The ‘NOW’ Collections

Now That’s What I Call Music! (1983–present) (often shortened to Now!) is a long-running series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom by Polygram (as Universal)/EMI/Sony Music/Virgin Records (The Big Four record labels); spinoff series were later introduced in South Africa (1984) and many other countries worldwide, including the United States in 1998. Since its launch in 1983, the series has amassed over 100 million album sales worldwide.

Original United Kingdom series

Looking for a way to re-issue/recycle music tracks for additional revenue, Virgin Records executives Stephen Navin, John Webster and Simon Draper engaged Ashley Abram of specialist compilations consultancy Box Records (he still compiles the albums). The series took its name from a 1920s advertising poster hanging in an office for Danish meat products which showed a pig listening to a whistling cockerel. The pig became the Now! series’ mascot for a while, making its last appearance on Now That’s What I Call Music 5.

The first Now! compilation appeared in November 1983 and collected thirty UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. The concept of a compilation of recent hit singles was not new; Ronco and K-tel had been issuing single-disc collections since the early 1970s. However, by spreading tracks across two discs instead of one, the Now! series was able to achieve better sound quality (tracks were often edited to fit a running time on K-Tel and Ronco single disc compilations).

The other major difference of the Now! series was its collaborative nature between major record labels. Virgin agreed a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series boasted of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve, something previously unheard-of). 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.

Although the rate of release varied in the early days, it has now settled down to three per year: one release around Easter, another during the summer, and a third around November. 77 albums have been released to date. The newest album in the series, Now That’s What I Call Music! 77, was released on the 22nd of November in the UK. The next album in the series, Now That’s What I Call Music! 78, will be released in the UK on the 4th of April 2011. The UK series continues to follow the double-album format, now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between forty and forty-six songs over its two discs. At the current time, the Now series are only released on CD and digital download formats. Previously the Now series was available on Vinyl; audio cassette & MiniDisc formats, with the decline of popularity with these formats, Nows are no longer issued on them.

Mark Goodier has been the voice of Now! adverts since the 21st volume in 1992, going back to his days with BBC Radio 1.

UK Versions

Volume 1 –

Volume 2 –

Volume 3 –

Volume 4 – Coming soon 11/06/2020

Volume 23 –

Volume 24 –

Volume 25 –

Volume 26 –

Volume 28 –

Volume 45 –

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