Opinion: Why the music biz is right to resist Black Friday

Opinion: Why the music biz is right to resist Black Friday

Happy Black Friday, y’all! Hope you all have a nice day of, um, going to work as normal as you don’t have the day off because this isn’t America and Thanksgiving isn’t a thing.

Yes, it’s an eternal mystery how any UK retailers/consumers got sucked into the Black Friday phenomenon – a US tradition that sees everyone work off their turkey overload by hitting the shops i.e. a slightly rubbish version of Boxing Day – in the first place. But while any event that boosts footfall is to be welcomed, it’s also heartening to see most British music retailers resisting the temptation to join in with their American cousins. 

Yes, Amazon has a few deals that smartly draw attention to its multi-platform music offer (and will no doubt tempt shoppers to spend some money on their other verticals). But, in the physical world, while it makes sense for electronics shops and department stores to discount some old stock to get people through the door, music – especially in these days of the long, long tail – is increasingly back to being a year-round product. The three biggest first weeks of the year so far all came in Q1. Physical album prices seem to have, if anything, crept up slightly this year (at least for new releases) so any downward pressure on price is to be resisted, especially when blockbusters like Taylor Swift’s Reputation, Sam Smith’s The Thrill Of It All and Ball & Boe’s Together Again have only just hit the shops.

What is notable is that streaming services are again using Black Friday to push cut-price subscriptions. Partly this seems to be a way to cut in on the burgeoning retail action during the gifting season, which inevitably favours physical items. But, again, you wonder what psychological effect such deep discounting might have on the perception of music’s value. For those of us whose minds are still blown by the concept of listening to anything and everything you like for less than a tenner a month, 99p for three months is such incredible value-for-money it verges on the ridiculous.

You wonder what psychological effect discounting has on the perception of music’s value

Mark Sutherland

Of course, getting the curious to sample a new product makes sense, especially one as game-changing as most streaming services. And, if those bargain-hunters turn into committed, £10-a-month punters it’ll all be worth all 99 pennies. But while streaming services are happy to regularly throw out global subscriber headline numbers, they never reveal how many are actually paying the full subscription price. MW sources say the numbers would be an awful lot lower if all discounted plans were, well, discounted, suggesting a generation could grow up believing music is cheaper than chips (I’d happily sign up to an all-the-chips-you-can-eat plan for £9.99 a month, by the way, if Harry Ramsden is reading this).

So by all means pop down to the shops on this Black Friday, dodge the brawling telly buyers and proudly pay full price for that album your Nan/kid brother wants for Christmas. We may not be American but goshdarnit to heck, there’s still plenty to give thanks for.

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