Record labels Sony & Universal to change single release policy

From next month, two of the UK’s biggest record companies will change the dynamics of the charts by making singles available for sale on the same day they are released to radio stations.

Traditionally, tracks are heard on radio for a few weeks before they can be officially bought, in a process called “setting up” the song.

The new shake-up, called “On Air, On Sale”, will be see songs going on sale on the same day they impact radio, and will be introduced by Universal and Sony from Tuesday 1 February.

Speaking to BBC Newsbeat, Universal Music UK chairman, David Joseph says the changes are being made because “we live in an immediate world”.

“On Air, On Sale is good news for any music fan and exciting for our artists who can now go into the studio knowing they don’t have to wait weeks, or sometimes months, to see the music they have created go on sale.”

Mr Joseph predicts the “On Air, On Sale” policy will become common place.

“I’m pretty confident that in a few months it’s going to be a level playing field. I can only make the decision on behalf of our artists and our company, but I’m absolutely convinced that in the next few months everyone will have the same policy.”

Universal signee Jessie J released her debut single “Do It Like A Dude” in November using the new policy. The single peaked at number two in this week’s charts (announced Sunday 16th January). The Essex singer expressed her support for the policy and thinks it will help fight off piracy.

EMI Music say they won’t be following suit to execute one blanket policy with their new releases.

“We don’t have a blanket policy on this. Sometimes it’s best to let a song build at radio for a short while as happened very successfully with Tinie Tempah. At other times we release to radio and retail at the same time e.g. Gorillaz‘ “Stylo” or Coldplay‘s “Christmas Lights”.”

Official Charts Company MD Martin Talbot expresses that the change “will potentially mean bigger sales of bigger records”, and speculates that songs will experience more longevity in the charts.

“The chance of a record coming in, appearing very quickly and then dropping back out again will become a rarer phenomenon.”

George Ergatoudis, head of music at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, predicts; “There’ll definitely be different patterns in the charts because you’ll get big hit, well known artists smashing straight into the top five.

“There’ll be other artists that take a longer, slower, gradual process as people discover them and discover the song.

“There’ll be a lot more travelling up and down the charts as a result of this,” he added.


Personally, I think the changes are a step in the right direction to embrace and exploit the fast-pace of the current digital music era. That said, I can see this serving huge, commercially successful artists a lot better than artists with smaller followings, and the need to develop a strong supporting campaign on emerging and underground acts will still be instrumental to the success of certain songs.

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