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Wednesday, January 25

More Thoughts on the Indie Best Buy Sellout

I have to say that I while I knew people would be upset about this, I had no idea that I would get this kind of response to my rant, which has been kindly called an essay by a few overly generous souls. So thanks for all the words of support and encouragement. Yesterday was a bad day around here because of this whole thing and it helped tremendously. Obviously, we feel the sting and sense of betrayal right along with all of our retailers and fellow distributors.

A point of clarification on MAP. This stands for Minimum Advertised Price and was a program instituted by the majors to actually fight the loss leader pricing by the big boxes. You could only get major label coop dollars if you promised not to sell titles below a certain price. This worked to the indie stores benefit. While they still usually could not quite meet the new release pricing of Best Buy and others, they could come close enough for it not to be an insult to the consumer. Then a federal investigation decided that MAP was actually price fixing, collusion and racketeering and the majors were forced to pull their MAP programs, which led us to the current situation.

I have been asked a few times why Merge, ADA, and RED were not called out by name along with the other labels. Well, Merge was just an oversight on my part in the heat of the moment. They were copied later when this was pointed out to me. As for ADA and RED, well we have no direct dealings with them and frankly this kind of behavior, while disappointing, does not strike us as entirely out of character for them. You expect the teenager to wreck the car and the dog to lick himself. It's just what they do.

I've also been asked about solutions with recommendations ranging from law suits to boycotts and just about everything in between. Lawsuits are expensive and time consuming. Boycotts hurt the other bands on the labels, the vast majority of whom are not participating in this suicidal exercise.

I have no magic wand for a solution, but for the moment, I think something along the lines of a group intervention is the best way to go. Or as one sage called the method a long time ago, better learning through humiliation. If we spread the word far enough, publicly enough, and then focus that back to the labels and bands doing these coops, perhaps maybe possibly they'll get the message and change their behavior. Probably not, but maybe.

I have also been asked if I'm not nervous that we'll be cut off from these labels for speaking out. The thought never once crossed my mind until someone asked last night. I cannot imagine that we would be cut off. We have done nothing offensive or wrong, at least in this instance. We're just the ones pointing out the behavior and yelling "jackass!". If that gets us cut off because egos have been bruised following a really bad business decision, then I think that will reflect much more poorly on the label than on us and I'm sure they'd hear about that as well. Honestly I can't imagine that any of them would stoop to that. It's not how the operate on a day to day basis, which is one of the reasons why this whole episode is so disheartening. This sort of behavior is expected of some, but not by these folks, at least not by us, and from all of the email we've gotten on it, not by most of you either.

We offer our blog as a space for public commentary. It's not doing anything else right now anyway.


  1. hey someone asked about this stuff over at the Merge msg boards, so i figured if i went to the trouble of writing this whole thing i might as well put it here too! thanks mac:

    good to know this was posted on a blog -- we thought it was just a personal email that only Merge received...

    this is certainly a valid issue to discuss, there are many sides to it and i'd say it's safe to say we're torn about stuff like this.

    obviously merge's job is to get our artists' records in as many stores as possible and make them available to as many people as possible who want to buy them.

    i think it's also obvious that Merge is a supporter of independent retail & distribution, we spend money (in fact the majority of our retail promotional spending) with them advertising & promoting our records (contrary to popular belief, it's not free to get your records in those racks at the front of the store) as well. while here in NC we're lucky to still have some great independent stores, we know that many smaller stores around the country have closed. i don't think you can lay those closures solely at the feet of best buy, but certainly the 'big box' chains have had an impact on smaller retail, as has The Internet, video games & dvds, gentrification & the corollary rise in the price of real estate....

    so as i say, our job is to get our cds into as many stores as possible, and this means chains as well as the independents. why punish some kid who lives in Yakima where the only place he can find the Arcade Fire cd is at a Target? don't make it available to the kid at all? do i appreciate Target giving huge sums of money to the GOP? no. do i prefer to shop at a small local store? yes. not everyone has the option, or the politics neccessarily, to do what Patrick at Carrot Top deems "the right thing."

