Friday Global Release Day? Australia’s in Love

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 10.14.14 in News

Listeners are moving closer to a time when music might start getting released on Fridays worldwide, but not everyone is saying “TGIF.”

Albums typically become available on Tuesday in the United States, on Monday in the United Kingdom and various days in other countries. But by next summer all territories could start selling new music on the same day of the week. U.S. independent labels and record stores have supported a uniform global street date but oppose Friday, saying it’s bad for business (see Why Friday Shouldn’t Become the Global Release Date for New Music).

Now, a national music industry organization with experience of a Friday release day has spoken up in favor of the idea. Australia has used a Friday street date since early 2006, shifting from what had been a Sunday release. According to the Australian Music Retailers Association, what works Down Under should work in the rest of the world, too.

The switch to Friday “made sense for the Australian industry then and it makes sense for the global industry now,” AMRA executive director Ian Harvey told Billboard. Harvey added that the decision was based “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.”

Harvey noted that the shift didn’t cause too many headaches. The change took place during the lowest-selling week of the year and came after six months of prepping by record labels and stores. “No one complained, no one said there were increased costs, no one balked at the idea because there were logistical issues and the implementation went off without a hitch,” he’s quoted as saying.

The prospective move to a global street date was announced in August by a group representing the worldwide music industry, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The organization said Friday was the day under discussion.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the U.S. music biz, has spoken in favor of a universal street date but has so far stopped short of officially endorsing a certain day of the week.

“There’s a strong consensus for a singular global release date,” RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy tells Wondering Sound, in an email response to questions. “It’s good for fans and it’s good for the business. More than ever, the music industry has become global, and we represent international companies marketing international acts in multiple markets. Geographic lines are often irrelevant to digital marketing strategies and fans’ expectations of instant access to their favorite music.”

Lamy acknowledges Friday is the probable day and, though he doesn’t explicitly back the idea, points out that the industry must adapt.

“Based on an assessment of a variety of factors across markets, Friday has been identified as the optimum global date,” he continues. “There are different release days in different markets around the world, and as important as the U.S. market may be, we are but one of many markets that have to be taken into account in implementing a global strategy. A conversation with key stakeholders across the music community has begun. Change is never easy, but if there is one thing that we have learned over the last decade, it is that we must embrace it and relentlessly innovate and approach issues with fresh perspectives.”

British retailers are among the latest to raise questions about a Friday street date. The Entertainment Retailers Association, a U.K. trade group, issued a statement earlier this month calling for “a robust assessment of the costs and benefits” before the industry settles on a certain day of the week.

“A Friday release date will undoubtedly cause logistical problems and additional costs for both digital and physical retailers,” said Kim Bayley, the organization’s executive director, in the statement. “The only justification for a Friday release date would be if it resulted in a net increase in sales. No evidence has yet been put forward that this would be the case.”

U.K. music sellers aren’t alone in their concerns. The Department of Record Stores, a trade group run by Record Store Day co-founder Michael Kurtz, has warned that Friday is the worst possible choice for a global street date. The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) — which represents many prominent U.S. indie labels — has said it supports a universal release day but considers Tuesday a better pick.

One argument for a Tuesday street date is that it gives record sellers two chances, once with diehard fans who go on release day and again on Friday after more casual fans get their paychecks. Critics of a Friday release day also point to difficulties getting restocked over the weekend. Then there’s the fact that, at least in the United States, a Friday street date would put the music business in direct competition with the deep-pocketed movie industry.

Opposition to Friday goes beyond the indie realm. A Target rep recently told Billboard, “We completely support — and want to help — the music industry’s effort to fight piracy, and we are 100 percent aligned for a global street date … but we think that the current Tuesday street date works best.”

In an apparent coincidence, several major U.S. releases this fall have been set for Monday, as opposed to the norm of Tuesday. U2‘s Songs of Innocence officially became available in stores on Monday, October 13. Pink Floyd‘s The Endless River and Foo Fighters‘ Sonic Highways are both due out on Monday, November 10. Taylor Swift‘s 1989 is set for Monday, October 27.

The flurry of day-early releases probably doesn’t signal a stealth attack for a universal Monday street date. “This really happens more often than people realize,” Record Store Day co-founder Carrie Colliton tells Wondering Sound, in an email response to questions. “Usually it happens when a major artist’s label/distribution decides to get a ‘jump’ on the week, and make a Monday street date decision — hoping to make it an ‘event.’ Of course, as soon as it’s announced, everyone else shifts to Monday, too.”

In conclusion: Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day. Every other day of the week may or may not be fine, depending on which music-biz trade group you ask. One Friday release day almost all relevant parties can probably get behind is November 28, when Record Store Day celebrates “Back to Black Friday.”