Retailers Push Back at Global Release Date

While everyone in the business appears to unanimously favor Friday as a global uniform street date, some merchants continue to push back on major label and IFPI plans to make that a reality.

In the U.K., the Entertainment Retailers Association "believes there are strong arguments in favor of adopting a global release date," ERA director general Kim Bayley said in a statement. "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."

Bayley urged major label executives to "undertake genuine economic research into the impact of the plans." Bayley put out her release in response to a meeting called by BPI -- the British Phonographic Industry, a trade group of U.K.-based record labels -- held Oct. 3 to discuss the proposed global release date.

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She said that "a Friday release date causes logistical problems and additional costs for both digital and physical retailers." Further she suggested the consumer prefers that country's current release day of Monday. Additionally, the video industry has given no indication that it would move its release date to Friday, which means that retailers will potentially have to manage two separate days.

"The only justification for a Friday release date would be if it resulted in a net increase in sales," Bayley said. "No evidence has yet been put forward that this would be the case… ERA urges the executives within the major companies who are pursuing a Global Friday Release Date to adopt a more open-minded approach and to undertake genuine economic research into the impact of their plans. If they do not, they run the risk of making a difficult trading environment for music retailers and digital services even more difficult."

But the IFPI says that in recent years two countries -- Germany and Australia -- have switched to the Friday street date and none of the potential problems cited by U.S and U.K. merchants have been experienced when the date change was implemented. The IFPI and the major labels appear to be the main force behind christening Friday as the proposed global street date. 

Sources indicate that the majors believe that having Friday as the global street date would be a plus for digital accounts. So far, individual digital music services haven't addressed this issue specifically one way or another. While Trans World Entertainment chairman Bob Higgins said he is in favor of the proposed Friday street date, another U.S. brick and mortar merchant, Target, has come out saying it prefers Tuesday. Also, U.S. indie retail and indie label groups say that while they think a global street date is a good idea, it makes much more sense to have it on Monday and Tuesday.

"My understanding is there is supporting data," says Baker & Taylor vp of music Steve Harkins. "Assuming there is, I would be anxious to see it. We are so challenged as it is as an industry, we should examine things thoroughly so we don't make any rash decisions."