This Saturday (October 10) National Album Day (NAD) returns for its third edition.
The first year to boast a theme – the 1980s – and exclusive releases for the day, with pandemic restrictions the event celebrating the cultural status of the LP has undergone some significant evolution in 2020.
Organiser Megan Page tells Music Week what we can expect this year, plus discuses her plans for the future of annual LP celebration.
How successful has National Album Day been so far?
"Given this is only our third Album Day event it has exceeded so many expectations and really created a moment for itself in the music calendar. I think this is ultimately down to the entire industry coming together to support a common cause– from artists, record labels, retailers, streaming services, the BBC and national media – it’s a testament to what can be achieved as an industry if we put our mind to it. We’ve had some great ambassador support – Lewis Capaldi, Mark Ronson and Mahalia – special releases including Elbow’s unskippable CD, an album artwork exhibition in Network Rail stations, specialist programming across BBC networks, being a trending topic across multiple social media platforms, hundreds of events in record stores across the country – the list could go on! We’ve achieved a lot in a short space of time."
What are your hopes for this year?
"It goes without saying that it’s been a horrible year for the music industry. Album Day comes at a time when the music industry really needs a boost. We’ve seen that there’s still a huge appetite from the general public for physical product from recent Record Store Day events and so this is an opportunity to replicate that across the entire industry. Culturally, it’s an important opportunity to celebrate all that we love about music, lift the nation’s spirits and instil a bit of fun into what has been a hard year."
How can NAD help footfall in record shops given the challenges of the Covid-19 situation?
"In previous years record shops have gone above and beyond with Album Day celebrations by hosting in-stores, album listening parties, Q&As, signings etc and this was naturally a great way to bring people into physical stores. Given the COVID situation that’s now just not possible. Instead, this is the first year that labels have introduced a great selection of around 50 limited edition vinyl and CD titles to support physical retailers and to drive sales in-store and online from artists like The Specials, Dire Straits, Sade and Talk Talk."
It’s our biggest year yet in terms of industry participation
Megan Page, ERA
Do you have anything planned to replace the public events of previous year?
"Naturally, we’ve had to refocus our efforts and move towards virtual activities and this is where having a partner like BBC Sounds really comes into its own. BBC Radio 2 will effectively be turned into National Album Day FM on Saturday 10th Oct with a full day of Album Day celebrations including playing 80s album tracks from 8am til midnight. Their support also culminates in a national vote for the nation’s favourite 80s album – which we hear is close to breaking a BBC poll record! There is, of course, lots of other coverage being planned across the BBC radio networks and outside of this there are album live streams in the works, a NAD Tim’s Twitter Listening Party special, an Ultimate Album Quiz in association with Classic Album Sundays and lots more. We’ll also be launching a social media campaign called #MyAlbumEscape which will encourage fans to share with their followers the albums that have helped them get through lockdown this year."
What's the level of participation with shops, streaming services and labels?
"It’s our biggest year yet in terms of industry participation – from hundreds of indie record shops, HMV, Amazon and supermarkets – in fact, we are delighted that all four major supermarkets will be supporting Album Day in-store with front of house towers and prominent branding. On top of this we are also thrilled that ERA’s digital members including Spotify, Deezer, Google, Soundcloud, 7digital and Amazon Music are supporting the event across the weekend too."
Why have you picked a 1980s theme this year?
"It’s a happy coincidence, but this year we have seen an influx of contemporary artists influenced by the 80s including The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Roisin Murphy and the 1975 and we wanted to home in on a theme that could appeal to and transcend generations. Whilst we have classic 80s ambassadors such as Billy Ocean, Jazzie B and Toyah Wilcox we have also enlisted Blossoms, La Roux and Ward Thomas who appeal to a broader and younger demographic. Having a theme gives the event a clear narrative, a strong hook for media and a focus for product."
Is the focus of the event still format-agnostic, open to physical and streaming formats?
"Absolutely – obviously indie record stores and HMV are the natural home of the physical album and so play a huge role in Album Day’s celebrations. But the beauty of this campaign is that it spans all retailers and champions the evolution of the album and all the different ways music fans can now engage with it. Despite the shift to playlist culture over the last few years we know that the album is still so important to artists, music fans and subsequently to streaming services too."
Will an era-based or genre-based approach continue in future years?
"It’s certainly something we’re looking at if all goes well this year as it allows us to really explore the rich cultural heritage of albums past and present. There are so many decades, genres and themes we could explore – perhaps we should put it to a public vote!"
What impact can NAD have in sales terms and media coverage?
"We have always said that Album Day is not just about generating sales but creating a cultural moment that reflects the nation’s love of albums. Any commercial impact off the back of that is, of course, a bonus but not our primary goal. I see Album Day as a long-term initiative that grows and evolves each year, much like Record Store Day which is now in its 13th year, and will be a platform for artists, retailers and labels to use for many years to come."
Get the latest edition of Music Week for a full preview on this year's National Album Day, including interviews with ambassadors Toyah Willcox and Ward Thomas.