Customer Choice – but not too much !

kids listening-to-recordsI clearly remember in the early days of the internet people telling me how this would give “the kids” the chance to listen to far more music and they would end up liking all sorts of “weird shit”. The reality however is it has more than ever resulted in them liking The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

Those now looking to discover new and interesting music are understandably overwhelmed by the amount of choice and want that choice narrowed down but not to the level of Spotify’s if you like that you’ll like this.

Of course a good record shop can make recommendations to customers from the basic if you like The Twilight Sad you will like There Will Be Fireworks a la Spotify to the more common genre based lists of artists somebody might like but I suddenly realised when chatting to one young lad that one other avenue of discovering bands was now lost to younger generations.

The young lad had bought an Aphex Twin 12″ from me and the next week the new album from Grizzly Bear so when Warp Records kindly offered to tag Avalanche in a poster campaign I mentioned it to him. He had no idea who Warp were ! I should have had an inkling this was possible as again when talking to another lad about Sub Pop and their 25th anniversary campaign this year I suddenly realised he had no idea who Sup Pop were despite him having said he liked several of their bands.

Now obviously not everything by a label will be good or indeed similar to label mates but it does give a manageable selection of bands somebody might want to investigate. Both those guys have now discovered bands on Sub Pop and Warp they do like. However, and I’m sure some of you will see where this is leading, there is a big difference now from those days of people buying everything on Creation or Sarah.    

saropolyImagine if come SARAH 008 (younger readers may now be getting confused but people did genuinely once talk from time to time in catalogue numbers) Sarah Records had decided to follow up the success of SARAH 001 (The Sea Urchins – “Pristine Christine”) by the releasing the new Sea Urchins single early to fans of the band and label or maybe offered an extra photocopied insert if bought directly. OK I know I’ve lost the many younger readers of this blog by now but please just go and ask your mum or dad.

The point is the support shown to the label over the best part of a decade by shops would not have been as forthcoming (especially when as inevitably happens not everything was as good as The Sea Urchins) if they had faced such competition from the very label they were supporting.

Now some might argue that Sarah were exactly the sort of label that would have benefited more financially from practices adopted by labels now and they might be right but I genuinely believe that the shops promotion and support for Sarah was an overall benefit to the label. Now of course there would be a Sarah app and not the Saropoly board game pictured above.

Sub Pop logo square

There will I’m sure be some kid out there buying the new Pissed Jeans album and not having heard of Mudhoney. Admittedly they may not find Still Corners to their taste but delving into the iconic catalogue that is Sub Pop they will find many other bands I’m sure and without the help of Spotify. Imagine if HMV hadn’t tried to sell the kids headphones and instead gone for what they know best and supported labels like Sup Pop.

Then it becomes not just about the music but all that goes with a label like Sub Pop, the t-shirts, record bags, posters, badges etc ie THINGS YOU CAN’T DOWNLOAD ! A Sub Pop sticker has to be better than the “I Fancy Your Mum” sticker I recently saw on twitter in HMV. Again I would back a concerted high street campaign for the label’s 25th anniversary against any online equivalent. It would certainly kick the shit out of Amazon.

Of course there are many other labels, bands and even record companies these ideas could be applied to. Even the HMV brand itself is a great brand and yet they went with those Christmas adverts which were shit.

Next why bands should sign to labels, labels use distributors and distributors sell their releases to shops. It’s a crazy idea but it just might work !                      

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