    as for this case in particular, Best Buy purchases the Arcade Fire cd from the distributor ADA at the SAME price any other retailer does. Labels and retail (i learned today) are not even legally allowed to discuss pricing, so Best Buy pricing those cds at $7.99 was completely their choice to lose money on those cds in order to get people in to buy a dvd player or whatever.

    when i say i'm torn it's because $7.99 is a ridiculous price that no independent retailer can match, and i think it DOES devalue cds to a certain extent (eg someone walks into a store and sees a cd for an avg $14.99 and thinks "man i've seen cds for $7.99! $14.99 is a rip-off! i'm just going to download it..."). but i do not agree that best buy putting an Arcade Fire cd on sale for a week is bringing down the indie infrastructure.

    our retail person here thinks that because Best Buy doesn't stock 90% of what Merge puts out, including back catalog by the same artists they DO carry (spoon might be a good example) that someone who discovers an artist because the "popular" record is on sale at best buy, will then hopefully be driven to find out more about that band and look for the back catalog that they will have to get at a store that mainly sells music.

    i also think that the rhetoric of the thing and the talk of "betrayal" is a bit over the top... why would we "cut off" a distributor we've worked with for years who does a good job, just because someone expressed their personal views about a real issue? and is he really comparing indie retail to MLK Jr?

    has he not found that quite often at indie stores the hipster clerk is an unhelpful cooler-than-thou jerk? where does he think Merge was in the mid-90's he ruefully remembers? signing bands like Lucy's Fur Coat and "doing deals" with Best Buy? no, we were doing what we're doing now, only hopefully now we do it more effectively for everyone involved.

    to imply that we've abandoned independent retail & distribution (why would we do that?) is not accurate. but running any kind of business (unless you truly are just out for a buck and yrself alone) is a minefield of dilemmas like this -- that's what capitalism creates -- tensions between artist/consumer/business that are not always easily squared.

    learning through humiliation? that's no fun. no, learning through 17 years of having a record label and having to navigate this stuff.

    again there are so many angles and curves to this issue, i'm sure i have barely scratched the surface here, but since you asked...

    merge records

  2. Nick @ Secretly Canadian / SC DistributionJanuary 25, 2006 4:01 PM

    Here is a letter which I sent to all of the retailers and distros on our mailing list. I offer it for consideration here as well...

    Hello retail and distributor friends,

    Earlier this month SC Distribution authorized, with Secretly Canadian's blessing, participation in a Best Buy ad mailer which is currently running. Perhaps due to some naivete, we did not perceive the program as potentially controversial. After looking at things much more closely, thanks in part to the many emails we have received concerning this, we realize that we may have erred, and that, at a minimum, we should tread more carefully in the future. Though unfortunately, much of the negative response that has reached us is largely predicated on assumptions and/or misinformation (understandable as they may be). I am writing in an attempt to foster an open dialogue.

    The program which we approved involved Antony and the Johnsons "I am a Bird Now" (Secretly Canadian, SC105). Best Buy approached us about this title, as they were seeking to focus on "Artists out of the Mainstream" (their words, not ours). The album was included in Best Buy's weekly print circular which was distributed in newspapers nationwide on 1/22/06. It also received special positioning with sale pricing for one week in Best Buy stores. On the surface of things, this seemed like most any marketing program that we would do with any indie mom and pop store (as that's where the majority of our marketing dollars go), just on a bigger scale. Here is a link to Best Buy's website featuring the "special offer" - http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?type=category&id=pcmcat81900050045

    Now as soon as you look at that link, the first thing that screams out is that Best Buy is selling the participating titles for $7.99 in stores (for the one week of the program). Alarming to us and to many folks who have written us is the fact that this price on Best Buy shelves is cheaper than the price that retailers and other distributors receive by ordering the title from SC Distribution direct. To say that this was a shock to us is an understatement.

