An Open Letter to the Majors From Independent Record Stores

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Greg Layton, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Greg Layton

    Greg Layton Playin' in the Band Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon
    This might help to explain the delays that jazz reissues have faced making it to stores this summer. Try to show patience and understanding to your local stores as they work through this.

    An Open Letter to the Majors From Independent Record Stores (Guest Op-Ed)

    -----

    In 2007 things were bleak. Record stores were successful but irrelevant in the eyes of many in the music industry. In response, independent record stores owners got organized and created Record Store Day (RSD). By doing so, the world’s largest music event was established and a billion-dollar-per-year vinyl industry was relaunched. Last year’s RSD was the biggest ever, as were our Black Friday and Small Business Saturday events, breaking all previous sales records. Unsung in the ensuing positive press coverage was the amount of CDs sold on our big day. With so many other businesses leaving the CD behind, record stores are still selling substantial numbers. With the help of our industry partners we continue to adapt and thrive.

    Not everything is rosy; things have been rough over the past 3-4 months. Just last week, Michael Bunnell, the owner of Boise’s Record Exchange and President of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, sent a message out about how bad things have gotten.

    But this isn’t about Record Store Day, or a store owner or an independent retail coalition. This is much bigger: It is impacting the distribution of all physical music retail.

    Here is what has happened.

    In an effort to streamline operations, the majors and the largest independent distributors moved their services to a company called Direct Shot. The admirable goals were to increase efficiency and reduce costs but the results have been terrible:

    -- Stores are waiting on new release and catalog orders that were made weeks and months ago.
    -- Shipments arrive with a fraction of the CDs and vinyl ordered.
    -- Shipments arrive as empty boxes.
    -- Artist in-store appearances and marketing campaigns happen without proper product.
    -- Special edition vinyl, made for indie stores by the artists who support them, never arrive or come too late.
    -- Vinyl and CDs are sent to the wrong stores with no way of getting them returned or reshipped to the correct address.
    -- New releases miss the Friday street date by days, weeks and now months.
    -- Invoices do not match what was delivered or ordered.
    -- Incorrect invoices require payment with no system in place for rectifying the mistakes or for making returns.

    The end result has been a lot of misery. Store owners who once enjoyed running their stores and turning people onto music are left trying to make sense of a new system that doesn’t provide customer service or allow humans to communicate and solve problems. All the while, employees who work for the labels and distributors are struggling to function under the strain. The customers who shop at record stores are leaving empty handed, shaking their heads in disbelief. Lost sales, lost credibility and wasted man-hours. It is about as bad as it can be.

    This message is a respectful plea to the folks who chose Direct Shot as their warehouse and distribution system. Artists and record stores must be able to depend on the supply chain. Product delivery in a timely, accurate manner should be the most basic priority of a distribution company.

    This is a warehouse problem that is affecting every distributor that uses the Indiana-based Direct Shot system. It is a problem that warrants a collaborative, cohesive solution. All shipments are affected. All orders are affected. This is not just a new release problem, it is dramatically affecting catalog sales.

    Singular platforms and standards for ordering, billing, shipping, customer service and returns should be developed. The industry came together for Sensormatic source tagging and street date. Rather than have every company trying to solve the same problems, there needs to be a cooperative effort to provide a superior model. It’s all the same barcodes, data and media on the backend.

    We realize that work is being done to improve this dire situation, but this letter is a notification that extensive harm has already been done: lost sales, lost customers and lost confidence. We need a solution in the coming weeks to stem more damage to an important part of the music businesses’ ecosystem. We are asking you to please create state of the art distribution now and communicate your progress on the implementation so that confidence can return.

    The record stores, artists, labels and fans deserve better.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Signed,

