like a Rodeo”, a new song was released that day and added to the album, the old version of the album was removed from Spotify and this version with the new song was added, which is why it was listed as a “new release”. Not sure why they added this but it’s the second song (Lost In the Middle of Nowhere on the original release day) to be on the Spotify version of the album and not the CD or iTunes versions.
August 6, 2019 @ 1:06 pm
I’ve heard from a few other folks hypothesizing this, and I am trying to confirm it. But that would make sense as the reason for the Spotify album being updated. Nonetheless, “Like a Rodeo” was sent out as a standalone track, and purposely sold as NOT part of Experiment. There’s also is no reason the entire Experiment album would be sent back through the New Release cycle on Spotify just because one song was added (that is not supposed to be a part of the album anyway), nor any reason the original release date should change. At the most, “Like a Rodeo” is what should have been listed under New Releases, not Experiment.
Saving Bro Country Music
August 6, 2019 @ 3:08 pm
The key is whether it was ever available on Spotify as a standalone track. I see that it has its own cover, listing, etc on iTunes – but if it was always part of the album on Spotify, then I guess they’re justified in how they handled it.
August 6, 2019 @ 3:38 pm
If it was always part of the Spotify version of the album, then it would make it even worse to categorize it as a new release, and change the release date. All the press materials I can find say that “Like a Rodeo” is a standalone track, and not part of the album.
Saving Bro Country Music
August 6, 2019 @ 3:05 pm
“Like A Rodeo” is considered part of the album on Spotify, which means a few things:
— Billboard is likely counting its sales and streams toward the album’s consumption total. Since the song put up big first-week sales numbers (and likely decent streaming figures), that may itself be a big reason why the album rose on Billboard.
— That, as per your update, may explain why the album received the new release date (since they “updated” the album that day). It’s also possible that Spotify’s New Releases page will always highlight the album, rather than an individual track, if both “come out” on the same day.
I’m positive I’ve never seen individual album tracks on that page if the whole album was there. I can neither confirm nor deny whether the full album has gone up simply because an “addition” to the album launched that day.
— I’m not sure it’s fair to say the album went back through the “new release cycle.” Scoring front-page advertising, push notifications and placement on key playlists (like New Music Friday) is far more important than being listed on New Releases. I don’t believe any track other than “Like A Rodeo” (which was a legitimate new release) appeared in those areas.
— I still do agree that it’s absolute nonsense. I don’t think artists should be able to randomly add songs to their albums without a formal re-release campaign, but as long as they can, Spotify needs to better police these things.
August 6, 2019 @ 3:46 pm
There is no reason to change the release date of an entire album, regardless of the circumstances. Even when you release a deluxe edition, the deluxe edition has its own release date autonomous for the original album. Also, I can’t see justifying marking an entire album a “new release” just because you add a song, especially one that the press materials emphasize is a standalone track not from the album. And since it’s supposed to be a standalone track, using it to feed the metadata and chart performance of “Experiment” would also be unjustified.
There are a lot of moving parts to this, and I’m not saying what happened here was either illegal or outright fraud. But it’s definitely shady or misleading. Why not just leave the release date as it is, whether “Rodeo” is a standalone track or added to the album? And “Experiment” WAS promoted as a new release when it wasn’t. That much we know for sure.
Saving Bro Country Music
August 6, 2019 @ 8:32 pm
Again, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I just think this situation is a symptom of a larger issue with streaming.
The idea of the “fluid album” opens the door to so much manipulation. In addition to affecting Spotify placement and Billboard charts, it even impacts certifications.
There’s a scheme we’ve seen with pop artists, including Zara Larsson, in which they release standalone singles. These songs go onto become massive global hits, amassing millions of streams. More than a year later, they’ll bundle all these songs onto an “album” and use the back-counted streams to quickly get certifications + boast about having “billions of streams” on their albums. It’s a complete crock.
Kane Brown, moreover, is hardly the only person to keep adding songs to a previously released album. It’s ridiculous.
August 6, 2019 @ 3:19 pm
could Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison eventually be labelled as a new release on spotify? 🙂
August 7, 2019 @ 8:43 am
Is the name of his album “Look, they forgot to finish my haircut…”?
August 7, 2019 @ 11:44 am
Kind of related but not, on Friday Spotify put Clint Blacks new song with Cody Jinks and company on my new release friday radar. I listened to it throughout the day but later on they pulled it and now its nowhere to be found. I guess the thing is Spotify has a habit of screwing up
Keepin it Country
August 7, 2019 @ 9:32 pm
Let’s face it. We all Kane Brown is a dipshit manipulating the charts and using country as a vehicle to further advance his otherwise mediocre pop music. There is evolution and then there’s just garbage.
August 11, 2019 @ 11:05 am
Right on, Keepin it Country. Kane Brown should be forced to do his “Experiment”-ing, on pop or R&B charts, not the country ones. The pop vs. country debate is one that’s been going on for decades, and was largely responsible for the outlaw movement in the 70s, but the difference between then and now is that a lot of older country-pop or crossover music is actually good or great. Most of today’s country pop is, as you say, “just garbage” purveyed by “dipshits”.
August 8, 2019 @ 2:39 am
I believe SPOTIFY is to blame for the unfair confusion with Kane Brown’s new release date Kane Brown is a booming new artist with a bright successful future ahead of him!!!! 🔥 yo assume or make Zane Brown look scandalous or fraudulent is is horrible I believe he is honestly innocent of these ENVIOUS ACCUSATIONS SO TERRIBLY SAD TO TRY TO MAKE SOMEONE LOOK GUILTY WHEN THEIR NOT!!! (I may have to leave Spotify & take others with me)
August 8, 2019 @ 7:47 am
TOOL recently released their entire discography on Spotify with the correct release dates (90’s, 00’s) and all their albums shows up in the New Releases feed. This is just something Spotify seems to do for big artists – don’t forget that the platform itself benefits from people using it.
August 8, 2019 @ 8:24 am
In the case of the Tool albums, they could be considered new releases to the format since they have never been on there before. With the Kane Brown album, it had already been there for 7 months.
August 8, 2019 @ 8:59 am
As you pointed out, that version of the album hadn’t been – it came with a new song attached to it.
This tactic is nothing new. Even in the CD era, what were deluxe editions but another attempt to get people to buy/pay attention to an album, oftentimes an old one? What’s the point of a single released months after the album dropped? I just find it bizarre that you’re targeting Kane Brown for a fairly minor variation on a commonplace marketing idea.
August 8, 2019 @ 9:26 am
Yes, deluxe editions are released all the time. But as explained in the article, not only was this song addition NOT part of a deluxe addition release, the press materials accompanying it purposely labeled it as a standalone track. Also, it was released as a standalone track on other formats. Only Spotify bundled it with the album, and promoted the entire album as a new release as opposed to just the song. The release date for Kane Brown’s “Experiment” on Spotify is incorrect. This resulted in a boost of promotion and interest in the album. I don’t see this practice as “commonplace” at all, though I’m sure it’s happened before. The reason to target Kane Brown is because he’s been a party to these type of manipulations before.
August 8, 2019 @ 10:01 am
I’m not saying it’s a deluxe release; I’m saying the concept is essentially the same — new tracks tacked onto an old album to bolster sales.
And while the track was originally not supposed to be on the album, streaming has allowed for albums to be edited much more easily. See Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, or Lady Gaga’s Artpop. Kane Brown changed his mind for the sake of his marketing. There’s nothing insidious or ‘unfair’ about it.