The release of Kanye West’s new album, The Life of Pablo, is a testament to the enduring relevance of record albums even as people buy fewer of them year after year. Albums no longer possess any of the commercial power they once had. But they can create tent pole moments that generate awareness for an artist and support other commercial endeavors.
The Kanye formula for an album release combines Kanye’s penchant for creating controversy and cultural relevance with some confusion tossed in for good measure. It looks something like this:
- Months before the release date, stoke interest by leaving hints on social media that you’re going to drop some new music, even giving your new album a name, So Help Me God. Keep leaving hints on Twitter but don’t release any music, thus inspiring news articles such as “So Help Us God: Where’s Kanye West’s New Album?“
- Collaborate with a music giant and a hot star on a single to remind everyone that you exist, as he did when he created “FourFiveSeconds” with Paul McCartney and Rihanna
- In case no one noticed your single, draw attention to yourself by annoying Western Civilization with an ungracious remark about a popular Grammy Award winner. Break the Internet in the process.
- Continue to remind the world of your relevance by appearing at a major music festival, as he did by performing at the Glastonbury Festival. Surely Kanye was pleased that 135,000 people signed a petition against his appearance. You must be doing something right to generate that kind of reaction when you haven’t released new music in a few years.
- Keep your name and pending album in play by distracting, breaking, and confusing the Internet with the launch of a presidential bid.