    The Sound Garden, Baltimore/Syracuse; CIMS/The Record Exchange, Boise, Idaho; Rough Trade, Brooklyn, NY; Amoeba Music, Los Angeles; Waterloo Records, Austin, Texas; Twist and Shout, Denver, Colo.; Easy Street, Seattle, Wash.; Newbury Comics, New England; Bull Moose, Maine; ZIA Record Exchange- Arizona/Nevada; Music Millennium, Portland, Ore.; Salzers, Ventura, Calif.; Silver Platters, Seattle; Electric Fetus, Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn.; Down In The Valley, Minneapolis; Monster Music & Movies, Charleston, S.C.; Young Ones, Kutztown, Pa.; Independent Records, Colorado; Graywhale Entertainment- Salt Lake City, Utah; Rasputin Music Chain, Calif., California; Josey Records, Dallas, Kansas City, Tulsa, Okla., and Lubbock, Texas; Vintage Vinyl, Fords, N.J. Rhino Records/Mad Platter, Claremont, Calif.; Tunes Music, Hoboken, N.J.; Homers Music, Omaha, Neb.; Pure Pop, Burlington, Vt.; Lou’s Records, Encinitas, Calif; Strictly Discs, Madison, Wis.; Omega Music, Dayton, Ohio; Dearborn Music, Dearborn, Mich.; Central Square Records, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; Indy CD and Vinyl, Indianapolis; Park Avenue CDs, Orlando, Fla.; Plan 9 Music, Richmond, Va.; Cactus Music, Houston, Tx.; Wooden Nickel Records, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Magnolia Thunderpussy, Columbus, Ohio; Looney Tunes, West Babylon, N.Y.; Schoolkids Records, North Carolina; Rock Paper Scissors Goods, Minneapolis; Reckless Records, Chicago, Ill.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
  2. wgb113

    wgb113 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chester County, PA
    Really surprised this post isn't getting more traction since it's having such a profound effect on the independent stores where many (hopefully most) of us shop.
     
  3. Brendan K

    Brendan K Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois
    Didn't realize this. Completely necessary letter, though. Hopefully something is done.
     
  4. Zapruder

    Zapruder Just zis guy, you know?

    Location:
    Ames, IA
    Record store worker here...this has been an absolutely massive issue for us. People have all but stopped putting in preorders for albums because we've had such a horrible track record of getting things on time, or at all, because of this. They need to figure out something fast or this is going to be a complete disaster and people WILL go out of business.
     
    sjaca, Greenalishi, michanes and 3 others like this.
  5. Dreaddazzman

    Dreaddazzman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cleveland
    I posted a similar thread with a article from Billboard that highlighted the same issues with little comment as well. That said, I suspect many of the folks on this board are savvy enough to know what's going on already. And really what is there to say? They need to fix the situation ASAP, but it seems out out the hands of the stores and consumers. In any case, I know I speak with the folks who at my local on a regular basis and they have kept me in the loop on how things are impacting them.
     
    michanes likes this.
  6. wgb113

    wgb113 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chester County, PA
    I know a lot of us that still buy music on physical often get aggravated when things are late or damaged. You see it sprinkled throughout threads here and elsewhere, with many unknowingly pointing the blame elsewhere. I found out about it Monday when I talked to my local about this week's Tone Poet releases (Burrell might arrive Friday, Hill hasn't even gotten to the distributor yet.)

    Hopefully the company that recently acquired them straightens out the issues and scales up to meet the demand WMG brought to the table.
     
  7. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Yes, get the distribution end of this business back to a smoothly working machine. And maybe we need to go back to regional distributors being appointed by the labels, which cover a 3 state territory with representatives to handle getting the product to the record shops, and handling their orders, inquiries, and their needs for product. Most states used to have record label branch offices, and there were one stop distributors also. Time for this system to return, with a 2-3 state territory and grow it as necessary to eventually having a distributor and label branch office to cover the territory as necessary.
     
    Tommyboy and zphage like this.
  8. challenge

    challenge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Springfield MO
    The music industry has to realize you guys come first. With out independent stores the industry will stick a knife into it's greatest fans.

    The music industry has to realize this I hope
     
    sjaca, Zapruder and BluesOvertookMe like this.
  9. They won't, they don't, hence using Direct Shot. Their lack of concern was apparent once they did away with label reps who would visit the stores in the mid to late 90s. The fact that any product gets out at all is similar to salmon swimming upstream. The Majors may as well be in the auto repair business; their care about and knowledge of record stores is negligible.
     
  10. matthew2600

    matthew2600 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lawrence KS
    If a record store's business model is dependent on a distributor being nice they should have a more flexible business model. One of the stores that signed this has terrible prices so I don't go there and two stores I do go to did not sign on to this because they have more going for them than a juicy distributor hookup.
     
  11. dobyblue

    dobyblue Forum Resident

    Damn, that is a who's who of indie stores signing on this, I hope it gets the attention it deserves for all involved.
     
