Bayley on: 25

Friday November 27, 2015

Thoughts on a stellar week for music retailers

It was a week when UK entertainment retailers simply got on with what they do best: selling entertainment, and literally in truckloads.

From up and down the country this week the ERA office has heard reports of the quite extraordinary demand for Adele's25.

And while the headlines have been dominated by25 overtaking NSYNC's 1991 US week one sales record forNo Strings Attached, UK retailers have delivered a similar feat: by Wednesday this week Adele overtook Oasis andBe Here Now which in 1997 scored the biggest week one sale of any album in the modern era.

There has been much focus on the decision of Adele and her label XL to withhold the album from streaming services, but by definition we cannot know what might have happened if25 had been available on streaming services. One thing is for sure, however: this week represents a ringing endorsement for the power of the ownership model and for physical formats in particular.

And in a sense what is most remarkable is how, after years of the record industry focusing (or so it seemed) exclusively on digital formats, the "old model" has apparently run like clockwork.

Apart from a few quibbles from individual retailers unable to get their hands on the much-coveted vinyl edition of25, there has been nary a hitch. One leading supermarket reports that in terms of a major release "the25 campaign has set a new gold standard".

 Much of the credit of course must go to Adele's label XL, but it is true to say that retailers have really pulled out all the stops from pre-order campaigns (Amazon reported that the title generated its biggest presale yet) to price offers through to digital stores offering high quality FLAC formats.

 After a period when the music industry has resigned itself to monetising an ever-declining number of music lovers, the overwhelming response from the public has been a welcome reminder of the ability of great music to cut through to a mass market. Quite simply, quality will out.

 And how fitting too that it took an artist who famously once worked at one of the UK's best indie record shops, Rough Trade, to produce such an album. 

So thank you, Adele. Thank you, XL. And thank you Britain's entertainment retailers, both digital and physical, for reminding us just how good a job you can do with the right product.

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