Where did the term "album drop" originate?

My educated guess has always been that the term originated from the term “drop shipment”. Items delivered directly from the vendor to the retailer. Most media (cds, dvds, video games) that have a street date are delivered this way. Other normally stocked titles are replenished by the retailers central warehouse.
So when someone asked “When will U2’s new CD be available?” a clerk might answer “They will be drop shipped here on Tuesday.”
Artists later picked up on this and started the whole “My new album is dropping on July 7th.”

This has always just been my best guess but nobody has ever challenged it or found a better explanation. Is there another explanation?

My assumption was that the term “record drop” as a release date came from back when you actually had records on turntables, and once one record was over, the next on the spindle would “drop” on to the platter and start playing. Thus, you can’t listen to the album until it “drops.” From there it’s a short step to appropriating the term to mean “album release.”

This is my theory, and I am sticking to it, despite the fact that I have no facts to back me up… :slight_smile:

I worked in record stores for about five or six years, in three different parts of the US, and don’t recall this term being used at all. Is it recent?

We used it a lot at BestBuy throughout the 90s and SamGoody before they closed up. Stormcrow’s explanation sounds completely plausible though.

I first heard the term used by rap artists to describe their upcoming releases starting maybe in the late 90’s. To my mind this reinforces my explanation, as records (for scartching, for beats, etc) are a huge part of rap music even in the days of CD’s.

Hmm, same time period as me. But different chains.

Reviving a zombie. Googled “etymology of album dropping,” and landed here. I thought of a line from “The Seed 2.0” by The Roots:

Apparently “dropping” is a normal part of the pregnancy/birthing process, but in the lyrics above it seems to refer to simply being born. Is this perhaps the meaning in which “drop” is being used WRT music albums, i.e. bringing an album into the world?

Alternatively, there is the beat drop, a term that’s been around since the 1970s:

Might this be the spirt in which “drop” is used to describe the release of an album, i.e. “after the momentum build, the pitch rising, the tension mounting, bigger, louder, until suddenly — the drop”?

I never heard “drop” used to refer to the release of a song or album earlier than two or three years ago. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

Perhaps inspired by The Gap Band’s 1982 hit "You dropped a bomb on me’. Replace the word “girl” with “band” in those lyrics, and it could be seen as the hoped for fan’s reaction to the new album. Also, musical artists fly around in planes, metaphorically bombers, “rocking” with sound waves, like shock waves, their fans. It may also originate with the phrase “drop the mic(rophone)”, which a singer might do after a particularly stellar performance.

Releasing something has long been called “dropping”.

One source for that is aerial bombardment which first occurred in any volume during WWI. The act of releasing a bomb was/is called dropping a bomb. Which, of course, moves it out into the public. The only difference between a bomb and a song is how happy people are to be dropped on.

From there releasing almost anything came to be termed dropping. e.g. “On Wed we’re going to drop that software update.” Meaning release it to the public to be uploaded by users.

I thought it had to do with record players that had stacking spindles, which dropped the next record down after the previous one finished playing. I think the usage is way older than the examples offered. But I don’t have an OED to check.

This is what I thought it was referring to.

Yes, they were record changers.

I did a newspaper search for “album drop.” The oldest hit I found was in a column by Chuck Arnold of the Philadelphia Daily News who wrote on Sept. 16, 1993 that “new albums drop like leaves in the fall.”

That seems to be a random metaphor, however, as the term doesn’t appear again for seven years, until David Bauder of the Associated Press wrote on June 4, 2000, referring to Kid Rock:

The use of quotes around drop indicate that it was a jargon term unfamiliar to readers.

The next hit is from the same paper on July 14, 2001, when Tonya Jackson wrote in a syndicated piece about the album Introducing the Roots that:

It pops up again later that year in a column by Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer, on Sept. 7, 2001. She was quoting singer Macy Gray. At the MTV Video Music Awards:

And Kyle Munson wrote on Dec. 27, 2001 that “Lone Star Ridaz’ drops Jan. 22.”

Looks to me that the term was being used in rap circles by around 2000 and became something writers could refer to and expect readers to understand in 2001. That sounds right to my ear.

Thanks, Exapno! Earlier than I would have guessed, but not by too much.

There are a couple of issues with this hypothesis:
[li]That’s not really what drop shipment means - it usually refers to delivery direct from warehouse to consumer, with the vendor never handling the goods.[/li][li]Shipment/delivery date and release date are not the same thing - it’s not at all unusual for entertainment media to be delivered to stores in advance of release date, with strict contractual instructions not to put on display until the appointed time (the boxes often used to be sealed with specially printed tape that made the release date constraint really clear.[/li][/ul]


I’ve never heard of anything but an album (and now, software) being “dropped” (in the sense of being released for public consumption).

Are there any known references to other things (like books or movies) being dropped?

Can you point to an instance of use that predates what Exapno Mapcase found?

If “drop” originated with WWII aerial bombardment, I would have expected it to come into widespread use within a decade or two after the war.

If “drop” originated with vinyl records being dropped on a turntable as some in this thread have suggested, I similarly would have expected the term to have been popular long before 2000 - a time when vinyl records where still being used only by a handful of luddite audiophiles.

Not the earliest, but in 2001 Macy Gray famously (pretty well covered by the existing media of the time) wore a dress to the MTV VMAs (MTV was still heavily playing videos at this time) that said “My album drops Sept 18, 2001” That was 16 years ago. I recall rappers saying “buy my album when it drops” or “my album drops (such and such date)” around this time and earlier. I would assume, but could be wrong, that a lot of pre-release hype in general came after Soundscan in 1991 when first week album sales became more important.

[SIZE=“1”]My feeling is, the term “Dropped a Record” which as I understand it to replace; "release a record, does not have a natural origin or has morphed in implied meaning from “drop ship” to indicate what past generations used “release”, as in a movie, video, book, record et al.

This term is the current generations desire to alter the language. It’s been said that; “Whoever controls the language controls the culture”! If you buy into this philosophical concept, it’s the current generations attempt to have a lasting effect on our culture. Much in the same way past generations influenced contemporary language with lasting language gems like: cool & right on. [/SIZE]

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