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 Sony Music and Universal Music (Universal/Sony Music).
Most Recent Release
The most recent album within the series is Now That's What I Call Music! 100, released on 20 July 2018.
The idea for the series was conceived in the office of Virgin Records in Vernon Yard, near Portobello Road, by 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 and 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 saying "Now. That's What I Call Music" as it listened to a chicken singing. Richard Branson had bought the poster for his cousin, Simon Draper, to hang behind Draper's desk at the Virgin Records office. Branson wrote "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.". The pig became the mascot for the series', making its last appearance on Now 5. It has recently made a reappearance on the cover of Now 100, which is to be released on 20 July 2018.
The first Now That's What I Call Music! 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 for some years), 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 included a total of "eleven number ones" on its sleeve). The album went to number one, and soon after, CBS/WEA's The Hits Album, 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 was more successful commercially. The Out Now series by MCA and Chrysalis was also established as a rival to the series, but was short lived.
By 1989, Now, Hits, and other various-artist compilation albums were occupying such a high fraction of the UK Albums Chart that a separate UK Compilation Chartwas created to restrict the Albums Chart to releases by a single act.
The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March/early April, another around late July and a third around late November. Over ninety "main series" (not including spin-off and special edition) albums have been released to date. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series (many other foreign franchises of the Now! series are only released on one disc), now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 42 and 46 tracks over two discs. Since November 2006 (Now 65), the Now! series have only been 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 have been managing the Now! brand since Now 17. Mark Goodier has voiced the Now! adverts since Now 21 in 1992, when he worked for BBC Radio 1, with the exception of Now 95 in 2016. Ashley Abram of Box Music compiled every album, with the exception of Now 59 in 2004, from Now 2 in 1984 through to Now 81 in 2012. Jenny Fisher took over as the compiler beginning with Now 82.
On 23 October 2013, the NOW Music television channel was launched in the UK. Targeting a broad age group, the channel used to play current popular music in the daytime and hits from its 30-year back catalogue in the evenings. It was renamed on 27 December 2016 as Now 80s. On 27 December 2017, Now 90s replaced Chilled TV.