Gut reaction and an unswerving conviction that you are right may
be an admirable trait in an A&R man, but it fails to cut the
mustard in the more pragmatic commercial business of music
That's the key to ERA's objections to the major record
company-sponsored plan to enforce a worldwide Friday release date
from next Summer.
Our view is that the numbers simply don't add up.
When news first leaked of the plan to adopt a Global Release Day
a couple of months ago, retailers and digital services were
With national release days currently spread through the week, it
is certainly the case that this encourages short-term piracy.
Pirate networks on theworldwideweb are by definition global so
standardising on a single day seemed like a smart opportunistic
move which could potentially help sales.
Full marks, major record companies.
But our enthusiasm soon waned when we heard that the chosen day
was Friday. The objections focused on the impact on sales and the
impact on costs.
On sales, the UK's current release day, Monday, provides a real
boost at an otherwise quiet time of the week. In fact Monday is
currently second only to Saturday for sales. Inevitably it
generates not just sales of new releases, but impulse buys too.
Moving to Friday would not only kill this Monday sales boost, it
would likely lose those add-on sales, raising questions over
whether many stores would bother opening on Mondays at all.
On costs, the picture was even bleaker. An early week release
date gives time for restocking ahead of the weekend rush. Move to a
Friday and retailers could be faced with an unappealing choice
between being out of stock or paying expensive surcharges for
On the basis that we anticipated that retailers arguing for the
status quo would simply be dismissed as traditionalists, we decided
to commission research to determine precisely what the costs - and
any potential sales uplift - resulting from a switch to Friday
might be. We polled our members both physical and digital. We
modelled sales effects over every retailer type. We even
commissioned consumer research to check the preference of music
fans and of those who expressed a preference, most opted for
Monday. (To be fair, a BPI survey showed music fans backing Friday,
but in both cases the vast majority of consumers had no preference
On costs, our research was clear: taking additional staff and
delivery costs into account, a switch to Friday would need to
generate a minimum of £8m in additional retail sales a year just
for retailers to break even ie in a market which is clearly falling
we would need an increase of £8m just to stand still (and that's
without the additional costs to the record companies themselves
which would inevitably be passed on to retail).
On sales the evidence is inevitably more speculative. IFPI
commissioned research suggested a move to Friday would result in an
overall increase in UK recorded music sales of around 4%. Sounds
good, but that is equivalent to week one sales of every new release
over the course of the year increasing by a third. It would be
lovely if it were true, but it does not seem likely.
Intriguingly the IFPI numbers suggested that 95% of the benefit
of switching to a Global Release Day would still be achieved on a
Monday compared with a Friday.
For us it's a no brainer: if we can capture 95% of the benefit
with none of the costs, why would anyone even consider a Friday?
Adding risk and cost for a minimal benefit just doesn't make
And that's why we have taken the position we have. It's not
based on "gut feel" or "conviction" - just plain hard fact.
If there is to be a Global Release Day, an early week release
really does make more sense. The fact that US retailers are
prepared to abandon their time-honored Tuesday release date for
Monday only serves to reinforce the point.
Retailers have no problem conceding that on matters creative, on
matters A&R, record companies are far more qualified to make
the call. But when it comes to what's best for retail, what's best
for the consumer and what's best ultimately for sales, we really do
know our stuff.