What music looks like in Tesco right now

Friday March 16, 2012

What music looks like in Tesco right now

Earlier this week Digital Music News posted a story 'This is what the music section now looks like at Walmart' showing how in a Walmart outlet just outside Austin, Texas music had shrunk to one small island unit in a sea of LCD TVs.

By coincidence I passed by Tesco in Hackney, east London that very day and decided to check how music is doing in there.

And this is what entertainment looks like in Tesco right now, just one metre for games, video and music…

And in case you missed it, the music "department" is just that bottom shelf…


What it contained was one Emeli Sande CD, three Lana del Reys, one Essential Whitney, three Bruno Mars, five Now 80s and - hidden behind the Nows - two Rihannas, a grand total of 15 CDs.

Now the Hackney store is by no means the biggest Tesco in the country and no doubt many Tesco outlets carry a much broader selection, but it should come as a chilling wake-up call to those who doubt how fragile music's position is right now in the nation's supermarkets.

Last year CDs accounted for 80% of the albums market and supermarkets accounted for around a third of that - roughly 26% of the albums market overall.

Tesco entertainment director Rob Salter has made it clear in recent years that music has been in the last chance saloon. It is labour intensive to stock, margins are low and and an anachronistic returns system means unsold product is expensively re-packed and returned to labels often just to be destroyed.

Tesco's space allocation to music had already halved in three years. If the Hackney store is any indication, that process is continuing.

Salter has urged labels to do more to make music a more attractive proposition both to consumers - and to retailers. The standard vanilla CD simply doesn't cut it any more, he says. He has suggested a number of options, most notably bundling some digital rights with the CD, allowing the disc to act as a bridge for currently physical-only music fans to move into the digital world.

So far his words do not seem to have been heeded.

It's not a problem for Tesco. There are many other things it can sell with far higher margins. It's not a problem for other retailers. Some of them may well benefit in the short-term.

Those really set to suffer are the labels and artists. The fewer places there are to buy music, the less music will be sold.

Salter believes the answer is in the labels's hands. But the message from Tesco Hackney seems to be that no one's really listening.

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