National Album Day returns for its sixth edition this weekend (Saturday, October 14).
The theme for this year’s edition is ’90s music with a host of special National Album Day releases from that era.
Ambassadors include Gabrielle, Declan McKenna, Tricky, Nuno Bettencourt, Shola Ama and The Corrs.
The celebration of the long-player is organised by the BPI and ERA.
Here, Gennaro Castaldo, BPI communications director, and Megan Page, ERA head of PR, marketing & promotions, take us inside the plans for National Album Day and reflect on its cultural and commercial impact…
National Album Day is now in its sixth year - how is it establishing itself as an annual music event?
Gennaro Castaldo: “Each year NAD keeps growing in terms of awareness and profile, engagement and impact, and the most pleasing aspect is that we are seeing an increasing number of younger fans and consumers getting involved in some way, which is one of NAD’s core goals. Of course, and as we have seen with RSD, with any activity of this kind, it can take a little while to really establish it as a key part of the industry calendar, but we feel that we are well on our way. The really exciting thing is how much more potential there is to grow National Album Day – to truly make it a day when everyone who has a love of the album comes together to celebrate and promote this treasured art form.”
In 2018 NAD was launched to help support the album format at a time when some thought it was under pressure from streaming. How do you feel the event has helped focus attention on the enduring power of the long-player?
GC: “The day and build-up really helps to create a focus around the album. It obviously creates a commercial opportunity for the retail community as well as for the participating record labels and distributors that release or reissue titles to coincide with NAD. But it’s much more than that, and culturally too there is a significant focus and great profile generated for the format and the ‘brand’ of music more generally.
“We’re particularly thrilled to have the V&A involved for the first time this year – they are interviewing Goldie about his albums and the craft that went into making them. Like us, the museum sees the album as an art form – to be rightly explored and celebrated. It’s these sorts of conversations around the art of the album that are exactly the kind of activity we envisaged and are trying to enable. I also think it speaks volumes that Bowers & Wilkins, who have been such a valued audio partner, have seen NAD as the perfect association for them – amplifying their mission of music being heard as intended in the studio.”
“Finally, at a time when so many of us across the industry are preoccupied by AI – the opportunities it represents, but also the real threats if we get the approach wrong – is there anything more authentic and symbolic of human creativity than the recorded album? Viewed in this context, it surely beholds all of us to act as keepers of the flame.”
The really exciting thing is how much more potential there is to grow National Album Day
How is the ’90s theme resonating so far - has that proved to be a rich musical era in terms of the product range? Which artists have generated particular excitement?
GC: “Both the retail and labels communities seem to really value the opportunity, and of course it’s perfect for Radio 2. There has been a real focus on the decade this year, with tons of press articles as well as acclaimed books by such cultural commentators as Dylan Jones.
“The Nineties was such a richly diverse decade for music, spanning rock and pop, and dance and hip-hop, and so much more in between, and quite a few anniversaries are falling around this time, for instance Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish, which has been reissued on limited edition orange vinyl to mark its 30th anniversary. Falling soon after this summer’s amazing Wembley concerts, a lot of interest has obviously been generated. But the same could be said of releases across a range of artists, including Neneh Cherry, James, Mel C, Fatboy Slim, Leftfield, REM, S Club, Gabrielle, Garbage, Siouxsie, Paul Weller, to name just a few.”
What role do the ambassadors play - how can they contribute to the social media campaigns?
GC: “Artist ambassadors and supporters can play a fundamental role. To begin with, what better advocates of the art of the album than the artists themselves, who write, record and perform albums and tell their stories through the medium. And, of course, they help to engage media interest and coverage in press and on TV and radio as well as social media engagement in a way that we, as industry commentators, wouldn’t be able to in achieving the same reach and effect.”
RSD has been making strides on TikTok - how is NAD doing in terms of reaching users on that platform?
Megan Page: “The exciting thing about the ’90s theme is that there’s a whole new generation of music fans who might be hearing these records for the first time. So TikTok inevitably plays a key role in that in their experience of discovery. We’ll be highlighting the release list across the platform with fun content from artists and retailers including unboxing videos and competitions.”
RSD is limited to indie retail – is there more scope to open up NAD across retailers and formats? Who's supporting it this year?
MP: “Absolutely, and that’s the biggest point of difference for NAD in that it is potentially one of the only music industry initiatives that is supported across the entire retail industry. And that’s largely down to the successful collaboration of ERA and BPI members rallying together behind a cause they care about. That means NAD is celebrated in not only indies but also HMV, Amazon and of course streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, Qobuz and many more. NAD is ultimately about celebrating the art of the album as a body of work, and that’s encouraged across all formats in whichever way the consumer chooses to listen to their music.”
National Album Day is ultimately about celebrating the art of the album as a body of work, and that’s encouraged across all formats
How does the media - in particular BBC - support the initiative? What's planned for this year?
MP: “We are absolutely thrilled to have the extensive support of our official broadcast partners BBC Sounds and in particular BBC Radio 2. They really are the driving force in bringing NAD to life in a creative and compelling way across their broadcast platforms. The BBC Sounds team, led by Will Wilkin, have been instrumental in coordinating a complete ’90s takeover throughout the day on Radio 2 on October 14, as well as a run-down of the most streamed albums of the decade. It’ll be hard to miss across the BBC at the weekend which is very exciting.”
GC: “BBC Sounds have taken the day to their hearts, as it fits in so well with their mission of supporting music, and Radio 2 in particular have been enthusiastic supporters. The mammoth NAD ’90s takeover is amazing when you consider the millions of people this will reach and the sheer value of that exposure. Other activity includes a brilliant three-part BBC 2 series on the First Ladies of Hip-Hop, which coincides with NAD. And if you also add in special events in past years, including with the likes of Classic Album Sundays, The Record Club, War Child, Tim’s Listening Party, and Pitchblack Playback, then you get a sense of the extent of that focus.”
Does NAD help to bring new fans into vinyl ? What kind of market impact do you expect based on previous years?
MP: “The product list this year is really strong and retailers are really impressed with it. Obviously where the product is special and compelling it draws in music fans and has the ability to attract a new audience. Coupled with events and in-stores, it’s an opportunity for music fans to have a really fun and immersive experience in high street shops. So yes, we are definitely seeing the campaign appeal to those who might not necessarily be typical vinyl purchasers. We would also welcome more CDs from labels as we think there is still a demand for exclusive releases on the format.
“However, NAD is first and foremost a cultural event, not a commercial one, but obviously the sales impact of previous years has been a real bonus and we look forward to seeing the impact it has this year also.”