Q4 is going to be more important than ever for physical music retail.
The sector has bounced back following the slump in sales at the height of lockdown, though it needs a strong quarter to help make up some of those lost sales during the pandemic. According to the latest market shares, physical sales accounted for 21.5% of the overall albums market last week.
Banquet Records has already given us an indie retail perspective on the big new releases in their online Q&A.
Here, Entertainment Retailers Association CEO Kim Bayley opens up about the sector’s hopes in the final quarter of a challenging year…
With the Q4 line-up up unveiled, what are the opportunities for physical retailers from these releases?
“One thing’s certain: this is a Q4 like no other. Having been out of the game for three months during lockdown, retailers are determined to claw back as many sales as they can. That’s great news for suppliers and also for artists, so many of whom are hurting because of the loss of the live business. When it comes to releases, of course it would be nice to have a new Ed Sheeran or Adele, but there’s plenty of great releases – and who’s to say there won’t be a few surprises before year-end?”
A lot of releases went back because of Covid – is Q4 potentially too crowded for retail?
“This year in particular, after all we’ve been through, it has to be a case of the more the merrier.”
Can the sector benefit from high-value release such as BTS in a gifting period?
“One of the great and welcome trends over the past years has been the growth of super-deluxe packages. We’re seeing that once again with the likes of the forthcoming 19-CD Shakin’ Stevens box. I’m not sure I knew that Shakey had even released 19 albums, but for the committed completists I am sure it will be an item to covet.”
The vinyl success story goes on and on
Vinyl sales are still increasing, can these Q4 releases maintain momentum?
“It is an incredible achievement after all that's happened this year that retailers have not only matched vinyl's 2019 sales year-to-date, but exceeded them by nearly 5%. With a fair wind – and there are some great releases out there – by the end of the year we could do even better. It's a great example of what happens when retailers get to work their magic with a product people really want. The vinyl success story goes on and on.”
Will the quarter be good for streaming consumption growth – is that changing the nature of Q4 and evening out consumption?
“Streaming's success is in danger of being taken for granted. It's worth saying that delivering year-on-year volume growth of nearly 20% in a pandemic is quite extraordinary. It's true it's not as seasonal as physical, but we're confident we can maintain growth.”
Can Q4 see chart performers released in 2019 do well, such as Lewis Capaldi and Mercury winner Michael Kiwanuka?
“Albums enjoying a second Christmas on top of the charts is nothing new, but the tendency for hot tracks to stream for longer is certainly helping extend the shelf life of albums. It’s the perfect example of how streaming and physical retail can work in a complementary way. The Lewis Capaldi album in particular has plenty of life in it yet.”
To read our full Q4 report, pick up the latest issue – or subscribers can click here.
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