  12. Zapruder

    Zapruder Just zis guy, you know?

    Location:
    Ames, IA
    Uh, what? You’ve made it quite apparent that you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, so you should maybe quit while you’re behind.
     
  13. Experiencereunited

    Experiencereunited Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland
    This is really an embarrassment. Record companies trying to go the route of low mix high volume supply chains will never work by outsourcing to a non caring, no customer service, completely out of touch supply chain conglomerate. Physical Music today is really high mix, low volume not the other way around. So what they have done is not only a recipe for a disaster it is a disaster probably implemented by a corporate MBA who doesn't even like music trying to make a name for himself by showing how much better and more efficient things could be by moving to an outsourced supply chain model. I find it ironic the industry wants to modernize and move to robotic efficiency gains (like most other industries in fairness) when the product itself (music) is the opposite of robotic efficiency gains and spurs creativity and enjoyment. How frigging boring supply efficiency gains are in comparison to enjoying music and thinking of new ideas and ways to look at our universe. Even worse than boring though is when the advertised gains don't materialize and in fact they get much worse for the end customer and the brick and mortar stores.
     
  14. matthew2600

    matthew2600 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lawrence KS
    Been going to record stores all over the world for two decades, how do I have no idea what I'm talking about?
     
  15. KDubATX

    KDubATX Dude Man Bro

    Location:
    Austin
    Makes more sense why I could not find several recent releases when I went to Waterloo a couple weeks ago. I got reasonably worried about them when none of the releases I wanted were in stock. That never used to happen, if anything the danger was finding much more than I had budgeted for, necessitating some hard choices.
    I worked at a one stop called Southwest Wholesale for a few years before they closed down, and my time as an account rep for indie stores was one of the shinier periods of my working life. Moved over to Super D for a minute after we closed down, but by then things were consolidating and stores were closing. It was time to move on. I have not really kept up with the distribution side since then, and this situation really caught me as a surprise.
     
  16. There is a double edged sword aspect to this. The RSD consortium of record stores is a bit of a self-involved club that doesn't necessarily represent all independent record stores. Plus most of the signees of the letter are large stores, who may have deluded themselves into not being as vigilant as smaller stores must with their smaller funds.
     
  17. Dreaddazzman

    Dreaddazzman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cleveland
    Agree with the first part, but not sure I understand the second. The distro problem is an issue for all stores, not just those in CIMS and not sure what being a big or large store has to do with it? If you can't get new releases in the door, you're not making money.
     
    wgb113 and DeRosa like this.
  18. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    Since ALL 3 major labels transferred their distribution to Direct Shot, what is it exactly you expect them to do? Order from Amazon?
     
    wgb113 likes this.
  19. KDubATX

    KDubATX Dude Man Bro

    Location:
    Austin
    Straight consignment deals brah
     
  20. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    It doesn’t work that way...BRAH. If you want any product from the major labels, you get it from their distributor.
     
    Mr. LP Collector and CBackley like this.
  21. KDubATX

    KDubATX Dude Man Bro

    Location:
    Austin
    Wait you can't just like email Metallica to drop some CDs off? Who knew.
     
    Mugrug12 likes this.
  22. I guess I mean order direct with independents, don't depend on RED, ADA, etc., and maintain accounts with various one stops to cobble together large Major label orders. Cause it seems to falter when large Major label orders are done, problems happen. Which shows up the real problem, the 3 majors are too lazy and careless to handle their own order fulfillment, like the indies do. If they did they would get direct feedback as to problems, and what is selling and what is being requested. It's not like they would have to work that hard, interns would do it, and there are far less stores now, than the 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s, etc.,
     
  23. Dreaddazzman

    Dreaddazzman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cleveland
    The issue, I think, is primarily with the majors and not the independents though and on that front, Direct Shot is now in control of all distribution for Sony, UMG and Warners. That being said, not sure how having accounts with multiple one stops solves that part of the issue.

    Having worked with the majors in the past, while them taking control of their own distro sounds like a good idea, I'm doubtful it would be in reality. They're a mess from top to bottom.
     
    zphage likes this.
  24. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    Worth a shot...just not Lars.
     
    Sci-Flyer likes this.
  25. freq

    freq Forum Resident

    Spotify killed the physical star . . .
     

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