    Many people who have written us have assumed that we allowed Best Buy to receive a discount so as to lower their price point. Simply this is not true. Best Buy did NOT receive a discount for this title. Before approving the program we specifically confirmed with ADA (our exclusive distributor) that Best Buy would not receive any sort of discount. In fact the price that Best Buy paid is the same price that any other store or chain would pay for our titles via ADA. Not to mention, the price that indie stores and distributors pay to order from SC Distribution directly is significantly CHEAPER than the price that Best Buy paid. We know that we can't dictate or control the end price in stores (as this is deemed in legal-legal land as price-fixing or something of that nature).

    We sincerely feel just as blind-sided by this as many of you probably do. We had always heard theoretically how big stores, like the Walmarts, Circuit Cities and Best Buys of the world, often sell items like CDs at a loss in order to attract other business. And this, no doubt, puts unfair competitive pressures on the smaller record stores who have, to date, been our closest allies. Some of the responses we have received have said that we "should have known better." This is the first marketing program that we have ever done with Best Buy which included sale pricing. It's not always easy to admit naivete, but I'm not sure if we did know better. Now we do.

    But, truly, this experience has now brought this reality even closer to home to us and has caused us to open our eyes further. That we were not more conscientious to begin with is regrettable. And that we unwittingly participated in this kind of scheme is highly regrettable. Independent retailers and distributors are our base. We have not forgotten that. Every indie store we work with in Chicago is more important to us than Best Buy Stores #323 and #814. Here in Bloomington, I shop at Tracks and TDs CDs and LPs, not Best Buy.

    As I'm sure many of you have noticed, we have had a great year. With quick growth, there are growing pains. With new opportunities and decisions to be made, there are learning experiences. We are discussing how else we may want to respond to all this. A few of our staff are in France for the MIDEM conference. Once they return, we may have more for you.

    Also, I encourage you to read the full comments that Mac from Merge posted here. He made a number of good points that don't require an echo from me. I encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact me.

    Nick Blandford

  3. i'm windy weber, and i am a musician and a record store owner. my husband carl and i make music and run a shop. this best buy ad has caused us to be sick with disgust over being treated this way. here is why -

    i don't mind that target sells cds. when i was a kid i bought 45s at woolworths, the 5 and dime at the corner. so having your label's releases in a big store like target is an okay thing with me. BUT, i expect target to have the cd priced for the same amount as i have it priced, not 1/2 price and not on the shelves the friday before the official release date. carl and i bought our store's copies of the last white stripes cd exactly that way - the friday before the release date and at only a fraction of what we had to pay to get them from a one stop. and it's not just major label stuff on sale early. we've seen interpol cds on sale the weekend before the release date, and our friends who have stores in detroit do not order direct for exactly that reason - why order direct from matador, who insists on a strict release date from the indies, when you can go to best buy the weekend before, buy the cds early AND get them for less money than you'd pay the distro. by all means, get your labels exposure, and get your bands music to sell, but don't infuriate the base of retailers that got you where you are today by signing some sweetheart deal with the biggest seller of music today. best buy, walmart and target are the 3 biggest retailers of music in america today. i can see why a label would want their product in those stores, but letting best buy sell your cds for only $7.99 each, even if only for one week, is wrong. and how do you expect small stores to compete with that kind of advertising? where would i get the money to run a full color ad and have it placed in every newspaper in the usa in the weekend edition? carl and i have been in business for 6 1/2 years now, but there are stores out there who have been indies for 20 and 30 years, and indie stores HAVE gotten your label to the place it is today, and this "poor decision" or whatever you'd like to call it, just angered every indie store who put you where you are today. it's hard to imagine why you did not see this coming.

