It’s the Most Marketed Time of the Year for Music

So far, this has been a dismal year for record sales pretty much everywhere on the planet. Outside of Taylor Swift, there’s been little to celebrate–at least so far.

The last six weeks of the year are the most important to record labels. It’s that final push towards Christmas that accounts for a substantial percentage (I’ve heard up to 40%) of annual sales. No wonder, then, that labels of all sizes are cramming the marketplace with new albums, reissues and massive box sets.  The Irish Times takes a look at what’s going on.

[T]hose in the record sector have been working for months to make sure their releases are ready for lift-off. The labels will be ready when the great and the good wander into record shops for the first time in 12 months looking for baubles which will suffice as presents for their loved ones and in-laws.

Aside from new albums from the usual assortment of big names, you will also see rack after rack containing every sort of lavish box-set, spurious compilation and reissued masterpiece imaginable. As the weeks go by and desperation sets in, the most ludicrous of products will find a buyer.

Some may wonder why the record industry can come up trumps at this time annually, but are unable to repeat the trick at any other time of the year. There are several reasons. November and December are peak retail months, when all sorts of tat are deemed worthy of purchase and wrapping paper.

You also don’t get the same amount of high-profile releases at any other time of the year. Albums from Foo Fighters, Damien Rice, Bob Dylan, Calvin Harris, Taylor Swift and Pink Floyd are hitting the shelves with a clatter right now because the labels realise there’s more of a chance to flog thousands.

More importantly for an industry which is still unduly fixated on high mark-up objects, November and December are the months when physical sales are what truly matter. You could, of course, buy a voucher for your favourite streaming service, but that wouldn’t look as impressive as a box-set or vinyl double-album under a tree on December 25th.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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