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Retailers criticise record industry’s release bunching

By | Published on Monday 23 July 2012


The record industry’s tendency to bunch all the big releases into short windows during the year is getting worse, say the music retailers, and that’s not good for the record stores or the labels.

Or at least that was the sentiment expressed to The Independent last week, which has been chatting to music retail types after various industry commentators remarked on the fact that, after a quiet start to the year release wise, major new albums from Muse, The Killers, Mumford & Sons,, The xx and The Pet Shop Boys will all be unleashed in September.

While labels will point to stats that show how certain release dates are more effective, certainly if the aim is maximum sales in a short time period (actually, officially they’ll probably tell you albums are just released once artists have them ready, but that’s not really true), the retailers reckon that when various big albums all get released at the same time consumers on a budget will choose just one, when, had the records been scattered over the year, they might have bought several.

Of course, even if, ultimately, any consumer likely to buy an album will do so whatever, even if it means buying three new records in one go, that’s still bad news for retailers, who rely on customers impulse buying other crap once in store. If music fans can get all the new releases they desire in one sitting, rather than three, that’s less crap-buying opportunities, which will further hit the profits of those retailers struggling on the high street.

HMV’s John Hirst told The Independent: “For six years we’ve been pushing the message to record labels [to spread out their releases], but this [the September 2012 flurry] is the worst example we’ve ever had. In the current climate, people aren’t going to buy three albums in one day. You end up cannibalising sales. Probably four of these albums should do 100,000 sales [in the first week], but one of them will probably sell 100,000 and the rest will underperform”.

The retailers also noted that one of the most successful albums of recent years, Adele’s ’21’, was released in January, usually a very quite period for big pop releases, and wondered whether that helped with that record’s success.