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Re: loopmarketing redux

I've gotten some interesting feedback from people regarding the thread
Michael started.  This is clearly an important issue to a lot of people.

Here is an elaboration on some record sales statistics:

-- The number of albums released by major labels last year was somewhere
in the neighborhood of 14,000.

-- The number of albums released by majors two years ago was half of
that (as someone mentioned earlier today).

-- Of the 3% of albums released by majors which sell more than 700, 2%
sell 50,000 or more, and 1% lie somewhere in the yawning divide between
701 and 49,999.

-- I've heard it said that the majority of artists who sign with majors
never even release records.  Keep that in mind as you mull over the
first two statistics.

-- An artist with a major typically gets an advance against all future
earnings.  Once this advance is paid, the artist generally recieves no
further payment until such time as the label has recouped the expenses
of making the album.  About 85% of major releases don't recoup.  For
another perspective, the lead singer of flash-in-the-pan band Sugar Ray
gave an interview last year when their uncharacteristic mellow song
"Fly" became the de facto Summer Anthem Of '97 (tm).  He mentioned in
the interview, given at the height of the single's popularity, that he'd
had to borrow $60 from his dad to pay his pager bill, since he still
owed his label many thousands of dollars.

These are both terribly intimidating and oddly inspiring times.  It's
painfully apparent that the old ways of doing things don't work very
well any more; the market is increasingly over-saturated with product,
very little of which has any staying power, and the "music industry" is
only becoming more corporate-driven, which means that you have people
tending to treat music more and more like a commodity and less like an
art form.  Seagram Entertainment recently purchased Polygram, which
means that a number of powerful labels including Polygram, Universal,
Geffen, Interscope, and numerous others are now under the same corporate
banner.  The current plan for this new corporation is to trim expenses
by about $300 million per year.  This likely translates into "letting
go" of acts and label personnel who don't meet the necessary standards.

The upside to this is that there's never been a time when there were
more easilly-accessible options to an independent musician in terms of
getting their music heard by people.  

Here are some suggestions I have:

-- A page could be started on the Looper's Delight site listing
different independent (or non-independent) releases by members of the
list.  This would be a bit different than the discography section in the
profiles; the idea would be to draw attention to albums which are
specifically in-print and available for public purchase.  Links to sites
for the releases could be included, as could thumbnail descriptions of
the albums.

-- If someone can find the space to store them, some RealAudio files of
the Looper's Delight CDs is a really interesting idea.  Depending on how
this is handled, it could conceivably expand into something more
generally inclusive.

-- With regards to the query of "why start a record label at all," my
main thought is that if one is in fact established as a professional
business entity, there are some considerable financial advantages.  For
one thing, you can obtain a resale permit, which allows you to avoid
having to pay state sales tax on items that will be re-sold (i.e. CDs,
T-shirts, posters, etc).  For another, it means that professional
expenses can be written off at tax time, and if your business includes
recording and selling mass-produced CDs, there's serious potential for
deductions.  Beyond that, if one wants to be taken seriously by
distributors, reviewers, and radio stations as something beyond yet
another act peddling a "demo," it seems to me that actually having a
serious business set up means you'll be ready to deal with the more
in-depth mechanics of getting your music out there if and when that time
comes.  And if your "label" grows to much more than one person (and even
if it doesn't), you'll likely need to open a DBA bank account to handle
the finances in an orderly and accountable fashion, unless you're
planning on having all payments "paid to the order of Joe Schmoe."

-- People need to get out of the habit of getting their music from
retail outlets and start thinking in terms of mail-order and Internet
purchase.  If you think about it, it's a lot less trouble to write out a
check for a CD, put it in an envelope, and stick it in a mailbox than it
is to drive to a record store and search through the stacks for product
that may or may not be there.  People should also keep in mind that
bypassing the retail system means that more money is going to the
artists themselves -- and if they're buying out of state, then it's very
likely more cost-effective for the consumer as well.  

-- If you're going to go to the considerable time and expense of trying
to put yet another CD out there into the world, then please try to make
sure that there's a reason for people to hear it!  It's a good idea if
you want to get noticed amidst the several thousand other releases out
there right now.  Try to put music out there that really needs to be
heard, that isn't saying the exact same thing that everyone else in your
general sphere of music (whatever and wherever that may be) is trying to
say.  You owe it to yourself, to the other musicians whose music is
vying for attention, and to the consumer who's trying to sort out the
jewels amidst the clams.

Finally, there's an excellent interview with Bill Bruford at Anil
Prasad's site at 


Here's a brief excerpt wherein Bruford describes the perils of


I understand Discipline now has a distribution deal with Rykodisc.

That's correct, and something that occurred after we took a terrible hit
when something
called INDI Alliance, a huge conglomerate of distributors, went bankrupt
recently, leaving
a huge unpaid bill. For a minute, I didn't think any of us were going to
survive with
Discipline Records incurring that huge a loss of money. But we're a
resilient lot and we're still in business, but you must
understand the American distribution system operates on a bit of a knife

Can you be more specific about how the bankruptcy of INDI Alliance
almost finished-off Discipline?

They had just released and sold a large number of Epitaph - a boxed of
set of the very first, 1969 King Crimson and it
was a very expensive item. They sold many thousands of them and failed
to pay Discipline because they went bankrupt.
So, that was unpaid money to Discipline, which is a problem. You've got
bills and salaries to meet and if the distributor
doesn't pay you, you're in real trouble. That was a bad time, but we've
recovered from it. 


This site also contains a couple of great David Torn interviews,
including one mammoth, epic-sized one (which actually came into being as
a result of a suggestion made by yours truly) which, among many other
things, sees David go into detail about his dealings with ECM, CMP, and
Windham Hill, as well as an account of how the Rain Tree Crow project
was handled by Virgin.  (More) sobering stuff.