One thing we Brits excel at is albums. The LP format may have started life on the other side of the pond 75 years ago (with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on Columbia ‘Masterworks’), but we took it to our hearts and it’s been an essential part of British music culture ever since.
Artists love albums because they can tell their stories through them, and fans can immerse themselves in this wonderful sonic world and the rituals that surround it. Few of us can imagine our lives without it, but with so much music discovery and consumption now taking place though song-led streaming, we are not in a position to take its existence for granted. It was partly this concern, but mostly a genuine desire to celebrate the artform that inspired the BPI, prompted by its indie members led by Iain McNay and Jonathan Green, to launch the first National Album Day in partnership with ERA in October 2018.
National Album Day promotes the art of the album and its continuing cultural and commercial importance. It seeks to encourage album listening and purchasing among fans, not least a younger demographic so that we can keep interest in the LP future proofed.
This year’s event, the sixth edition, was staged on 14th October, taking the 90s as its theme. Supported by partners Bowers & Wilkins and BBC Sounds, National Album Day worked with record labels and retailers to curate a list of over 30 90s album titles for special re-release to coincide with the day. National Album Day also drew on the support of the wider industry and platforms such as the Official Charts and Classic Album Sundays for supporting events. We were proud to involve the V&A Museum for the first time, which hosted an evening in conversation with 90s icon Goldie about his debut album ‘Timeless’. Another highlight was a collaboration with Oasis to host the exclusive first play of the new ‘Listen Up’ lyric video across the National Album Day website and socials.
The day certainly made its mark, with extensive support across BBC Radio 2, which hosted a day-long 90s ‘takeover’, giving National Album Day a reach of millions, TV coverage on The One Show and a three-part series on BBC2 – First Ladies of Hip-Hop, including a 90s episode on 14th October. You can still catch loads of National Album Day 90s content on BBC Sounds, search ‘Radio 2 90s’.
The vinyl market rose by more than 50% week-on-week on National Album Day as fans bought a series of limited-edition LPs, while National Album Day releases occupied almost half of the weekend’s top-40 vinyl chart. Specifically, 14 of the week’s Top-40 vinyl LPs were exclusive National Album Day releases. Combined, exclusive National Album Day vinyl releases sold nearly 17,000 units during chart week 42, generating a retail value of approximately £530,000 that week. From a streaming perspective 23 National Album Day albums effectively "charted" and total album streams in week 42 across those 23 titles were up +5.3% (vs week 36-41 average).
How we discover artists and consume music may be evolving, but the album remains important – arguably more so when you consider the challenges posed by AI to human artistry. So we cannot afford to be complacent. While we rightly celebrate this much-loved art form, we must remain on our guard as keepers of the flame. This is why National Album Day calls on the support of everyone across the music industry who share our passion for the art of the album!
If you have any questions about National Album Day, please contact the BPI’s Communications Director Gennaro Castaldo – [email protected]