Illustration by Sophia Bentley, University of Michigan

Earlier this year, Miley Cyrus released her eighth studio album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” to critical and commercial success. But since the album’s release, Cyrus has completely vanished from the public eye, raising questions about why she abandoned the traditional album cycle. Her disappearance also prompts a reevaluation of the formula for releasing and promoting music, and whether or not that process still holds value in 2023. 

When Cyrus released the first single, “Flowers,” in January 2023, it became an instant worldwide hit and topped the Billboard Hot 100 Singles for a total of eight weeks. Coinciding with the song’s release, Cyrus announced in a teaser trailer that her new album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” would be released on March 10. When she shared the cover artwork for the album on Instagram, over two million fans liked the post. 

“Endless Summer Vacation” debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 Albums and spent 19 weeks on the chart. A second single, “River,” and a Disney+ special titled “Miley Cyrus: Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions)” were released alongside the album. After these releases, Cyrus continued sharing photos on Instagram, including pictures from the album’s release party, photoshoot outtakes and clips from the Disney+ special. But as the days between posts turned into weeks, her online activity was reduced to a simple post sharing her gratitude about “Flowers” continuing to top the charts. 

In May, the music video for the third single, “Jaded,” was released to little buzz. Cyrus also graced the cover of British Vogue that month and, notably, released an Instagram statement explaining the absence of tour plans going on tour. “I simply don’t want to get ready in a locker room. Which is the reality of life on the road,” she wrote. “These looks I’ve been turnin’ don’t travel well. The archival looks don’t fold. I just don’t want to sleep on a moving bus.” 

Cyrus has not gone on tour since 2015’s short-lived “Milky Milky Milk Tour.” Her Instagram statement makes it clear that fans shouldn’t expect to see her live any time soon, bringing the “Endless Summer Vacation” era to a screeching halt. 

Cyrus’ last album, “Plastic Hearts,” was released in late 2020, in the thick of COVID-19 lockdowns. Cyrus continued to promote the album by conducting remote interviews, speaking with Jimmy Kimmel, Apple Music’s Zane Lowe and even the controversial Joe Rogan. This told fans that she was passionate about the music being released and wanted to provide her audience with a healthy amount of media attention and appearances, since live shows were out of the question. 

Traditionally, an artist gearing up for an album release makes countless television appearances, sits for radio and print interviews and does just about anything they can to get people excited for the release of new music. One contemporary artist who has mastered the art of album launches is Taylor Swift. Take the promotion for her fifth album, “1989,” for example, which included a livestreamed announcement partybrand dealstalk show appearancesmusic video releases, several singles, interviews with just about every publication you can think of and an accompanying world tour. 

For much of music’s history, artists were required (often by their record labels) to talk to everyone they could about releasing their work. Going on press tours and speaking with journalists was essentiall because there were no social media platforms. Interviews, television appearances and live performances were just as much a part of an artist’s career as their music was. The time after a project was released was used to continue the buzz for as long as possible. 

Today’s album cycle looks very different than it did even 10 years ago, thanks to the boom of new social platforms and digital media. TikTok, in particular, has already changed the way music is deemed successful and profitable. Artists have been abandoning traditional promotion tactics for years, and have even changed the way they release albums. 

“Surprise dropping” an album has become more popular than ever thanks to Beyoncé. With no announcement or promotion, fans awoke on December 13, 2013 to find the singer’s fifth studio album available for purchase on iTunes. The release of her self-titled surprise album paved the way for contemporary artists to release music online without promotion, and marked the beginning of artists leaning into digital methods to share news about their work. 

All of this begs the question of whether the album cycle is necessary anymore. The music industry was quick to adapt to the hurdles that COVID-19 presented, focusing on virtual interviews and interactive digital content to keep consumers coming back for more. Artists no longer need to travel across the country for an interview. They have limitless promotional tools at their fingertips, and the shift toward digital promotion has alleviated a sizable portion of the stress caused by intense in-person press tours. 

Though the traditional album cycle can be tiresome for artists, it encourages fans to stay excited about a project even after it has left the spotlight. For artists like Cyrus, who are uninterested in touring, the album cycle is even more valuable because it could be fans’ only opportunity to hear from the singer. Finding ways to connect with listeners outside of the studio is vital to maintaining a positive relationship with fans. While Cyrus and others should prioritize their own well-being, the value of tours, interviews and other promotions should not be overlooked.

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