It would be easy to call it the Beyoncé-effect. But the surprise-release strategy of Skrillex’s new album, Recess, could be attributed to unconventional releases as far back as Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero, from 2007.
Skipping the typical label procedures – traditional announcement, advertising rollout – dubstep DJ and producer Sonny Moore, professionally known as Skrillex, dropped his album without warning on March 11 through a mobile app called “Alien Ride.” Through what initially appeared to be a mobile video game app, fans unlocked 11 hidden objects throughout the app – revealing what ended up being Recess, Skrillex’s first full-length album.
It may seem a bit odd for an artist to be a releasing a “debut” album this many years into their career, but Skrillex isn’t one to work traditionally. Past EPs and projects have often been leaked through alternative forms of distribution like SoundCloud – working outside of the conventional recording industry structure. With EDM’s detractors ready to proclaim the death of dubstep and the genre altogether, Recess acts like a breath of fresh air for the genre through both the music and the method of distribution.
And the numbers don’t lie: Skrillex is seeing a large boost in numbers similar to those of a big-budgeted, label-supported campaign. Since the launch of the app on March 7, Skrillex has seen sizable percentage gains across all social platforms. He’s seen a gain of 359k new Facebook fans—up 71% from the two-week period before. Additionally, the EDM artist has seen spikes of 81% and 53% in Twitter mentions and Wikipedia views respectively—seeing major gains on Tuesday March 11 (the day after the album leak).
People aren’t just talking about Skrillex on Twitter—he’s also receiving new followers, with numbers up 48% percent. In regular Skrillex fashion, the artist uploaded Recess to his SoundCloud account on March 18, resulting in a 104% spike in SoundCloud plays. Over these two weeks, Skrillex has seen 6.2 million plays on his account—roughly 8% of his total play count.
Critics could argue Skrillex lost Atlantic Records a good chunk of money with his stunt, but his decisions fall in line with an emerging trend — the artist providing fans with a direct link to content. Regardless of the motives, early sales predictions are nothing to scoff at. Hits Daily Double is predicting Recess to open with 45-50k after full first week on sale at digital and physical retailers—a decent figure considering a typical EDM fan’s way of consumption.
Photo Credit: Brennan Schnell/Wikimedia Commons
Adam Pyarali is a data journalism intern with music analytics company Next Big Sound and A&R intern at Columbia Records. He is a student at New York University, where he is pursuing a BM in Music Business.