    and as for ada, well, that is a whole different story. ada will not sign up new accounts who cannot fulfill the $300,000 credit limit insisted upon by their mother company (who i believe is warner brothers) and if you don't or cannot order the minimum number of pieces per month, they won't deal with you. so any label who has signed up with ada exclusively who does not do direct to small store selling, or any label who will not sign up new small accounts because of their deal with ada, is just shooting themselves in the foot. i notified people about this probably 3 years ago (maybe 4) when our close friend, who was the regional ada rep for detroit, told us what was happening at ada. he told us about how they would be cancelling all their accounts that spent less than $1,500 a month and not signing up any new accounts for cod. he explained that all new accoutns would have to qualify for the $300,000 credit limit, and that essentially counted indie stores out.

    so how can you say your main goal is to get your bands music out to as many people as you can when you are dealing with someone like ada who has such strict standards for ordering? thank god for distros like ctd who will still carry your titles and help you get into small stores that the big distros have abandoned. i'm not surprised at this backlash at all - you've just bitten the hand that's been feeding you for all these years.

  4. i think mac's perspective may differ a bit from those who are involved in smaller companies given his label and bands longevity and level of success. i would actually see merge as more of a "powerhouse" than the other companies mentioned. i think the whole best buy thing effects merge/mac a lot less than it would secretly canadian, carrot top, etc.
    its kind of like the rich telling the poor that they fully understand their hard times or situation.

    after reading patrick's letter i dont see him injecting some kind of political or rightous view as mac seems to think. i think patrick has an honest concern for independent companies across the board (labels, bands).

    at the end of the day i do think its better for a kid in Yakima to purchase or discover music from some place other than Best Buy. give me a break - with the internet these days you can find and discover anything musically. there are no hidden gems like there were in the 90's.

    i think those in "power" or who are sitting comfortably and arent fighting to stay alive (bigger labels, artists) its good to stay concious of where you came from.

    -from someone who doesnt matter.

  5. If you're referring to Yakima, WA- there's a great indie store there called Off the Record. And for ALL the other kids who only have a Best Buy or Target in town- I wouldn't be surprised if their parents bought them computers from these stores which has enabled them to buy music from the wonderful people at Insound, Interpunk & many other online stores who cater to indie artists & labels for organic, grassroot reasons.

    Merge is one of the reasons I love music so passionately, but I am with Stormy this time...

    someone else who doesn't matter

  6. I, like stormy records own an independent store in Salt Lake City and, like other small music retailers we are getting hammered by the chains and box stores.

    Unlike stormy records however I have no problem with Merge, SC or anyone else selling to Target or BestBuy or any of the other members of the evil empire.

    Shoppers at BestBuy are not music fans and they are not making stores like those a destination for these titles... unless they are available a week ahead of time or have been given an exclusive ala Walmart and then I have a real problem.

    If BestBuy wants to sell Antony and The Johnsons for 7.99, fantastic. But please give the indies a heads up so that we can buy them there for 2 bucks cheaper than we can buy them direct and I'll gladly put ten copies on my Visa and hasten these chains into bankruptcy. Whether you want to admit it or not, the only outcome is that value is getting sucked out of the industry one way or another.

    But by putting your titles into these Crapmerchants before street date you are not only giving an unfair advantage to those that would destroy us, but you are also putting a release out there in plenty of time for someone to rip it and get it on the internet before we get it and that is not right.

    I agree that every label owes it to their artists to sell as many units as they can, so viva la Merge, but I hope they will be just as happy when indies are gone, because when the 1500 or so indies that are left have disappeard there will be nobody to stop the BestBuys of the world from making the rules. One of which will be demanding that the labels sell them their 7.99 titles for 6.99 and then the dominoes (no label pun intended) will fall.

