The Weird Politics of Kanye’s Album Release Strategy
12/20/2016 by Dylan James Harper
Kanye is a weird dude. Always has been, likely always will be. Our Editor in Chief Michael Payton already dealt with his bizarre meeting with Donald Trump, but I wanted to revisit the strange release of his latest album Life of Pablo. Not the content of the album itself (which features some gems but is on the whole probably his worst offering yet), but the way in which Kanye released it, and the politics of the post-release alterations of a creative product in general.
For those who don’t recall, or only know Kanye through is unfortunate recent impact on culture, his release of his latest album was delayed for sometime, literally over a year from the original intended release date. That happens all the time, the creative process can be exhausting, but what was interesting is that, after it was finally released, Kanye decided to essentially un-release, and rerelease it later with some changes to the album. Thanks to digital streaming services, the main outlet for Kanye’s music, this didn’t really have a negative impact on consumers. It’s not as if there was a physical product people had purchased that now was different than the product Kanye intended to deliver to his audience. This is the main reason I didn’t bother writing about this, it didn’t seem that impactful, until recently when the much anticipated video game Final Fantasy XV was released.
Upon release of the latest installment in the tent pole series for publisher Square Enix, many criticized the poor storytelling, and lazy plot development. The game, and indeed all games in the Final Fantasy series, use the story as a key selling point to players. Some players felt somewhat cheated that the game, which had been delayed from its original release date as well, had shortchanged players in terms of story. Square Enix took what many considered a noble route and decided to add story elements onto the game, free of charge. Again, the impact seemed small and not worth writing about, until I watched a discussion of the issue from game journalist Jim Sterling (http://bit.ly/2hZ4O64), who states that his concern is that the practice of adding on something as essential as a quality story to video games after consumers have already paid becomes commonplace.
This isn’t exclusive to music or video games, with recent failed DC Comic film adaptations Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad both answered their horrendous reviews with director’s cuts, which of course could be purchased along with the original poorly reviewed movie on as part of an expensive blu ray package. With video games and now music taking similar routes, it seems like this practice might indeed become commonplace, and eventually the fact these additions and updates are free will seem like a distant memory, because companies will sell something, anything, if they feel people might pay for it, even if the entire medium has been based around offering that same product for free up until that point (consider multiplayer video games online, which was free, until it wasn’t).
This might seem like a minor, even speculative issue, but the effort of modern day publishers and individuals to monetize every aspect of a product, instead of just the product itself, seems to be the antithesis of the technology drive future many dreamed of. While an increase in technology has made many things far more accessible than they used to be, companies have been quick to change their profit model to make sure they capitalize on every aspect of product.
Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
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