Australia’s entertainment retail trade association has weighed in on the debate surrounding the IFPI-sanctioned global release date. Friday, according to the Australian Music Retailers Association (AMRA), is good for business. And the Aussies have history on the subject.
In the U.K., the Entertainment Retailers Assn’s (ERA) director general Kim Bayley put a handbrake on their members charging toward a Friday release date when she recently urged major label executives to "undertake genuine economic research into the impact of the plans.” Those promoting the plan, she said were “giving the impression that they are set on selecting Friday regardless of any evidence."
The Australian record industry switched to Friday release dates back in early 2006. At the time, AMRA championed the change and worked with the distributors represented by labels trade body ARIA to achieve a smooth change-over from what was, at the time, a Sunday release by retailers.
The move “made sense for the Australian industry then and it makes sense for the global industry now,” says AMRA executive director Ian Harvey. “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.”
The move to Friday releases, which was driven by retailers Down Under, seemed only sensible, Harvey tells Billboard. "Why wouldn’t you have your most attractive, most in demand product available in store when consumers are actually shopping?"
The shift to a Friday release date was a relatively painless one, Harvey recalls. And the issue of costs and logistics were "non-issues." He explains, "We picked the smallest sales week of the year to make the change (mid/late January) and we prepared at both record company and record store level over the previous six months. No one complained, no one said there were increased costs, no one baulked at the idea because there were logistical issues and the implementation went off without a hitch."
Australia is a top 10 market with a strong culture for domestic content, a digital market that’s making strides forward and, for a long time, a buoyant CD albums business. Like elsewhere, spend on CD longplayers is diminishing while revenue from digital formats begins to take off.
While the IFPI and the major music companies are pushing ahead with making the Friday release date a global reality, an anti-Friday coalition has made some noise on the subject. 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 certainly weren't the last. 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, Billboard reported last month.
"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 at the time. Her comments were echoed by A2IM head Rich Bengloff, who wrote: "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."
Eight years on, AMRA chairman George Papadopoulos, who serves as GM of Australia's Leading Edge Music, Video and Books divisions, says the move to a Friday release date in Australia was the right call. “The weekends, from Friday night onwards, are Australian music retail’s busiest time and it makes sense to have the new product releases consumers want in stores and ready for sale when they are out shopping. If we don’t have it, then they won’t wait and will just go elsewhere. Strong pre-orders for some products make it even more important to put the customer front and centre."
The IFPI confirmed in mid-August a range of stakeholders from across the music industry were discussing the implementation of a global release day for new albums and singles by next summer.
Currently, music product is released on different days in different countries. In the U.K. the release day is a Monday, while it has been a Tuesday in the U.S. for some decades. In Germany, Friday is the big day. Australia’s Friday release sometimes gifts its music buyers an early window on major titles. When AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust arrives, it’ll hit Australia on Nov. 28, while fans in North America will have to wait until Dec. 2. In today’s digital world, “it makes sense to review this situation,” the IFPI has said.