  7. this is a good dialogue, and there are so many points to respond to...

    first of all...YAKIMA! ok i've never beent there and i should have done my research, and hereby direct you all to shop at Off the Record. i only used that example because a friend of mine told me a story of how their cousin who lived in Yakima who was young and knew nothing about music bought an Arcade Fire cd at the Target there. this person was not a 'music fan' -- she heard a song on the radio and went to the place she knew had cds in her town. she was not going to go to Off the Record (though she might when she realizes that she likes music and that Best Buy's selection sucks) or to the Other Music website to buy it online.

    in fact, as many people here and on the Merge board have pointed out, yes i've heard of the internet and how you can buy cds there. again, you are assuming that everyone who wants to buy a cd a) wants to do it online, b) has a credit card, c) has a computer, and d) would buy it from an 'indie' website like InSound or something and not Amazon or BestBuy.com. that's a lot to assume, and it gets back to my original point re: what our job as a record label is, and windy's question as to how we can say that as a record label we feel like it's our job to get records to as many people as possible when we use ADA as a distributor.

    we love our bands, we love their music, and we want to support what they do by yes, getting their records to as many people as possible. ADA, as well as every distributor we use and every store we sell directly to, helps us do this.

    independent retail has always supported merge, and we have always supported independent retail, spending money for the dreaded coop monster patrick mentions with INDIE stores as well as chains, and i keep coming up against this idea here that by ALSO selling in chains, we have abandoned and betrayed independent stores.

    meaning, it seems that most posters here are suggesting that the way to save independent retail would be to REFUSE to sell merge titles in chain stores...that there is a single way to operate in this business and you can define it here in this blog.

    i'll remember that the next time i see, for example, a Windy and Carl CD in a Borders or Barnes & Noble, chains that certainly haven't helped the fortunes of the local bookstores i love to shop at. it doesn't make sense. maybe some labels truly have made this choice (to only allow their product to be sold at independent retail locations) but frankly it is not an option for Merge.

    i don't share nick's shock and surprise at the result of doing an ad program with Best Buy -- if you've been in one, you know that this is what they do (though we too thought it would be on sale for $9.99, not $7.99, which is, as i mentioned before, ridiculous, and why we have ambivalence about this) -- but do share the (generalizing) opinion of someone here when they said that Best Buy is not where music fans shop.

    i think this is true. in other words, i have always thought (and said) that we started the label as music fans and believe that the people who support Merge and buy our cds are music fans as well. these people seek out music, obsess over music, live, eat, breathe music, and these people will shop at Stormy Records and Off the Record and CD Alley in Chapel Hill and Other Music and Sea Level in LA and you get the idea.

    BUT (and you knew there was one coming) if we announced to our bands, especially bands that sell a lot of records, that their CD's would ONLY be available at the cool stores and no longer at any chains, the roster of artists that Merge fans love on Merge would evaporate. if you don't think that's true then you're living on a different planet.

    we put out a lot of records every year, 90% of which are not ever stocked at a chain like Best Buy. we don't care less about those releases, and we don't care more about the releases that ARE stocked at a place like best buy, but part of our success as a label (i think) is that as an independent label we can be flexible and adjust to the needs of each release that we put out.

    i don't think it's like the rich telling the poor anything -- do you know the history of merge or any small label? have you heard me condescend in the face of people trying to tell me how to run my business? i hope not.

    it's different approaches to the same business, and we're being told that our approach leads to the apocalypse, but i don't agree.

    ok getting cranky must

    good night.
    merge records

  8. maybe it doesnt boil down to whom you sell to but rather how you conduct your business.

    it seems some companies are very conscious of how best buy and other big companies operate and are fine with that. Its their "path" or the way they choose to operate.

    isnt this the problem? once youve reached a certain level your perspective changes. bottom line is this whole bbuy situation is effecting small indie stores and indie distributors. are people affiliated with the situation conscious of these negative effects?

    if yes - will you change your mode of operation or are you content with what the situation is causing or could cause down the road. i think its a question of ethics...sales vs integrity.

    p.s. there are no bad guys on this board. i admire all the label and store owners who have shared their views.

    thank you.

