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"The bottom just dropped out of the market for music catalog"

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by kwadguy, Sep 11, 2013.

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  1. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    Last night, I was at a party and was talking to someone who runs a small, but (in the past) successful music label. He told me that up until this year, the sales pattern for new stuff was: "Big" (relatively speaking) sales for the first few weeks, while the album was getting press and fans were buying it. After that, sales would slow down, but there'd be a steady modest stream of sales over the next year or so as the artist (typically) toured, and laggard fans picked it up, then the sales would slow some more, but there'd be enough to justify keeping it in the warehouse.

    He said that this year, he (and others he knows who own labels) agree that the bottom has dropped out of that model.

    Now, he says, you get whatever sales you're going to get in the first few weeks. Then, unless your artist creates an event (high profile appearance or whatever), sales fall off a cliff. In other words, the steady, modest stream of sales that followed through after the first wave have evaporated. He told me he's looking at dusty overstock on almost everything he's released this year.

    His quote: "Things haven't been great in a long time, but this year, catalog, even recent catalog, is dead unless you're selling Walmart type stuff for hit artists."

    I guess this is consistent with what we've seen with labels like Omivore and their recent "come and get 'em" sales.
     
  2. mikeja75

    mikeja75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.S.
    Is it fair to say that the general music buyer simply doesn't care any longer? I think some of these individuals that previously were buying music throughout the year are streaming instead of buying, but my sense is that general person just doesn't care any longer.

    They may listen to a new song a time or two on youtube.

    Like you said -- unless you're an artist that can move UNITS at a big box store you're almost dead out of the gate.

    It seems pretty dire out there.
     
  3. utenteanonimo64

    utenteanonimo64 Well-Known Member

    One more reason for small labels to move to digital sales. That way there is no need to look at dusty overstock.
     
  4. bilgewater

    bilgewater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Michigan
    Interesting. I'd like to learn more about this. Any more anecdotes or links?

    One of my favorite smaller labels is the German label ECM, which specializes in contemporary classical and, above all, contemporary chamber-music style jazz. They have Keith Jarrett as their top-seller (I presume). They sell via amazon and elsewhere, and their stuff is never on big sale and remains top price well after release. For one thing, their audience is older, I would assume, and thus more inclined to buy their music via cds (due to super-high quality packaging and production).

    Another of my favorite small labels is the LA-based hiphop and neosoul label STONES THROW. Again they sell widely and do not do deep discounting. I go to their website all the time (they do cool promo t-shirts and merchandise on a limited basis). I hope this means that they're doing okay, business-wise.

    I don't have inside knowledge of these labels' business, so I'm just speculating. If anyone has better knowledge, please do share.
     
    NapalmBrain likes this.
  5. BlueSpeedway

    BlueSpeedway Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    It won't do them much good, because it won't stop the many people listening to small-label / small-artist stuff for free on Spotify and YouTube and never buying anything.
     
    krlpuretone, goodiesguy and PhilBiker like this.
  6. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    This is why Steve always says to jump on a new release if you want it. Here today, gone tomorrow.
     
  7. Scott in DC

    Scott in DC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I think it's pretty well established that people are buying "albums" (whether CD or LP format) less compared to previous decades. While people like the type you find on the Steve Hoffman forums still buy albums the average consumer doesn't. They might download the hit songs that gets their attention, habitual album buying is a thing of the past.

    Record labels like ECM (who I also enjoy) can still sell their music but let's face it, ECM is a unique situation.

    Scott
     
    jsayers likes this.
  8. rstamberg

    rstamberg Senior Member

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
    I tend to think he's correct. It's amazing how fast some things disappear.
     
  9. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    I know i've missed out on things because I just didn't have the money at the time. This why i've stopped collecting so many reissues. If something I really want by Audio Fidelity or on HF Tracks comes out, them i'll look for a way.
     
