Here’s the state of play in the debate over whether the music industry should shift to a unified global release date: everyone seems in favour, it’s just that they’d like the chosen day of the week to be the one that’s already used in their country.
Monday? Tuesday? Friday? The arguments are only just beginning, it seems, with retailers keen to ensure that their views take a prominent role in the debate.
Yesterday, the UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association had its say, in a statement carefully worded to criticise major labels rather than industry bodies the BPI and IFPI.
“It seems apparent that a decision to impose a worldwide Friday release date for music is being pushed through by the international headquarters of the major record labels regardless of any input from retailers and digital services in the UK, US or elsewhere,” claimed ERA director general Kim Bayley.
“ERA believes there are strong arguments in favour of adopting a Global Release Date. However, it is incumbent on those proposing the change to make a robust assessment of the costs and benefits of choosing any particular day of the week. Unfortunately those promoting this plan are giving the impression that they are set on selecting Friday regardless of any evidence.”
ERA’s problem with Friday is the potential costs of “restocking and correction of metadata issues” ahead of the busy weekend period, with the body calling for more economic research before a day is chosen. These are valid concerns – in an industry where sales rather than streams are still the engine of the recorded music market in most countries.
Yet it’s fair to wonder whether the current debate will date swiftly as the industry continues its transition from ownership to access, and from coordinated retail-focused marketing campaigns to music discovery based around streaming promotions, curated playlists and careful communication with fanbases.
Thom Yorke’s new album blasted onto BitTorrent on a Friday. Beyoncé’s surprise iTunes release also dropped on a Friday. Avicii’s new single debuted on Spotify on a Friday (wait, we’re seeing a pattern here…)
Small artists can put new music up on Bandcamp whenever they like and promote it to their mailing lists. Streaming playlists – whether curated by labels, artists or external tastemakers – ping notifications to their followers whenever new music is added. In short, there’s a new music marketing ecosystem emerging that doesn’t depend on a particular day of the week.
It’s not a reason to avoid setting a unified global release date – however intense the wrangling is to choose it – but as time goes on, it’s likely to be a reason for individual labels and artists to consider whether they need to stick to it for their digital releases.