Kim Bayley writes for Record of the day on 10 years of entertainment retailing
Ten years of Record of the Day has witnessed ten of the most
tumultuous years in the history of music retailing. Kim Bayley, Director General of the Entertainment Retailers Association – herself celebrating ten years at the organisation – says retailers have been not only the victims of change, but some of its most enthusiastic exponents…
The other day I came face to face with the extent of the changes
inflicted on music retailing by the past decade and it wasn't
We had been clearing out ERA's Bournemouth office preparing for
our move to Soho Square, and I came across a long forgotten
folder. It contained notices of administration informing us
of members who had gone bust- Woolworths, Zavvi, Music Zone and
Fopp. A whole tranche of wholesalers like THE and S Gold & Sons
had disappeared. Needless to say there were a lot of indies in
Those notices of administration have gone to the shredder like
the businesses whose demise they recorded and it set me to thinking
that although it is rarely acknowledged by those on the supply side
of the music industry - the artists, managers, record companies,
music publishers - it is actually retailers, far more than any
other sector, who has borne the brunt of the past decade's
It is almost certainly the case that more jobs have been lost in
music retailing than in the rest of the industry combined.
Notwithstanding Universal's takeover of EMI, the record business
is in broadly the same shape with broadly the same players and
certainly led by some of the same people who were there a decade
ago. In contrast, retailing is barely recognisable.
In 2002 specialists headed by HMV and Virgin accounted for 50%
of the album market, so-called multiples (Woolies, W.H. Smith and
Boots - all now out of music ) had just under 20%, with
supermarkets on 15% and the internet accounting for just 6%.
These days over 20% of the albums market is accounted for by
downloads, and the physical market is split pretty much evenly
between supermarkets, home delivery and specialists.
It is a dramatic transformation which has turned a business
which was dominated by domestic retailers into one in which the
share of US companies is well over 40%.
On this reading the past decade has been disastrous for music
retailing. There is a lot to complain about.
And yet it is important to remember that retailers themselves
have been agents of this change.
Amazon is a retailer. iTunes is a retailer. 24/7 Entertainment
is a retailer. Omnifone and 7Digital are white label
retailers. New players in the market retail services as well
as products. We are proud to have Spotify, Deezer, We7 and Rdio -
virtually the entire UK streaming market as ERA members.
These companies are redefining not just what it is you do when
you buy music, they are redefining music retailing itself.
And of course that spirit of innovation is not restricted to the
digital domain. Last week's ERA AGM heard presentations of HMV's
new MyHMV service which is based on the in-store use of WiFi and of
Tribeka's Disc on Demand service which is dramatically increasing
the range of titles which can be stocked in physical stores.
Meanwhile independent retailers who many had written off for
dead have revitalised themselves by uniting together to create
probably the most successful new consumer promotion for music of
the past decade, Record Store Day.
So the truth is that retailers are not just adapting to a
changing retail landscape, they are agents of that change.
No one expects gratitude in this business. But it is undoubtedly
true that the supply side of the music industry has much to
be grateful for in the way the retail sector has stepped up
to the challenge of the internet.
It is retailers' technological savvy, their spirit of innovation
and entrepreneurialism which more than anything has helped the
record business survive the past decade.
One thing which unfortunately has not changed over this period
is the lack of interest in the health of retailing on the supply
side of our industry. Whether it be lop-sided release schedules
which dump all of the key releases into a tiny pre-Christmas
window, or over-complex licensing processes, particularly on the
music publishing side, there is still far too
much of a like-it-or-lump-it approach on the part of
The danger as music becomes more and more the preserve of
generalist retailers - just another item in the shopping basket
whether physical or digital- is that the terms of trade and margins
available from music will be compared more and more with those in
other product categories - and found wanting.
My hope for the next decade is that music suppliers learn to
treasure their retailers and see them for what they are - the best
and most efficient route to the consumer,
Kim Bayley is Director General of the Entertainment Retailers