It’s Q4 Week at Music Week as we look ahead to the crucial fourth quarter – this week’s issue is a bumper edition covering all the big albums. Earlier this week, Sainsbury’s revealed who they expected to rule the charts at Christmas. Now HMV music manager John Hirst, who also featured in our Big Story in the latest issue, reveals who he thinks will be the Q4 contenders.
How is Q4 shaping up?
It’s definitely stronger than last year, there are a few big returning contemporary artists so I think it’s going to be less reliant on the heritage [acts] – the grey pound, the gifting market. Obviously the gifting market is huge but it’s great to have a few contemporary releases in there as well to broaden the scope. It felt like last year was so reliant on grey-pound gifting that maybe the younger demographics weren’t particularly catered to by the music market. It definitely feels – with Taylor Swift and Sam Smith coming back – there’s a bit more there this year. There will be a strong streaming element to Taylor Swift and Sam Smith, but you can’t wrap up a stream.
Ball & Boe are also back after scoring the biggest-selling release of 2016…
It’s a good job they were there, Ball & Boe and The Stones. Ball & Boe was a terrific result but in a normal year it would have been Top 5 rather than No.1. We really hope that there’s a decent new release that can do a million copies in Q4, and I think we’ve got a couple of contenders to do that this year.
The gifting market is huge but it’s great to have a few contemporary releases in there to broaden the scope
John Hirst, HMV
As well as Sam Smith and Taylor Swift, who else will finish big?
There’s Ball & Boe 2 [Together Again], I think that’s still a Top 5 record. The Elton John best of to celebrate his 70th. There’s the new Elvis project which is a Christmas album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The new Paloma Faith album is shaping up very nicely. Pink is [in contention for] Top 10 at Christmas. Ed sheeran’s going to be in the running for No 1 – I think it’s probably going to be between him and Sam Smith, and then Rag’N’Bone man as well, don’t underestimate that.
How successful can the Taylor Swift album be in Q4?
What I really want to see is a big crossover single next. The two singles have both been aimed at quite a young demographic so far. I think there’s potential for that record to be absolutely enormous.
What other plans does HMV have for Q4?
I guess one of the big differences for us this year is how much we’ll be backing vinyl. Our space for vinyl has quadrupled in the last two years and one of the big things for this year is we’ll be dedicating some serious front-of-store space for vinyl as a gifting proposition.