Covid-19 has rattled industries throughout the world. The music industry is no exception. Concerts have been canceled and record stores are closed. Even online orders of physical products have been disrupted, because internet retailers like Amazon are falling behind on shipments. In a new blog post written for Music Business Worldwide, Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie describes the impact he thinks coronavirus will have on the retail side of the business.
Headquartered in Paris, Believe is a global music distributor and the world’s number one distributor of digital independent music.
From Believe’s perspective, physical music sales will not pick back up significantly until late summer—early September at the soonest. Artists will have to be flexible and creative as a result.
“We are closely observing countries like France or Germany, which only got into COVID-19 confinement recently, or the US, which is still not in complete confinement everywhere,” Ladegaillerie wrote. “We are taking the assumption that confinement isn’t likely to be lifted for another five or six weeks, which takes us into May. After that, you’re still going to see restrictions on retail – let’s say that takes us into early June. Then it’s the summer, which is typically a quiet time for physical music sales anyway.”
In view of all that, Ladegaillerie estimates that, between now and summertime, Believe’s physical music sales will drop by anywhere from 70 to 90 percent. And the sales they do make in this period will be mostly direct-to-fan (from the artist to the consumer), Ladegaillerie explained.
“In France we are putting a task-force together to organize D2C business on most of our releases and build initiatives even more after the lockdown. Direct to fan works very well on hip-hop, as well as metal – the artist Kekra recently made almost 60% of his sales first week with purely D2C physical sales.”
One of Believe’s artists, Nightwish, recently shipped over 10,000 products to fans after releasing their latest album on April 10.
But Believe is still encouraging its artists to push back the release of new LPs until later in the year in order to avoid poor sales. In the meantime, Ladegaillerie writes, artists should concentrate on connecting with audiences on social media, while still releasing singles and EPs.
Even when stores open back up and retail begins returning to normal, physical music sales will still be a fraction of what they were before the pandemic began—about 50 percent, Believe believes. But here is the silver lining: digital sales are expected to soar as more consumers turn to this option as a substitute for physical products. Of course, the harm caused by pirating still exists, perhaps more than ever before. Pirating is not a victimless crime—it ought to be prosecuted, and it ought to show up on NSW police checks.
Nevertheless, digital is key right now. “Believe’s key message to artists and labels today is to try to make the best out of this situation by accelerating your knowledge of the digital business …” This means artists have to embrace the digital world even more than they had before, promoting upcoming albums and engaging with fans on social media as much as possible. That way they increase the likelihood of a successful physical release when the time finally comes.