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Now That's What I Call Music! (1983–present) (often shortened to Now!) is a series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by EMI (as EMI TV/Virgin Records/Universal/Sony Music). Spinoff series were later introduced in South Africa (1984) and many other countries worldwide, including the United States in 1998, and Israel in 1999. Since its launch in the UK in 1983, the series has amassed over 100 million album sales worldwide.
The idea for Now That’s What I Call Music! was born in Virgin Records office in Vernon Yard, just off Portobello Road. It was the brain child of the head of Licensing and Business Affairs at Virgin records (1979–1990) – Stephen Navin, and General Manager (1983–1988) – Jon Webster. The concept was taken to Simon Draper (Managing Director at Virgin Records) and then Peter Jamieson (Managing Director of EMI Records (1983–1986)). Jamieson had similar plans to launch such a compilation but was so impressed with Virgin's ideas, music and enthusiasm that he immediately agreed to the partnership. The deal was negotiated and finalised on Richard Branson's boat moored in Little Venice.
The series took its name from a 1920s advertising poster for Danish bacon featuring a pig listening to a chicken sing "Now. That's What I Call Music" which Richard Branson had bought for his cousin, Simon Draper, and was hung behind Simon's desk at the Virgin Records office. "He was notoriously grumpy before breakfast and loved his eggs in the morning, so I bought him the poster, framed it and had it hung behind his desk!" – Richard Branson. The pig became the mascot for the series', making its last appearance on Now That's What I Call Music 5.
The first Now was released on 28 November 1983 and featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists' compilations since the early 1970s), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series boasted a total of "eleven number ones" on its sleeve). The album went to number one and soon had a major rival in CBS/WEA's The Hits Album, which adopted a similar format to Now!. The two series co-existed for the rest of the 1980s, but when Universal joined the collaboration the Now! series dominated commercially. The Out Now series by MCA and Chrysalis was also established as a rival to the series, but was short lived.
The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March, another around late July and a third around late November. Eighty-six albums have been released to date. The newest album in the series, Now 86, was released on 18 November 2013. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series, now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 40 to 46 tracks over two discs. As of September 2012[update], the Now! series are only released on CD and digital download formats. Previously, the series had been available on vinyl, audio cassette and MiniDisc. As these formats declined in popularity, Now releases are no longer issued on them.
Peter Duckworth and Steve Pritchard, Senior Vice Presidents of EMI Commercial Marketing and Catalogue, have been managing the Now! brand since NOW 17. Mark Goodier has been the voice of Now! adverts since Now 21 in 1992, going back to his days with BBC Radio 1. Ashley Abram of Box Music compiled every album from Now 2 in 1984 through Now 81 in 2012. Jenny Fisher took over as the compiler beginning with Now 82.
In October 2013, the NOW Music television channel was launched in the UK. Targeting everyone from teens to grandparents, the channel plays current popular music in the daytime and hits from its 30-year back catalog in the evenings.
The most successful volume to date is 1999's Now That's What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and is the biggest selling compilation album ever. 2008's Now That's What I Call Music! 70 sold 383,002 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album.
Although starting out on only vinyl records and cassette tapes, the formats on which the albums have been released have changed over the years:
In addition to the main Now That's What I Call Music series, there have been a number spin-off compilations in the UK using the name, including:
Numerous different versions of the Now! brand exist in other parts of the world, including:
Volume one was released in 1984 (a year after the original UK series launched). The series often makes use of ideas from previous UK Now albums for its artwork. Now 50 was the double CD to celebrate the 25 years that the series ran and was released in November 2008. As of September 2, 2005, there has also been a Now DVD series.
This edition was released in Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand etc. The first Asian Now That's What I Call Music! was released in 1995.
The series is often called Now Asia since Now 1 and Now 2 are from EMI Hong Kong, Now 3 and Now 4 are from EMI Malaysia, Now 7 is from EMI Taiwan and Now 5, Now 6 and Now 8 are from EMI Asia. The Indonesian versions of the albums are slightly different from the Asian ones.
EMI Asia has also released Now Dance (2000), Now The Essential Collection (2003), Now + volume 1 (2004) and Now + volume 2 (2005).
EMI Indonesia has released Now Jazz (2007) and Now Arabia (2011).
Following its introduction in China, the Now! series has enjoyed great success, with a new compilation released approximately every three to four months. Each album contains current and recent hit singles from Chinese artists signed to EMI or Polydor, and from British and Australian pop acts such as Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sugababes or Robbie Williams.
Now has been seen in Israel, starting in 1999. The first three albums are double discs. Now 4 was the first single disc.
Now has been seen in South Korea, starting April 28, 2014. The first three albums were double discs, Now That's What I Call Kpop was first single disc.
Now Hity is the Czech version of the Now That's What I Call Music! series. Originally branded under the main family name, it was changed to Now Hity later in the run. There have also been spin-offs like Now! 2006.
Now Music is a Danish record label set up especially to release Now That's What I Call Music! albums in Denmark. As well as the Now regular series (as of November 2007 up to the nineteenth release), there have also been spin-offs including Now Big Hits, Now Christmas, Now Summer, Now Clubbing, Now Dance and Now Hip Hop
Robbie Williams is the artist to be featured the most times in the regular Danish Now series, just as he also is in the UK Now! series. He has appeared ten times in the Danish series.
