In our final Q&A, David Athey, HMV’s head of music and technology, gives his verdict on the Q4 line-up and discusses the enduring appeal of physical music…
With the Q4 line-up up unveiled, what are the opportunities for physical sales with these releases, particularly from the likes of Sam Smith, AC/DC and Gary Barlow?
“Seeing the Q4 line up take shape over the last few weeks has felt really encouraging. Since HMV and Fopp stores reopened, the music category has performed well above expectations both in-store and online, showing that the market for physical product remains robust, especially with regards to vinyl. New releases from Sam Smith, Gary Barlow and AC/DC, all of which have huge fanbase demand, should prove to be big hits with Christmas shoppers.”
A lot of releases went back because of covid – is Q4 potentially too crowded for retail?
“It’s certainly not too crowded, and having exciting new releases to talk about each Friday should mean we have a brilliant Christmas season.”
Are there opportunities for HMV with high-value releases such as BTS?
“The opportunity around higher value products is only growing, with BTS proving to be a great example. We had huge success with the release of Map Of The Soul 7 earlier in the year as we were able to tap into their incredible Army fanbase. We had a great pre-order set up, and launch day brought so many of the fans together that it felt like a real event. The stores fully engaged with celebrating the release with the fans. As a physical retailer, we can do that very well, and it’s brilliant to have new product from them this quarter. Increasingly, we’re seeing artists with big fanbases such as BTS drive merchandise sales, and we’ve tailored our stores so that we can offer fans not just the standard album release, but expanded limited editions as well as a more complete range of product.”
New releases from Sam Smith, Gary Barlow and AC/DC, all of which have huge fanbase demand, should prove to be big hits with Christmas shoppers
Vinyl sales are still increasing, can these Q4 releases maintain momentum for HMV?
“Vinyl sales remain very strong for HMV, both online and instore, and we’ve been seeing music fans who are new to vinyl browsing stores since lockdown, or using the services we’ve put in place since reopening to ensure shopper safety such as Ring & Reserve and List & Leave. There are some great new releases this Q4 that will keep vinyl front and centre, with the likes of AC/DC and Nick Cave, recent releases from The Killers and Bon Jovi yet to come on vinyl, and limited editions from Kylie and Little Mix will do well.
“There are also some great deluxe vinyl reissues this quarter, including Prince's Sign O The Times, Tom Petty's WildFlowers, U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, Pink Floyd's Delicate Sound Of Thunder and the best of and rarities collections from John Lennon, Style Council and Elton John.”
Do physical albums have a longer life now thanks to streaming? Can Q4 see chart performers released in 2019 do well, such as Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Mercury winner Michael Kiwanuka?
“I'm not sure you can attribute streaming as the sole reason behind the longevity of certain album, although we recognise that a lot of music buyers will use streaming to try before they buy. However, history is packed with albums that have remained at the top of the bestseller lists for months and months; they take on a life of their own and their quality and appeal continues to reach more and more people.”
Newer acts are also busy in Q4. Are you optimistic about the debut by Beabadoobee and the LP from Yungblud?
“We’re really interested to see how the Yungblud album fares; he should do very well in the physical market and there are a lot of product options out there to pre-order. I love what I've heard of the Beabadoobee album and the release date early in the quarter gives it a real chance to break through before the more established big hitters start coming.”
To read Music Week’s full Q4 report, subscribers can click here.
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