Warner Music Singapore to stop distributing CDs

Members of the public browse CDs at That CD Shop in Raffles City on July 31, 2015.
Members of the public browse CDs at That CD Shop in Raffles City on July 31, 2015.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The Singapore office of Warner Music - one of the major music labels along with Universal Music and Sony Music - is no longer bringing in CDs for sale and distribution here.

This is what insiders in the local music industry - retailers and other labels - have heard.

When contacted, Warner declined comment.

In the last year, it released albums by Stevie Nicks, Ed Sheeran, Jolin Tsai and Singapore's JJ Lin, according to its website. Other local musicians signed to it include Reuby and hip-hop duo SleeQ.

While the other labels are still bringing in CDs, Life understands that Sony no longer handles the storage and distribution of these CDs to shops here. It has engaged another company for those functions.

A veteran in the music industry, who declined to be named, said Warner's decision was made in July. Retailers have also been informed of the move, and they say it is likely due to falling CD sales worldwide.

A spokesman for HMV Singapore says it was notified of Warner's move a couple of weeks ago, and of Sony's move last year.

Said the spokesman: "We will need to make slight changes by importing the CDs in the case of Warner.  

"For Sony, we can still get them locally supplied by MM2 (the company engaged by Sony). But some titles may be late, or on a rare occasion, not released."

Mr Ho Chan Sian, 60, owner of Memphis Music, a CD shop in Coleman Street, learnt about Warner's move two weeks ago.

He says: "It will be more inconvenient for us because we will not be able to draw stocks from Warner like before. We will have to turn to wholesalers to get CDs of artistes under the Warner label."

Consumers in the United States, the world's largest music market, bought 257 million albums last year, a drop of 11 per cent from 2013.

At Universal, sales of physical CDs in Singapore for the first half of this year have fallen 8 to 9 per cent, compared to the first half of last year.

Says Ms Kim Lim, the head of marketing and sales for Malaysia and Singapore at Universal Music: "The market has evolved from physical sales towards digital distribution.

"Digital is more affordable and easier to access. The consumer can also get it more quickly, instead of having to wait for CD stock to be ready in stores.

"There are also very few stores nowadays as retail store rents are increasing year by year."

Says Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, 55, managing director of record label and concert organiser Rock Records: "I can totally understand Warner's position. To bring in a CD, you have to pay for freight, GST, the warehouse to store the CDs, as well as distribution cost. If the sales volume is not high enough, it actually doesn't make financial sense to do so."

Both Universal and Rock still bring in CDs for distribution.

Ms Lim says: "We still believe some albums - that have nice packaging, exclusive content and limited edition packaging - are collectible items."

But Mr Ngiam expresses concern that Warner's move is the beginning of an unhealthy outlook for the industry.

He says: "My worry is that another one of the big labels will also stop bringing in CDs. Then the distribution system might change, and we might be forced to react."

When contacted, music fans were not surprised by Warner's move.

Public servant Tan Wei Ye, 28, has not bought a CD in more than 10 years: "Nowadays, I buy my music mainly from iTunes. I also use Spotify, Soundcloud and Bandcamp, and listen to music on YouTube sometimes.

"You can just buy the individual songs you want, instead of having to commit to the full 10 or 12 songs on a physical CD. It doesn't make sense to go to the physical CD shop anymore."