The first Finnish Now That's What I Call Music was released in 2003 where it replace the Absolute Hits series. The albums are released as double discs.
In France the Now series is called Now! Hits Référence. There have been released Now! Hits Référence 1-7 and Now! Hits Référence 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In Greece the Now series is called Now Αυτά Είναι Τα Hits Σήμερα! ("Now These Are the Hits Today!"). Now 1 was released in 2002 and Now 9 was released in 2006. There have also been released some Now Dance albums in Greece.
The Now series started in the Netherlands back in 1984 as Now This Is Music and a couple of spin-offs, such as Now Dance, a Christmas compilation (Now This Is Xmas) and several year-end compilations. The series ran from 1984 to 1989, ending with its 11th installment. The series was released on the EVA label, a joint venture of the Dutch branches of EMI, Virgin and Ariola (later: BMG Ariola, a subsidiary of BMG/RCA Records). A second series under the same title started in 1997, but only two albums were released.
The Norwegian series of Now That's What I Call Music! is a joint venture by the Norwegian branches of Universal Music, Sony Music, EMI Music and Warner Music. Prior to 2009 they released two independent series called Absolute Music by EVA Records (EMI and Warner Music) and McMusic (Sony Music Entertainment AS and Universal Music Group AS).
The first issue of Now That's What I Call Music! in Norway was released in November 2009.
The Now series in Portugal is a joint-venture between the three major international publishers present in Portugal – EMI, Sony and Universal. In 2010, it was announced that total sales of the series, not counting the extra editions, topped one million copies in Portugal. Through Volume 21 of the series, the multi-volume sets have included 414 national and international artists and a total of 787 different songs, ranking in an impressive four gold and 19 platinum records.
The first album released in Portugal was NOW 99 and released by EMI on 2 December 1999. From the Now 2 through Now 21, the compilation was always done on a rotation system among the three music companies. In addition to these volumes, the series includes six dance editions, a DVD and the tenth anniversary commemorative edition, NOW 10 ANOS, released by EMI in December 2009. On April 26, 2010, Now Mix 2010 was released, which includes dance versions of popular songs in a non-stop mix format..
Now has also been seen in Spain under the name of Now Esto si es música ("Now This Is Music"). The original series included six releases from 1984-1989. The compilation album is released as a double CD album. Later the series started over with Now Esto Es Música 1, which included songs from artists like Juanes, Enrique Iglesias, George Michael, Sheryl Crow, Tiziano Ferro, Alex Ubago, Las Ketchup and U2. Now Esto Es Música 2003 has also been released. But due to the lukewarm success, no more albums were released since 2004.
However, in late 2009, EMI Music released in Spain the album "Now Dance", which contains all the biggest Dance hits in Spain during the 2009, including Lady Gaga, David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland, The Black Eyed Peas and Katy Perry, among others.
The first installment of the product line into Canada was released in 1988. The second installment of the product line was released in 1995. Beginning with the second installment of the series, repertoire was licensed from Universal, Warner and EMI. Songs from Sony and BMG was not included on any editions of the series in Canada. Since the second installment of the series, Universal, Warner and EMI have formed a joint venture together and generally take turns to release the series. From the years of 1996 to 2009 the series released an annual compilation usually in the late summer months. However, beginning with Now 15, there have been two editions each year which usually take place in early winter and late summer.
Now has also been seen in Mexico, with at least ten releases. The track listings on the Mexican albums are only slightly different from those of the Argentine ones.
The U.S. series of Now! albums began in 1998. The most recent album in the series, Now That's What I Call Music! 48 was released on November 11, 2013.
The Now! compilations have sold extremely well in the U.S. Each of the first twenty-nine volumes has received at least a platinum certification, and fifteen albums from the series have reached number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, more than any individual recording artist except the Beatles. However, recent releases have not sold as well with Now! 34 selling only 88,000 copies in its first week, compared to the 621,000 copies Now! 7 sold in its debut week in July 2001.
Recent trends in the United States have been releases of "special edition" Now! albums, such as Now Esto Es Musica! Latino, Now That's What I Call Country, and Now That's What I Call Motown; and the inclusion of "bonus tracks" by not-yet-established artists at the expense of additional hit songs.
The Australian series is a single disc edition and began in 2002, as a replacement for the long-running 100% Hits brand. The series is a joint venture between EMI Music Australia and Warner Music Australia.
Now 01 appeared in July of that year, followed by Now 02 in time for Christmas 2002. 2003's Now 03 came with a bonus DVD; the first standalone DVD release (Now Vision 2004) appeared the following year. After Now 08 the series changed its name to Now Winter 2005, Now Spring 2005 etc.
In 2006 the Now Summer 2007 was the first double disc edition in the Australian series.
In 1994, four albums were released, all with the title Now That's What I Call Music - 100% then Dance, Ballad, Rap or Alternate.
Now That's What I Call Music! has released 43 albums, the latest one released in October 25, 2013. The series is compiled in co-ordination with New Zealand's top record companies. The series is one of the highest selling compilations in New Zealand music history (RIANZ) with multi-platinum album sales.
Now has been seen in Argentina, with at least nine releases. The track listings on the Argentine Now albums are only slightly different from those of the Mexican ones.