Now that artists have taken to delivering their new material suddenly, whipping away a blanket of silence to reveal the masterwork beneath, fans are having to develop coping strategies. Conflicting feelings can arise, questions need answering - what is going on? When can I hear it? What if I don't like it? What does everyone else think? - and fast.
Fraser McAlpine has formulated six common emotional reactions over the course of a sudden music arrival, illustrating the madness using tweets about recent releases by Beyoncé, Radiohead, Kanye West, The Stone Roses and Rihanna.
Stage 1: The wait
It starts with an ache. Your favourite artist has been awfully quiet for the last couple of years, presumably plotting some kind of masterwork, but there's also that niggling fear that they've either been snoozing on the job or worse, run out of ideas. So while there may be rumours and hints about what the next release may be called (Rihanna, for example, announced a world tour called Anti long before the album of the same name) it would just be nice to know what is what, because no one likes being caught on the hop.
But my word, the anticipation is hard to bear...
Stage 2: What's that in the distance...? Could it be...?
Then, all of a sudden, there's a hint that something may be about to happen, like lemons (the official fruit of The Stone Roses) appearing on walls in major cities. At this point fans and critics alike are united in trying to work out what is going on from the scantest of clues. Just before releasing the video to Burn the Witch, Radiohead deleted all of their social media feeds, in a kind of deliberate intake of breath before speaking, and it captivated eager fans before the first proper clues started to arrive. Even before that, they had sent out an old-fashioned paper mailout with this enigmatic message on it.
Cue a flurry of web articles with questioning titles like "Could this be the new Radiohead album cover?" (answer: of course it could, anything is possible) or "Is Beyoncé about to Beyoncé the sequel to Beyoncé?" (answer: Beyoncé shadow of a doubt).
Stage 3: It's coming! It's coming!!
And then, the announcement arrives. There's a thing, a definite thing and it is on the way. This period can last a few seconds or a few days, but the feelings are much the same: you need to be ready. If there are still leftover clues and puzzles to solve (after some Twitter to-and-fro, Kanye West's album title was trailed as TLOP, prompting a lot of guessing as to what the letters may stand for) then at least that will pass the time while you work out how to deal with what is about to happen.
Of course, that increasing tension gets worse the closer you get to the big reveal.
Stage 4: Alert the town, it has ARRIVED!
This is it, a time of total panic in which society divides into three groups. In the first group, you're not a fan and you've got jokes to tell (see next stage for details); in the second, you're a fan and you've got there first and you can't wait to tell everyone about it...
...but in the third, you're a fan and you can't get to hear the new music with everyone else and you're freaking out because they'll all spoil it for you with their "first listen" reviews and their suffocating air of "I've heard it already, I am great" and oh my word what if I don't like it, but of course I'll like it because I love [favourite artist] whatever they do and... (etc)
Stage 5: Behold, the haters
Social media is largely Newtonian in principle, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and in this case that reaction largely consists of people scratching their heads in wonder at other people's fun. It can come from disappointment, or an urge to say something cutting, but just as the wave of excitement breaks, there's the sucking drag of people (and animals) who are simply not feeling it.
And to make matters worse (or better, depending on your point of view) some people are clearly just using the opportunity to comically air a previously-held grudge.
Stage 6: Unleash the snark
By now there are arguments breaking out left and right. Superfans who won't have a word said against the new album are going toe-to-Twitter-toe with both snarky former fans and passers-by who really can't see what all the fuss is about. And if the album is a big enough deal there are all the newspaper editorials and reviews to contend with too. It's an avalanche of sharp commentary.
But once everyone has had their say, shouted at at few people, blocked a few others, it takes very little time before we're back to normal, waiting for the next big surprise and indulging in a little mild pop star ribbing here and there, just for fun.