(AFP) – The music industry has announced an agreement to release albums globally on Fridays, ending divergences among regions that have fueled piracy in an age of instant music.
Key groups representing music retailers, record companies and artists said that they would coordinate album releases to go out everywhere each Friday at one minute past midnight local time.
Thursday’s decision, after nine months of consultation, is expected to go into effect by summer in the Northern Hemisphere, said Frances Moore, chief executive officer of the music industry’s global body IFPI.
“What is absolutely clear is that there is nearly unanimous agreement that a global release date is a good thing,” Moore told AFP.
Under longstanding traditions, albums are generally released on Monday in Britain and France, Tuesday in the United States, Wednesday in Japan and Friday in Australia and Germany.
The variations have looked increasingly anachronistic amid the rapid growth of digital downloading and more recently streaming, contributing to a black market for albums already out in one region.
Moore said that a global release date would help bring more excitement to the industry.
“Let’s say Daft Punk, for example, makes an announcement saying that their album’s out today, but it’s in America and it’s not until Friday in Germany. There is a three- or four-day gap.
“As a consumer, you can’t find it, even though the artist says it’s out there. So now they won’t have to go looking on a pirate site — we are focusing them on the legitimate market,” she said.
London-based IFPI, which stands for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said it had consulted with the International Federation of Musicians, which represents global unions, as well as leading retailers and streaming services including Spotify.
– Still opposition –
One source of opposition have been independent retailers in the United States, the world’s largest music market, who have supported a global release date but not on Friday.
US retailers generally chose Tuesday as it would otherwise be a slow day, and it offers ample time for albums to arrive over the weekend.
In recent years, artists including Beyonce and Madonna have also suddenly released albums without warning, either in response to leaks or sometimes to avoid them.
Moore said that the Friday plan enjoyed broad support but that there would be no legal ramifications for anyone who insists on another day.
“There could be an artist or individual producer who decides at some point they’re not going on that day… but there is a clear majority in favor of doing this, and I think eventually it will be aligned,” she said.
– New source of growth? –
The music industry has witnessed turmoil since albums started going digital some 15 years ago.
Global music revenue fell 3.9 percent to $15 billion in 2013, according to IFPI, although the drop was led by Japan – where physical album sales overwhelmingly dominate the market — and digital sales grew in parts of the West.
Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents US-based labels and distributors, said that a global release on Friday will be “good for fans and good for the business.”
“Geographic lines are often irrelevant to digital marketing strategies and fans’ expectations of instant access to their favorite music,” Sherman said in a statement.
Paul McGowan, chief executive of Hilco Capital which owns Britain’s largest music retailer HMV, voiced enthusiasm about shifting to Friday releases due to the flow of shoppers.
“Quite simply, new music should hit the high street when people hit the street,” he said in a statement.