It looks like Saturday could be a record day…

When I was younger I can remember queuing with friends to get the latest album by my favourite group. At the risk of showing my age though it’s been a long, long time since I last did that.

It’s not because I don’t like music anymore but rather that it’s now so much easier to buy music online.

PrintThings have changed quite dramatically for the music industry when it comes to their distribution methods.

In my youth it was pretty simple. Record companies would distribute the albums via the record shops.

Fast forward several years and over the last decade music has been increasingly distributed online via platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. There’s also the not insignificant impact of illegal downloads of music.

Even if you still want to buy the more traditional CD versions of the albums rather than the digital version, then supermarkets such as Tesco sell the leading CDs at very cheap prices.

The high street music shops have struggled to stay alive. Several high street music shops such as Virgin Megastores, Our Price and Zavvi have all gone out of business.

Students of strategy though would not really be surprised by this as according to Michael Porter’s generic strategies there are two main ways of competing. Namely, cost leadership or differentiation.

In simple terms, cost leadership is where a company can produce something at a lower cost than its rivals whilst differentiation is where an organisation can charge a premium for its product as it’s “different”.

A high street chain of music shops is going to have a significantly higher cost base compared to companies that sell music over the internet. Property costs are going to be significant and will make it impossible for high street record chains to ever win the cost leadership battle.

Whilst it’s not looking good for the big chains of record shops what about the smaller independent record shops? Clearly they could never compete via cost leadership so what about differentiation?

On Saturday the seventh annual UK Independent Record Store Day will be held.

More than 240 stores have signed up to this year’s Record Store Day and tomorrow’s event is aimed at reinvigorating interest in the independent music stores.

At last year’s event people were queuing to get into the shops. Not to buy the cheap music but to savour the atmosphere, talk to people who were interested in similar types of music and to buy some of the more unusual music.

Hopefully this differentiation approach will work as in my opinion it will be a sad day if all the independent music shops disappear and we can only buy the music online or at a supermarket when buying our weekly shop.

The ExP Group