National Album Day 2021: Megan Page, Lorna Clarke and Helen Thomas on celebrating women in music

National Album Day 2021: Megan Page, Lorna Clarke and Helen Thomas on celebrating women in music

Executives have spoken to Music Week about their ambitions for this year’s National Album Day.

The annual celebration of the long-player takes place on Saturday, October 16, and this fourth edition will focus on the achievements of women, including the integral role of artists, songwriters and producers. 

Women are also leading the organisation of this year’s National Album Day, including Megan Page of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) and Casandra Strauss of the BPI.

“We often hear about the challenges for women in the industry,” said Megan Page, NAD coordinator. “This is an opportunity to shine a light and celebrate the contribution that women artists have made to the album format. That’s something which really resonates with a lot of people, both on the inside of the industry and at a consumer level. A lot of artists are keen to get involved and celebrate this year.”

Ambassadors on board include Kylie Minogue, Sharleen Spiteri, Joy Crookes, Laura Mvula and Ray BLK. 

 It follows the impact of women at this year’s BRIT Awards, including Little Mix’s historic first ever victory for a female act in the British Group category, as well as equal representation in the Mercury Prize

Almost 50 special NAD vinyl and CD editions have been lined up by majors and indies, including releases by Patti Smith, Solange, Roisin Murphy, Haim and Billie Holiday. 

As with Record Store Day’s exclusives, Page is hopeful of a chart impact.

“That would be amazing,” she said. “There’s a really compelling list of releases, which I’m sure will be in high demand and will hopefully appear in the charts.  

“But it’s not just about sales, it’s about creating a conversation, bringing women artists into record stores and celebrating albums in local communities, as well as the superstar artist ambassadors and amazing products on the list.”

The easing of Covid restrictions means that events and in-stores can take place this year.

Classic Album Sundays is behind exclusive audiophile listening events, supported by Bowers & Wilkins. Sharleen Spiteri joined Classic Album Sundays founder Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday (October 12) to discuss her favourite women in music. On Thursday (October 14), Murphy will be joined by Carroll Thompson at the British Library to discuss the story of Lovers Rock and her classic album Hopelessly in Love, which is being reissued for National Album Day. 

When National Album Day launched in 2018 as a format-agnostic promotion, there were fears that the long-player was coming under growing pressure from track-based streaming. But the album has endured, with vinyl sales up by 35.8% in the first half of 2021.

“Lockdown might have played a role in that as well,” said Page. “We’ve seen vinyl sales surge again over the last 12 to 18 months. Music has been really powerful and important for a lot of people.” 

National Album Day 2020 contributed to a 24% week-on-week increase in sales on the day and 112,000 weekly vinyl units – the fourth biggest of the year for the format.

National Album Day includes partnerships with DSPs such as Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer.

This year’s National Album Day is a great opportunity for us to continue to celebrate female artists

Lorna Clarke

Page said that the BBC has been an “amazing” media partner in helping to establish the event with the public.

“It’s gone from strength to strength,” she said. “Anecdotally, we hear from retailers that it’s now recognised by their own customers as a key event in the calendar, much like the Record Store Day or the Mercury Prize. The BBC has played a massive role in amplifying National Album Day.” 

In support of this year’s theme of celebrating women in music,, Radio 2 is dedicating the whole day to album tracks by women. From 6am to midnight, there will be an all-female playlist from Sounds Of The 60s all the way through to Craig Charles’ House Party, with guests on the shows, plus a special show - The Official All-Time Female Artists Album Chart, presented by Jo Whiley (1pm-3pm).

Additional coverage for National Album Day will air across Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, 6 Music, Asian Network, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.  

Lorna Clarke, Controller, BBC pop, said: “I’m very proud that the BBC will be supporting National Album Day once again this year, with coverage spanning TV, radio and online. The stories that albums can tell and the journeys they take listeners on remain as important as ever to artists and fans alike. This year’s National Album Day theme, Celebrating Women In Music, is a great opportunity for us to continue to celebrate female artists. It’s something that has always been important to us, as can be seen by our recent programmes such as Paloma Faith: As I Am (BBC Two), Billie Eilish: Up Close (BBC One), The Queens of Pop: Viva La Diva (BBC Two) and Reclaiming Amy (BBC Two), 6 Music Artist in Residence series presented by Arlo Parks, Beabadoobee and St. Vincent and Spice Up Your Life - 25 Years of Girl Power on Radio 2 - to name but a few. 

“This year has seen some impressive releases in the UK from our women in music as the Mercury Prize 2021 shortlist can testify, with Laura Mvula’s Pink Noise, Arlo Parks’ [winning album] Collapsed in Sunbeams, Hannah Peel's Fir Wave, Celeste’s Not Your Muse and Nubya Garcia’s Source all nominated this year. Radio 2 will be dedicating its entire playlist to female artists throughout the day, whilst BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer will be celebrating with a selection of special programmes and gems from the archive. There will be something for all audiences across the board.” 

Radio 2’s support for National Album Day follows the station’s victory at the Music Week Awards.

Helen Thomas, head of BBC Radio 2, said: “I’m delighted that we are celebrating National Album Day with a day of music from female artists. Across 18 hours of programming, listeners will be able to enjoy over 200 hit singles and lesser known album tracks from the world’s most popular songstresses, from timeless legends such as Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald, modern icons such as Madonna and Spice Girls, through to present day pop queens including Beyonce and Dua Lipa.” 

Page suggested that National Album Day can help to maintain momentum for gender diversity in music.

“There have been huge strides made by the industry in recent years with regards to calling out inequality,” she said. “Hopefully, this year’s theme will play a role in ensuring that we keep going in the right direction.”

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