Update, March 27th: According to sources at Music Week, the IFPI have confirmed July 10th as the official start date of Global Release Day.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the non-profit organisation that represents the global recording industry, announced today that the mooted global release day is to go ahead, starting in Summer 2015. In its statement, the IFPI said:
From summer 2015, new albums and singles will be released at 00:01 local time on Fridays. Music consumers everywhere will know to look for new releases on Fridays regardless of where they are.
The IFPI cited frustration for consumers caused by differing release days around the world, and a potential reduction in piracy as reasons for the move, adding that artists, too, will benefit:
As well as helping music fans, the move will benefit artists who want to harness social media to promote their new music. It also creates the opportunity to re-ignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music.
The IFPI claims support for the move from leading retailers and industry figures. Consumers are also apparently in favour of the move – the IFPI’s consumer survey revealed that more than two thirds (68%) of those who expressed a preference said they preferred Friday or Saturday for a global release day.
Unfortunately, research in markets where Friday was already the weekly time for new music releases seems hard to come by. In Germany and Australia it’s been the day of choice for a while, and recently both markets have seen years of rising revenue and years of declining revenue. Germany has flip-flopped with the UK for the 3rd/4th spot in the revenue stakes (behind Japan and the US), while Australia is the 6th largest market. You’d think that a global move to match their setup would have a lot to say about the success they achieved, but no, instead there’s some consumer survey numbers and quotes from large retailers. Large retailers, of course, being the soul and standard-bearer for recorded music.
In October last year, Australian Music Retailers Association (AMRA) executive director Ian Harvey spoke to Billboard:
The decision to move to the Friday release date in Australia was not based on numbers and empirical evidence as Kym Bayley suggests it should be but on the belief that retailers had to meet the needs of their customers and that for those customers Friday, Saturday and Sunday are shopping days.
So that’s all good then. A belief that it’s what customers want.
It’s not what many independent trade bodies, stores, and labels want. Indeed, the larger you are as an entity in the music industry the more in favour you are of the choice of Friday for global release day. Bodies such as The Department of Record Stores, a Canadian and US representative of independent stores, favours Tuesday, with Wednesday being the next best option.
The retail theory seems to be that Friday, leading into the weekend, can be used to create buzz around new releases. That may be so, but even if new releases are first available on, say, Tuesday, come Friday surely they will still be the newest, the most exciting, the buzziest part of your stock. Who would walk out of a record store in a huff because the most prominently displayed new releases are already three days old?
It feels like someone’s been casting jealous glances over at the movie industry, with its Friday releases and opening weekend takings, and all the hoopla that surrounds it, and thought “hey, could we do this for music?”. Well, yes, but then again, no. Movies are event culture. Going to a movie is much more than just starting out Friday not having seen the film, and ending the weekend having seen the film. Music is not the same, and if you have to start driving sales entirely round creating buzz for an opening weekend, then there are bigger problems ahead than can be solved by making sure everyone can get music from one minute past midnight on a Friday morning.