Labels, retailers hope to charm couples into sales

Valentine’s Day may be more associated with candy and flowers, but for labels and records retailers, nothing says romance like the gift of music.

“Christmas is in a category of its own, then there’s Black Friday, then it’s clearly Valentine’s Day” when it comes to selling peaks, says Candace Berry, executive VP of sales and marketing for Universal Music Group Distribution.

This year, Valentine’s Day campaigns will share floor space with Grammy promotions since the Grammy Awards take place the day before, on Feb. 13.

“The opportunity is much more because of the Grammy/Valentine’s Day one-two punch,” says Scott Seviour, senior VP of artist development, RCA Music Group. “You’ll get a lift the week going into Valentine’s Day, then have the Grammys and that should lift the whole market. We should have two big weeks.”

Says Berry: “Retailers got very wise about making Valentine’s Day an event.” With the proximity of the Grammys, “you see retailers who do an elongated marketing event in their stores to coincide with both dates to create a location that gets a lot of traffic.”

Hastings Entertainment’s VP and divisional merchandise manager Phil McConnell says his Amarillo, Texas-based 153-store chain generally fares better when the Grammys are held further in advance of Valentine’s Day, as they were last year on Jan. 31. “Having them be on top of each other doesn’t allow them to take advantage of each other,” he says. “Grammys leading into Valentine’s has been a great story.”

After last year’s Grammys were moved into late January to avoid conflict with the Winter Olympics, consumers used the awards ceremony’s top winners and performers to serve as a buyer’s guide. The week after Valentine’s Day, “the market was up 40% for the top 200″ over the previous week, according to Seviour.

In addition to its Grammy push, Hastings outlets will feature a front-of-store Valentine’s display with not only CDs, but appropriately themed DVDs and books as well.

While brick-and-mortar stores allow for physical displays, Internet sellers also salute Cupid: iTunes is expected to repeat its $7.99 promotion.

“I anticipate that will do well for us,” Seviour says. “It sold nicely for us previously. They picked titles that made sense. We suggested some, but they had the ultimate say.”

Amazon’s Daily Deal, which offers a deeply discounted title, also usually targets romantically themed albums around Valentine’s Day.

Among the new major label titles targeted specifically for Valentine’s Day is Rod Stewart’s “The Best of …the Great American Songbook” (J Records), out Feb. 1. Parent company RCA Music Group is still lining up promotions, but Seviour says creating a counter display with the title, and possibly the five editions that came before it, at an outlet like Barnes & Noble or Borders “makes total sense.” The counter displays would “play up the romantic aspect of the song series.” There will also be a direct marketing effort through Amazon.

“You would think Barry White invented Valentine’s Day,” jokes McConnell.

Artists like White and Marvin Gaye, geared toward an older demographic, generally thrive during Valentine’s Day, as do current and catalog releases from newer artists like Michael Buble, Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli.

Last year, Sade’s first new album in 10 years was a major Valentine’s Day seller. This year, Universal Music Enterprises will release a number of new collections in its Icon series, featuring repackaged music from such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Lee Ann Womack and Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell.

“It’s a time of year that compilations do well,” McConnell says. “(Labels) used to theme (collections) around Valentine’s Day; they don’t do that anymore. I don’t think we have the bandwidth for that anymore. They can’t release a product for two weeks anymore and have it be gone.”

Indeed, labels are looking at ways to extend the life of evergreen titles, and many use Valentine’s Day as the perfect tentpole to put a renewed push behind top holiday releases.

“You come out with something in the fourth quarter and then remarket it around Valentine’s Day,” Saviour says. “Every week we’re trying to market music. With the Grammys and Valentine’s Day, it’s a great opportunity.”

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