View from a Record Store #5
Our man from a record store gets into a rant about the big boys this week. What's his problem?
What is it with big record companies?
I mean, just what the god damn fuck is going on. One day they are all cuddly cuddly (in and around Record Store Day as it happens), next they want to eviscerate your children. Talk about being inconsistent...
There are clearly some issues with what record companies are doing, but let me rant a little about new releases, of mostly pop, but also good shit, following on from vinyl last week.
So, Sony think its a good idea to issue some X-Factor puke. As my moto is 'I'm not the arbiter of taste, only seller of music' there has to come a time that if the public want it, I should sell it. So I see it on my pre-sell from Sony. Dealer price is £9.17. Discount of 15% available (this is not including VAT). So to sell this I would have to put it out at £14. Shall I say this again. £14. I know. It's insane.
And this is only a tiny fragment of the insanity. Even if I could get away with selling pop at this ridiculous price, I face yet another serious issue. 3 months after it is out, Sony are doing a campaign, now the dealer price is £4. Which I could sell for £7. If I didn't have all that stock that I failed to sell first time round. And then a year later, it's in the budget bin for £2.50.
Yet, and this is the annoying bit. I could sell it. I could sell dozens of Leona Lewis CDs, hundreds of Military Wives CDs... tonnes of it. Because it's pop, which the last time I checked was short for 'popular'! I have dozens of people come in asking me. This is small town Somerset, not groovy west London. I have to serve my community, which buys classical, jazz, blues, hip hop, hardcore and pop.
And here is the conundrum. Should I stock it and sell it at cost to meet the demand, and hopefully promote sales in other areas. This is in effect what Tesco and HMV are doing. Should I sell it at my normal margin. Well I think the answer to both of these questions is: no. Selling stuff at cost just to get people through the door is fools errand. Your turnover looks good, but where is the profit. And what evidence is there that the Leona Lewis fan is going to dip into some rare Brazilian psyche.
If I did sell at my full margin, I would either get people walking out in disgust (“well it's bloody 8.99 on Amazon” - so who could blame them); or people will feel obliged to pay it (to support me etc etc), and then feel like they have been ripped off, as it's £8.99 on Amazon. Either way, this is not a good retail experience. So instead, I don't do it. And I'm not alone. Most Indie shops won't touch it.
It's a shame, as the big boys are all seeing sales drop in the high street. They are propping up their big seller (HMV) with bonkers credit/consignment arrangements, and they offer fantastic deals to their key seller, Amazon. They seem to be content that music selling shall become a 2 horse race. Amazon and iTunes. So they have unwittingly (and I do think it is unwitting) allowed the creation of a monopoly. Once HMV fails, pop in the high street will only be available via Tescos, Asda and Sainsburys. And eventually, this will ebb away as supermarkets loose their taste for it. Leaving little or no high street selling of pop.
So suddenly, pop is no longer popular, 'cause you can't really buy it. And its not just pop that gets affected by this policy. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Rolling Stones, Beatles are all on majors, good sellers for me, but not their new albums. I'll get them on overstock 6 months later.
What a mad, mad, mad, mad situation to get into. All these guys need to do is start selling their product in smaller shops and chains. Which means being reasonable with the sealer price (which means that shops like me need to operate at a margin of 30%, not 2%. This is not unreasonable. I do not drive a Porshe, and I'm not looking to make great swathes of money. I just want to make an honest living).
By doing this, we could all win. When everyone else is gone, these big boys have some choices about where they can sell their music, rather than having the pace dictated to them by Amazon. Shops can make a better living ensuring that music is still sold on the high street. Artists can see their physical product being sold, and make some money. Customers have a choice about where to buy the product and if they come here, the chance to glance through the 8000 odd additional titles on offer (a benefit to all labels). Everyone’s a winner.