Chart Beat

IFPI CEO Frances Moore Talks Global Release Day: 'People Have to Accept Change'

Frances Moore

Frances Moore 

"You're not going to please all the people all the time," says IFPI CEO Frances Moore on the subject of instilling a global release day for new music. "But we hope that eventually everybody will look back and realise that this was a good move and that the consumer is asking for this."

Following today's confirmation that the recording industry has decided upon Friday as being the global street date for album and single releases, Billboard sat down with Moore at IFPI's London headquarters to discuss the long-expected, but not universally welcomed, adjustment that comes into place this summer.

"There is only good in this for the consumer, and there is only good in this for the artist," says Moore as she outlines the arguments for one of the biggest recent changes in music retail, and answers some of the criticisms.

Billboard: The move towards introducing a global release day has drawn a varied response over the past 12-18 months. What do you consider the key argument for aligning release dates on a global basis?

Frances Moore: Global release day is something that has been a long time coming. Some of the retailers in the U.K. told me that they first started talking about this around 10 years ago. But we have reached a point in the last year or so that it was no longer something that would be nice to do. It really became necessary to do. When an artist declares on social media that their music is available to buy and it's not [in certain countries], then we are creating a window where fans can't get the music they want, so they go to pirate sites. To quote Paul McGowan [chief executive of HMV owners Hilco Capital], we need to have new music on the street when the fans are on the street.

What were the determining factors in picking Friday at the global street date?

It's the heaviest footfall in stores. Having done analysis over the past year there is an uplift towards the weekend that we can really build on. That uplift has been estimated in the region of 3% across the industry and at a time when we're pushing new models and, as an industry, doing what we can to survive in a very difficult environment, 3% uplift is something worth fighting for. We choose Friday in order to satisfy some of the logistic problems that have been raised with us. But also because that way you get the Friday lift and then the Saturday lift. You're essentially getting the best of both worlds.
Do you believe that uplift will predominantly benefit digital or physical?

We have calculated it across both. There has been some suggestion that this move will benefit digital more than physical, but there's no evidence of that. If you take Germany, they already have a Friday release date and they have a very, very resilient physical market. There is no evidence that this will benefit digital more than physical. If anything, artists are talking about doing more in-store to create a sense of occasion around new releases in a way that doesn't happen at present, so it should help physical be more resilient. 

The consultation process for global release day has been going on for quite some while. What are some of the biggest obstacles and opposition that you faced?

There is almost unanimous support for a global release date. Virtually everyone you ask thinks this is something we should have done a long time ago. But when we say: 'Okay. Which day? It's always: 'Don't change me. Change everyone else.' So there is an element of persuasion and pushing involved to get people to change that mind-set and to go to the day that consumers are indicating is best for them. Not simply have the situation of: 'I've always had that day, so I'm sticking to it.' The biggest challenge for us was getting people to understand that if they were going to deliver a global release date, somebody was going to have to accept change.

And how about the challenges going forward?

There are some other challenges that we have to face, but they are not insurmountable. For example, we have to align the charts. The distribution systems have now got a period until the summer to bring all the systems into line. And we have got to do branding so that the consumer knows. Those are the three big areas. There will be further obstacles along the way, but I have never known a project that doesn't have obstacles that you have got to surmount.

Certain retailers and retail associations have been among the most outspoken critics of switching release dates in their individual markets. Are those views representative of the sector as a whole? 

There have been many countries where it's been a question of: 'Just tell us when to go?' And then we've had some issues, for example, in the U.S. and U.K., where there was the belief that we have already got the ideal date -- Monday in the U.K. and Tuesday in the U.S. Funnily enough, in our consumer surveys Monday and Tuesday were seen as the worst days. But the retailers were convinced that Monday and Tuesday was where it should be. So there has been some work to be done there. I'm not saying that everyone is unanimously happy that it's Friday. Some of the U.S. industry, in particular, have spoken out in the past saying that the change for them was problematic. You are not going to please all the people all the time. But we hope that eventually everybody will look back and realise that this was a good move and that the consumer is asking for this.

Have all the majors and independents got behind this switch?

We have the full support of all the majors and all of IFPI's independents are on board. There are a number of independents within the AIM organisation who have said that they want to [wait and] follow the retailers. The retailers have said to us: 'Whatever date you go for, we'll accept.' So we assume that means that most people have come on board.

At the start of this week Beggars Group founder and CEO Martin Mills criticised the move towards establishing Friday as a global release date on the grounds that doing so threw "away one of the trading week's two peaks." What do you say in response?

We've done four different pieces of analysis and we haven't identified a double spike. The idea that you have large sales at the weekend and then on a Monday a consumer goes specifically into a shop to buy new music -- we haven't managed to identify that spike. But that point was made by Martin and I think there is an element of just getting used to a new date.

In the past 12 months, big name artists like Beyoncé and more recently Drake have jettisoned domestic release dates and put out albums on days of their own choosing. Do you see that pattern continuing and does it harm the launch of a global release day?

There's no legislation behind this. It's a voluntary agreement, so if somebody decides to go ahead and release their album [on a different day], there's nothing to stop them. There will be an alignment on a Friday for the most part, but it is not written in stone that it has to be then. This is an agreement to align, but if somebody decides not to, there is nothing that we can do about it.

The switch to a Friday has huge ramifications for chart companies around the world. What has been their preference throughout the consultation process?

They have been involved in the consultation, but they were not centre to it, and their attitude has been more along the lines of: 'If we have to do this by the summer, deliver to us what we need to know.' But there's not been any big problems. 

What about the artist response? Have they largely been in favour of the change?

In general when speaking to artists, they have been the most supportive. They want that sense of excitement back. They want that sense of occasion. For them, it's this idea of reigniting the excitement around music, rather than the logistics of getting [product] in stores. The weekends are when they do a lot of their gigs and they want to be able to say: 'My music is out today.' One of them also made the point that they often have the big TV opportunities on a Friday or Saturday night. There is only good in this for the consumer and there is only good in this for the artist.