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National Album Day to celebrate albums nationally on a day

By | Published on Monday 23 July 2018

National Album Day

Albums are getting their own day in the UK. The first National Album Day on 13 Oct this year will mark the 70th anniversary of the album format. Because, hey kids, however much your parents bang on about them, albums haven’t actually been around forever.

There will be various album-based celebrations on the day. And across the following week too, organisers apparently having misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘day’. BBC Music has committed to support the event through its programming, and there will be artist meet-and-greets, album playbacks, online listening parties and more.

Also, on the day itself, the big focus will be for everyone who has ever heard an album to announce on social media which one inspired them the most. This big tweeting session will happen at precisely 3.33pm. Because that almost sounds like 33rpm – aka the speed at which vinyl LPs are played. Keep up, granddad! Oh, granddad got it? Keep up, child.

Like all good Days, this one will have an ambassador. And that’s Paloma Faith, who says: “I vividly remember being excited by so many classic albums as I was growing up, like Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, Dylan’s ‘Freewheelin’, and Erykah Badu’s ‘Mama’s Gun’, although, if I had to pick one, the album that most inspired me was Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut”.

“It featured the incredibly powerful ‘Why?'” Faith adds. “A song that has become a real anthem for me not least as it was the first to bring home the emotional power of lyrics. The way we engage with music may be changing, but for me the album remains the ultimate expression of the songwriter’s craft”.

You might think that all this is simply a clever ruse to try to get people buying and listening to albums once again. The streaming boom having officially killed of the format whose imminent death has been predicted ever since the iTunes store opening for business with its ‘every track sold separately’ pitch. But you would be wrong. Everyone still loves albums. Everyone.

Research from two of the National Album Day organisers – that’ll be the BPI and the Entertainment Retailers Association – shows that albums are dead popular. In 2017, 135 million albums, or equivalent, were purchased, downloaded or streamed, according to the BPI. Although I’m not sure saying “or equivalent” is really appropriate here. I mean, if you said you’d eaten several sausages “or equivalent” on National Sausage Day, questions would be asked.

Meanwhile, in a recent ERA questionnaire, 60% of respondents said that they’d listened to an album in full in the last month. And, actually, despite what you think, it was young people who were listening to more of them. In the week prior to being asked, 55% of those 25 or under said that they’d listened to an album in that time. Listening trails off the older people get.

ERA chief exec Kim Bayley comments: “Individual tracks may have stolen the limelight over the past few years, but British music fans love albums as much as ever. National Album Day is an opportunity to throw the spotlight back on to long-form listening and we are delighted that the Record Store Day team will play a key role in establishing this first-time event working alongside our friends and colleagues at the BBC, the BPI and the wider music community”.

Oh yes, the Record Store Day team at ERA will be involved in organising all this. Did we mention that? Makes sense, because the aim here – see – is, and I quote, “to establish National Album Day as an anticipated annual event in the music calendar that is inclusive and non-prescriptive and will grow over time, in a similar way to Record Store Day”. Lovely.

BPI boss Geoff Taylor also has things to say. He adds: “It is fitting that, in this 70th anniversary year, we should look to create a special moment that celebrates the UK’s love of the album and the huge role it plays at the heart of our popular culture. The album has underpinned the phenomenal success of recorded music the world over, providing artists with a compelling medium through which to express their creativity and fans the freedom to engage with all shades of music through the stories that it tells”.

He goes on: “Streaming may be broadening our ability to access and discover music, but the concept of the album as a body of work that expresses a narrative or an artist’s creative vision at a given moment, remains as relevant and inspiring as ever”.

So here’s to the album. The BPI reckons over five billion of the bastards have been sold in the UK since they arrived in 1948. Let’s see if we can sell five billion more on the first National Album Day this year. Any less and the whole venture will have officially failed.