What’s wrong with bands selling their own releases ?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING if that is the path they want to choose. My point is that if a band really does want to get word of mouth and create a buzz on their album then it is far better to get their album into as many shops as they can and have their loyal fans go in and create that buzz. With things selling so much less now getting 50 people to wander into shops extolling the virtue of an album is worth more than any revenue lost. What doesn’t work is have your fans go into a shop and ask if they stock your release and when the shop helpfully offers to get it have them told that they have already bought it from the band but the shop should stock it cos “it’s really good”.  

I remember Johnny from Fence understandably saying how pissed off he gets when bands ask him to give their album to Domino or Moshi Moshi with the obvious implication that Fence aren’t quite good enough. Similarly we get bands who just hope we will recommend their release to Ian Rankin now their album has stopped selling but have made no attempt to bring it in before. When Sean Hughes tweeted at some length about albums I’d sold him the same thing happened. For the record I have no influence with Ian I’m afraid except to tell him what is new and let him make his own mind up !

Oddly enough I also remember talking to Johnny about singles and he again understandably made the point that there was no point Fence just promoting a single and doing all the hard work if there wasn’t an album afterwards to capitalise on all that hard work. Similarly for a shop time spent promoting a band’s first album they hope will be rewarded with more sales and less effort needed for the second album as fans return. That was certainly the case in all my time. Now that just doesn’t happen for all the reasons already well documented.   

Things become more complicated if as I say a proper band is on a proper label. The rules of distribution are clear believe me. All parties (shops, labels and the bands) should stick to the release date. That this doesn’t happen so often doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make a shop wrong for complaining about it. What is most worrying is that shops are scared to complain. The most amazing example of this going wrong for Avalanche was when we didn’t sell a single copy of the Found CD week one as all our customers had bought it at the gig and it took several months to sell all we had ordered.

The most recent example of the caution we have to show was the PAWS album. We simply waited to see if there was any demand left and then got some in straight away. We got the vinyl in as soon as it was available. Assuming the album has sold well the figures I published only showed how little went through the shops. I’m still surprised that given the support we have given Fat Cat over the years they felt no need to contact us at all which I have to say only two years ago would have been standard practice.

I totally sympathise with bands needing to supplement their fee if any from a gig with merch but there are plenty of other really obvious options that bands often don’t explore in the form of t-shirts, badges, tote bags, posters etc. In particular when bands tour an album for a second time it gives them something different to sell. Certainly Avalanche will be looking for a business partner to work on merch in the future, something we mentioned in our manifesto but only now has become a priority.

As for the amount of unpaid work we do promoting bands this week it was Withered Hand, Meursault and Randolph’s Leap in North Carolina while earlier in the week it was helping a noise/improv guy move from Upstate New York to Edinburgh. Most of what we do doesn’t come to anything more positive than new fans being created in another country but every now and again somebody like Dan will end up with a famous actor looking after him in LA and having his album touted to major film producers or Emily Scott will be recommended to a shop in Nashville. We have a long list of successes ! Some are closer to home as with Star Wheel Press and Ian Rankin. 

Interestingly when I gave Essex band Dingus Khan all this “banter” when they popped in the shop they were very grateful thanking me on twitter and sending in a friend with a bag full of goodies. I’ve also had lots of supportive emails and bands pop in the shop to thank me for the time spent with them and the advice given so it would appear one band’s rant is another’s sound advice. I’ve tried in this blog to address various comments that have been made because I certainly don’t have time to respond individually. I’m still happy to answer any points this blog may have raised when I have time.

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