While the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is moving ahead with plans to establish a global new release street date that would see all new releases coming out on Friday, U.S. opposition to moving it from the long-established Tuesday release is mounting.
In addition to independent record store coalitions, who were the first to publicly oppose such a move, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the U.S. independent label organization, and Target, the giant discounter, are also publicly opposing a Friday street date. The Entertainment Retailers Assn. wants to see research on why Friday would be beneficial before it weighs in on the topic, says a spokesman for the trade group. And sources say that the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), which represents indie labels around the globe, also have concerns about the Friday street date, but the organization hadn't respond to an e-mail at press time.
Those organizations and companies all endorse the concept of a global street date -- where new releases would come out the same day in all countries around the world -- just not the one chosen by the IFPA, the RIAA and the heads of the major labels.
The IFPI's conference call, held today (Sept. 15), focused on the plan for switching to Friday, and the proposed day is moving forward, despite U.S. retail opposition to that day. The conference call included a mixture of organizations representing record companies, retailers, international musician unions. Other than some U.S. retailers and WIN, most organizations are in favor of Friday, sources who were on the conference call tell Billboard.
"The proposal is for Friday because, taking all factors into account, Friday brings the most benefits overall for the industry at a global level," according to a IFPI spokesman Alex Jacob, who e-mailed Billboard on the Friday before the conference call today. "The key benefits include higher consumer footfall and online traffic levels over the weekend period, as well as increased social media activity which can help create a buzz around new releases and increased willingness to spend."
Yet the Tuesday street date used in the U.S. has been in place for a couple of decades. Since the music industry began the concept of releasing new records on the same day, other entertainment software industries -- books, DVDs, and video games -- have adopted Tuesday as the day to issue their new titles as well. So in the U.S., consumers know that Tuesday is the day to go to stores for new releases, making it the third largest sales volume day of the week, after Friday and Saturday.
"We completely support -- and want to help -- the music industry's effort to fight piracy, and we are 100% aligned for a global street date... but we think that the current Tuesday street date works best," says Target spokeswoman Jill Hornbacher. "It aligns with all the other entertainment properties in North America. Our guests have come to know that they can find new movies, new music and video games on that day. Tuesday is the day that helps us provide the best experience for our guests."
A2IM also favors keeping Tuesday as the street date. "Our position is that we favor a Global Street Date for the social media/digital commerce but we favor a date earlier in the week, preferably the same date as DVD’s, games, and books as they generate physical retail store traffic and result in less logistical challenges," A2IM head Rich Bengloff wrote in a note emailed to other industry leaders. "The issue is what day of the week and the proposed Friday street date has received a very poor reaction from our members."
The Entertainment Retailers Assn. welcomes a global street date, at least in principle. "We believe it is incumbent on anyone proposing the change to Friday to demonstrate why that day is the optimum choice," a spokesman for the trade group tells Billboard.
Prior to the conference call, IFPI's Jacob noted that the objections of U.S. retail would be discussed. "It’s worth adding that two of the world’s top ten markets -- Germany in 2005 and Australia in 2006 -- have already smoothly and successfully moved to a Friday," Jacob wrote to Billboard. "Some other smaller markets have also made the transition, such as the Czech Republic last year which switched from Monday, and the [industry in those countries] do not report any of the problems being flagged by [U.S.] retailers."
The move to a global street date is aimed at fighting piracy. With multiple street dates around the world -- Friday in Australia and Germany; Monday in the U.K. and Tuesday in the U.S. -- records released on Friday are put up on the internet immediately, making it easier for music fans in other markets to make unauthorized copies rather than buy the records when they come out on Monday or Tuesday. So a move to a Friday street date would make music commercially available in all markets on the same day.
The Department of Record Stores, one of the indie coalitions behind Record Store Day, were the first to contest the idea of a Friday street date. They say the Tuesday street date allows for errors in shipping and ordering. If an order gets lost in transit, or if a record turns out to be bigger than expected, the Friday street date leaves no room for errors, and if errors do occur it could lead to lost sales and impact customer relations. Meanwhile, the Tuesday street date gives stores time to restock for the weekend, if a record unexpectedly explodes upon its release.
The Friday release date will hurt in-stores as well, according to an email sent to industry executives by Michael Kurtz, who heads up the indie retail coalition, Department of Record Stores. "Artists and promoters are comfortable doing events on Tuesday -- or most days not on or near the weekend -- as it does not compete with their weekend concerts/shows -- which are the artist and promoters’ bread and butter," Kurtz wrote. "If the street date is moved to Friday then artist street date events will stop." Kurtz also noted that "stores who do a healthy online business say that most of the orders they receive are during working hours. No one can understand why a street date would be picked [Friday] that is followed by 48 hours [Saturday and Sunday] when most customers are not at work, and thus more are away from the computers and less likely to purchase music online. Again, this will lead to lost sales."
Other sources say lost sales are not the only concern; there will be increased costs associated with such a switch. "Those charged with looking at the logistics on the ground about the proposed change, are concluding there will be huge costs in moving it to a Friday street date," one source tells Billboard. "This sounds like its coming from the top of companies and organizations. The closer that anyone is to the logistics, they think its a mess."
In addition to record labels and retailers, the IFPI also expects that the chart weeks will change in conjunction with a move to the Friday street date. Currently, the Nielsen SoundScan week runs from Monday through Sunday.