Indie Record Stores Explain Why a Global Album Release Day Is a Bad Idea

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A few weeks back, it was announced that the record industry had decided that from August, all albums around the globe will be released on Fridays. Well, some of the record industry had decided. For independent record stores in North America and the UK, though, the shift from Mondays and Tuesdays, respectively, doesn’t make much sense. “Friday and Saturday are your busy days anyway,” says Josh Madell, cofounder of Other Music, one of lower Manhattan’s last great indie record stores. “Why concentrate everything at the end of the week?”

As previously reported, the industry’s reasoning has little to do with the brick and mortar indie shops, and everything to do with our digital age. Albums being released different days across the globe encourages piracy, or so it’s said.

Mike Sniper — founder of the Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, which also operates a well-curated retail shop — suggests otherwise, as have others on the indie label side of things. “I don’t think it’ll help with piracy, because those leaks happen way too far in advance and really have nothing to do — good or bad — with physical sale dates,” Sniper says. “You kinda deflate excitement in all that when every label and artist is desperately trying to get a free stream out there via someplace like NPR.”

“Music fans live in the digital world today,” wrote Frances Moore, head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). “Their love for new music doesn’t recognize national borders. They want music when it’s available on the internet — not when it’s ready to be released in their country. An aligned global release day puts an end to the frustration of not being able to access releases in their country when the music is available in another country.”

As Pete Guylas, owner of Cleveland gem Blue Arrow Records, tells me, “Since the majority of music sales no longer take place in brick and mortar establishments, my guess is that the pull of Amazon probably had something to do with this change.”

With the decision focused on increasing digital sales, Flavorwire checked in with some of best and biggest indie record stores in America and England — Rough Trade, Amoeba, Reckless Records, and Other Music — to see what they make of Friday as a global release day. As nearly all told me, the big concern becomes restocking for the weekend should a new album sell out on Friday. Read on for their thoughts.

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Marc Weinstein, founder/co-owner of Amoeba Music // L.A., San Francisco, Berkeley

“[This is] another example of us indie/’brick and mortar’ [stores] having to adapt to the increasingly dominant rules created by Wall Street giants who’d just as soon see us all go away. They write the new rules regardless of the history.

We will have big challenges properly restocking hot items when we discover we need more on release day. We’ll basically have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to get many of those items back in. Our entire machine is geared towards Tuesday new release day. Those mid-week sales have historically been very important to us, and we had time to restock for the weekend. Oh, well, no more of that.

The fantastic array of in-store performances associated with new releases are fairly easy to accommodate on a Tuesday, but not so on a Friday, obviously. We may well be passing on some great opportunities for new release celebrations and live in-stores because Friday is a very challenging day to pack the store with fans, as it is such a busy day.

Basically this is a huge inconvenience for all indie stores, and represents another ‘hit’ by the new powers-that-be in this business. We absolutely hate it, frankly. [There’s] nothing good about it in our world or our customers’ worlds. [It’s] just a way for the big boys to make more money.”

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Nigel House, cofounder/co-owner of Rough Trade // London, NYC

“We are fine with a global release day, but Friday is definitely the wrong day for indies — both retail and labels. Monday is a much better day; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are busy days already, and so Monday is a great day to start the week with new products and promotions in the shops. A Monday/Tuesday release date gives the industry two bites at the apple — one that drives consumers to stores and digital storefronts at an otherwise quiet time of the week — and then again at the high-traffic weekend period. It’s easier and cheaper to get restocks in — and manage digital customer support for glitches —during the working week than it would be over the weekend.

I can only see that Friday will benefit supermarkets. Their customers can pick up a new CD with their weekly shop. They haven’t exactly supported music in the past. And a global chart is inevitable now, which is surely for the benefit of the aptly named Universal.

It is easier to get part time staff in for weekends than it is for midweek, which is now where we would need those extra people. For Rough Trade, we have regular release day in-stores — Mondays/Tuesdays are perfect for this, since a lot of artists are booked for weekends.”

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Josh Madell, cofounder of Other Music // NYC

“In the most basic way, it [a global release day] makes sense, especially in the digital age where we are all so connected; on the other hand, considering the infinite changes we’ve seen in the industry over the last decade, this seems like it’s besides the point. Records do leak sometimes, but if you still buy physical LPs and CDs, you can’t exactly mail order from Australia just because their release is a few days before ours. If you listen to music digitally, illegal downloading will obviously continue. For folks who don’t steal music, everything is moving towards streaming anyway.

I guess it’s not a huge deal, titles that have strict street dates tend to be shipped a few days or a week early, so they don’t all come into the store the day before release. But we already are busy on Thursday and Friday setting up for the weekend, so any extra work on Friday is not ideal, unless it truly leads to more sales — and I’m pretty skeptical that this change will make any real difference in overall sales.”

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Dave Hofer, buyer at Reckless Records // Chicago

“The problem with Friday street dates for record stores is that it strips us of our ability to adequately prepare for the weekends, our busiest days. As it stands, the Tuesday release date allows us the flexibility to restock hot titles between their release date and weekends.

Since new release orders are due anywhere from two to five weeks prior to any given street date (not including huge titles like Bjork or Faith No More, which can be solicited months in advance), our buyers can only predict so much.

A Friday release date will push back restock orders on hot titles until the following Monday, and provided these orders can ship the same Monday — which might be doubtful if every store is trying to get in orders the same day — stores will be lucky to have restocks a full week after an album’s release, unless we want to pay for two-day or overnight shipping which we all know is not cheap.

Let’s say that restocks arrive to our stores on a Thursday or Friday of the week following an album’s release. Now, we’re already onto the next release date, the customer has had to wait a week and the cycle starts anew.

If labels want to start giving us complimentary Saturday shipping, that would help but only if we could get the orders in early afternoon on Friday, which still allows for very little time to determine what we’d need.

Another disturbing aspect of this is how majors like Sony made this switch without even consulting their own distribution arm (RED).”

 

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