What have music labels figured out about posthumous albums?

In 2019-2021…plenty.

For those that don’t know, a posthumous album is an album released after the passing of a recording artist. To name a few notables, “Life After Death” by Notorious B.I.G., “The Cry Of Love” by Jimi Hendrix, Tupac, Mac Miller, Juice Wrld, the list sadly goes on. For as long as we can remember, if there is music to be released, it will be, especially if funded by outside sources.

What’s usually unique is the marketing that goes into an album for someone that is no longer here. A conversation usually uncomfortable for people to talk about, but in the music industry there are many moving parts. Someone has to mix the music, cover art, distribution, print, videos, interviews, a lot still has to be done. And these parts are always evolving.

A positive note is that many people support these albums to support the families of these artists, which I have always agreed with. But in a world of capitalism, someone was bound to find a way to profit and market in a way that has never been seen before.

A lot of these albums after an artist passing are usually songs that were meant for future projects or just didn’t make the cut in past albums. It is then put together in a new project and released. That strategy has recently changed in a few different ways.

Mac Miller was the first artist that gave me a chilling realization that these artists will live on with or without them. With a slew of music videos of animated photos of Mac Miller it just didn’t feel right. A whole project with unseen photography, videos, music, and entire merch dedicated to the album. Once again I’m all for supporting the family, but this is something we have yet to see in our lifetime so it’s still uncomfortable.

Leading into what made me want to write this is the recent passing of Pop Smoke and DMX who both have had albums released after their passing and Pop Smoke on his now 2nd album release after passing. What’s strange about that you ask? Let me tell you.

The marketing has now moved completely to social media, with constant posts and memories of the artist, lowering the cost of marketing all around. But the kicker on how labels can now gain from these albums is using old songs/recordings from these artists and featuring new artists that never set foot in the same studio or even met each other in person. This benefits greatly to those involved as the album will be played many times in the memory of the passing artist and aid the discovery of new artists.

The reasons I don’t like this new method of posthumous albums is the artists that are getting these features are very well known in the first place. They do not need the additional coverage unless, it’s a new way to cover label earnings for the artist. The next reason is that it’s un solicited marketing. Marketing that doesn’t state that it’s marketing is usually off putting and not wanted. These artists that are being featured still have to prove themselves to their fans and perform enough to gain new fans. Lastly, it’s just weird.

As I exit the stage, I’m not saying to get rid of posthumous albums. But I am saying this new method could get a lot worse. A recording artist could possibly have 100s of songs we never heard! Could we move to a time where artists no longer here are releasing 3-4 albums full of alive and healthy artists that weren’t even in their era? Possibly. Do I want to see that, absolutely not. R.I.P. doesn’t have the same meaning when the artist is still releasing music years after their passing with people they didn’t even know.