There’s been much talk here about digital distribution and even vinyl records and its true enough that digital distribution has demystified music distribution for the diy label and artist but the reality is that (legal) download services still only have a third of the full retail music market share, so CDs, (at least for the time being) and even vinyl are still around and wont be going anywhere for a while yet.
“Digital sales now account for an estimated 15% of the global music market, up from 11% in 2006 and zero in 2003. In the world’s biggest digital music market, the US, online and mobile sales now account for 30% of all revenues” IFPI Digital Music Report 2008
We’ve already talked about vinyl pressings and it has looked a little bleak for quite a while with stories of closures of vinyl distributors. Which has once again bought up the ‘vinyl is dead’ catcalls. But, despite the sometimes negative outlook there is a renewed interest in vinyl (which I wrote about here).
“Chain stores don’t know what to do with vinyl and I would rather indie stores make money off of my products. Nearly all of the records have been sold through the Vinyl Collective website or through mom and pop retailers..” Virgil Dickerson – Surburban Home Records
Vinyl or CD?
Well, how much money have you got? Manufacturing a vinyl record is much costlier than a CD. 1000 CDs in jewel cases, retail ready will cost around $1200 from somewhere like Discmakers. 1000 vinyl albums would be more than double that from somewhere like UR Pressings in Nashville.
Unless you have a major following (then you wont be reading this anyway) then 1000 vinyl albums (or singles for that matter) is probably over doing it a little. 500 still works out at around $4 per unit for vinyl. Its less than half that for CDs. Consider that if you’re worried about being able to shift 500 hard copies then maybe you should stick with the download option.
Where To Sell?
If you have a good live following and play regular then 500 sounds like a number you could sell via gigs, your website, a link on your MySpace page and mail order (CD Baby and Amazon Advantage are the two outlets that spring to mind).
Follow Virgil Dickerson’s advice (see above quote) and stick to indie stockists for shifting vinyl singles. Hopefully there will be an independent retailer left near you that you can approach. If not send a copy to a key retailer and see if they’ll take 5/10 copies.
Whats a key retailer? Any well known music store in a big/happening city. Rough Trade and BM Soho (aka Black Market) in London would be two. Fat Beats (in NY and LA) would be one, Y and T in Miami would be one so would Amoeba in LA.
All the mentioned stores have a ‘buzz’ surrounding them, all have a bit of a scene around them. They’re hangouts too. Like good record stores used to be.
Of course this is no definitive list. Make your own. Do your research in your own particular music genre (and even left field artists have their outlets). Read MP3 blogs, artist blogs, make notes, use Google!
If you sign up for (CD) distribution via CD Baby, part of the deal is that your release (and you do need that barcode to get in there) gets added to the database at national distributor Super D who cover over 2000 stores in the USA.
Another way of an indie artist getting into (US) retail chains is via FYE’s Localeyez program.
I’d warn anyone against sending their whole pressing run (CDs or vinyl) to one distributor. Chances are you can shift that short run yourself anyway so instead send a box or two to outlets that can get you into key markets or exports. If you’re in Florida and you lost 20 units to a distributor in LA, you can live with that. If you had the whole run sent there and something goes wrong, you’re screwed.
Trying to get a distributor interested is not much different than trying to get signed to a label. Instead of sending your music to a record label, you’re sending your music to a distributor.
And again, here, do your research when looking for a distributor. Larger distributors wont really consider one off releases from bands or artists without a track record. Look at independent records or artists that you like and find out who distributes them. Find their MySpace page, email them. Make sure you get through to the person at the distributor who is most likely to be into the music you are pitching.
I’ve listed a good list of distributors to start you off here:
Plastic Head – (Extreme Metal to Hip hop, Techno to Reggae, Ambient chill out to Hardcore Punk
Proper Most genres
Kudos – Dance, soul
ST Holdings – Drum’n’Bass, Hip Hop, Breakbeat, Techno, House, Down Tempo and Dub Step
Shell Shock – Independents
City Hall Records – Jazz, Blues, Rap/Hip Hop, and World Beat
Revolver USA Rock, punk, dance
Nail Distribution – Indie rock, indie pop, electronic, punk, alternative rock, avant-jazz, vintage funk & soul, classic punk, experimental, evil metal, sweater-core, strumpet core, hardcore, emo and just about any other edgy genre
Red Eye USA – all indie genres
TRC Distribution – DJs/dance
Thirty Tigers –
Why Do People Buy Records? (MatadorRecords.com)
Find Music Distribution (About.com)
IFPI Publishes Digital Music Report 2008 (IFPI) 28pg PDF
Vinyl Roundup (Donewaiting.com)
Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CimsMusic.com)
Music Industry Statistics (Wikipedia)
The Vinyl Frontier (Test Industries)
Response to Wired’s “Vinyl May be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin”(IndieHQ)
USB Turntables Raise Vinyl From the Dead (Straight.com)