  10. dobyblue

    dobyblue Forum Resident

    It's time the major labels turn to releasing audiophile recordings, we're the only ones left that will keep them afloat. :)
     
  11. bilgewater

    bilgewater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Michigan
    Gawd, then they're really finished.
     
    goodiesguy, Thurenity, Jim B. and 4 others like this.
  12. mrbillswildride

    mrbillswildride Internet Asylum Escapee 2010, 2012, 2014

    Conversely, my local Independent Record Store has more new vinyl releases and reissues than at any point in the past twenty years, since the nadir of vinyl production, circa 1993. There is more records to chose from than I can afford to buy, nor have time to listen to; I'm about a dozen new releases behind right now.

    So I guess it depends on your format, and how full you view the glass.

    Long live vinyl!:righton:
     
  13. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    It's worth pointing out that, historically speaking, the long time that a lot of stuff has been available at retail is a fairly recent phenomenon. Prior to the CD era, poorly selling albums would typically disappear from the retail space (cutout of simply recalled and ground up) as quickly as months after release, and almost always within the first year or two of release.

    We're essentially heading back in that direction. But we've been there before.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  14. bilgewater

    bilgewater Forum Resident

    Location:
    Michigan
    This thread seems an appropriate place for me to kvetch that the Urban Outfitters in our college town has made a considerable push into selling vinyl albums (mostly current rock and hiphop, with some superstar legacy names too). The albums sell for $19-30 and are NEVER NEVER on sale. I'm always cruising by and looking for an enticement for me to buy Daft Punk RAM or this 'n' that but the records just pile up. I've never seen anyone buy them, but still no discounts. What gives?
     
    alainsane likes this.
  15. utenteanonimo64

    utenteanonimo64 Well-Known Member

    I see your point however being on Spotify is a choice for a label. Maybe they could also join forces with other labels to renegotiate how much money they and the artists get when music is played on Spotify.
    We had another thread recently and I expressed my opinion on Spotify: a great service for the end user, a parasite for the new artists.
     
    BlueSpeedway likes this.
  16. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    But, those albums would always come back in the form of distributor cut-outs. Today, the labels just don't press enough copies for that to happen.
     
  17. majorlance

    majorlance Forum Resident

    Location:
    PATCO Speedline
    Yep. I distinctly remember getting Beatles '65 and Beatles VI as cutouts at Woolworth's in the late 60s.
     
    PhilBiker likes this.
  18. adm62

    adm62 Senior Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    That's the opposite of what he's saying.
     
    Wally Swift likes this.
  19. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    Depends on the label. For example, Columbia/Epic stuff would just be recalled and become land fill. That's why albums like Skip Spence's Oar are so scarce...
     
  20. thepluralofvinyl

    thepluralofvinyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Music City, USA
    True catalog always dies as formats mature. I was working at labels for years when things like Marley Legend, soundtracks like Saturday Night Fever, Les Miz and such were HUGE sales every week funding the money that goes to try and break a new artist. That was mostly still driven by people replacing their vinyl/cassettes with CDs. That was a big part of why they kept attempting to push new formats after CD, they wanted you to buy those Beatles records again. The casual buyer who used to buy that stuff (mostly at the holidays as gifts) is now at most buying itunes giftcards. The casual listener probably either still has their CD or is content with Rdio & Spotify. Those of us who want tangible product tend to get them as soon as we know about them. It's sort of just coming back to reality.
     
    slipkid likes this.
  21. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    Who?
     
  22. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    I didn't know that. Come to think of it, I rarely ever saw CBS cut-outs in the 70s, only mostly RCA and WEA. But, I saw CD cutouts from CBS/Sony all over the place in the 90s.
     
  23. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    Location:
    United States
    In a way, I am starting to curse what the original Napster started.
     
    robertawillisjr likes this.
  24. vjf1968

    vjf1968 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Philadelphia, Pa
    Probably because they are consignment items and they have to sell them at the price they were told to sell them.
     
  25. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Location:
    Northern VA, USA
    I personally think that the CD bloated the music business hugely in the 80s and 90s. People replaced their vinyl and tapes with CD, that represented huge huge sales for all the labels that owned valuable catalog. The business model was unsustainable, particularly because the next big format, MP3/AAC, could be had without purchase (I don't mean illegally downloaded MP3s here; I just mean people ripping their CDs).
     
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