  9. it is worth noting that on occasion CDs available at the likes of Best Buy/Target/etc have exclusive extra tracks (was it a White Stripes record that did that? I can't remember...) Which is something well within a labels control & hopefully no indies will make this move. I don't know, there's been a move over the past ten years for a lot of indie stores to make more money off of selling clothing & soda & bongs than CDs. So maybe the future of indie stores is more like Hot Topic than what they are now. Which is better than Wal-Mart at any rate. The problem is everybody's right. The label's job is to make money & sell more CDs by an artist. The indie store's job is to let people know what's hip & make enough money to stay in business. Best Buy's job is to sell you a washing machine when you buy a CD. The indie kids that can afford to buy music for full price (i hope & believe), do buy music at full price. & as far as stores buying up the Best Buy stock because it's cheaper than traditional distro channels, that's a great idea & i can't advocate it enough.

  10. While many valid points are made here, evils of capitalism, corporate influence in politics, the hegemony of mediocrity in entertainment....it seems that everyone is clamoring for a short-range solution. There isn't one. What needs to take place is the transformation or reinvention of the consumer mind.
    I agree that placing the blame for the decline of indie retail at the doorstep of Best-Buy, Wlamart, etc. is misguided. I despise them as much as the people who shop there, but, c'mon, this is the economic hand of cards that we have been dealt.
    The real trick is to figure out how to persuade the next generation of indie music buyers to connect the existential dots. It's the same ol' frustrating scab, the one that us clerks never get tired of scratching...you know, that kid with his mohawk and DK's patch walking into the Walmart, chowing down a big-mac, washing it down with a coke, and walking out with the latest Epitaph Baggage-core all for less than a ten spot, feeling triumphant that he has really "stuck it to the man." Bullshit.

  11. as an indie label owner and a musician, i completely agree with patrick on this topic. i've read his post several times as well as the other comments posted. i have a few things i'd like to mention that might get me in trouble, but better to be in a little hot water then to be left to fade out entirely from this biz we all worked so hard to create.
    1. as a label owner, i feel that we can create a product that is more fun for the music fan by doing special packaging/artwork and extras in a way that doesn't accomidate best buy's shelves. you know they wouldnt stock anything that is odd-shaped. they definately wouldn't concern themselves with giving out free stickers, badges or any extra fun bits that an indie store would. maybe we can concentrate on making releases fun again for the true music fan and not so predictable.
    2. another thing that is going around in my head that needs to change is the indie record stores themselves. i've worked and shopped at many of them and have noticed that often when somebody comes in and asks about something new or even older/hard to find records that they need help finding, sometimes they are treated like idiots and given attitude for not knowing what the hip thing is at the moment. isn't it the job of the indie store to turn people on to the next cool thing in a FRIENDLY/helpful way? one of the things i like best about indie stores is going in and talking to the person behind the counter about new things available and what's coming out in the future. if i feel like i might be bothering them or feel like i'm dumb for not knowing already, i might keep my mouth shut and miss out on something really cool. can we start to change this? just because you know what's hip and happening doesn't mean the average shopper does all the time. make your store an attitude-free zone where people can come in and find something new to be excited about. i'm not singling out any one store, i'm just saying that this does happen and it effects sales.

  12. As an independent retailer, let me plead with all label owners NOT to turn to special packaging in your attempts to stick anything up the collective department store diz. Department store clerks (both the gregarious and sullen varities) are not the only sad dolls of retail who have to slap product into alpha cases before putting it out for sale. Even we cooler-than-jesus jackasses in indie stores resort to anti-theft devices because they're less stressful (albeit admittedly less satisfyin') than chasing thieves down the street so you can slap the furry beans off 'em. The problem, though, is that said anti-theft devices are not an option with cd's & dvd's that don't conform to jewel-box or amray shell sizes. Which means, for me, that product in eccentric packaging ends up in Eccentric Packaging Protective Custody and not in General Population where the majority of shoppers will see it. For you, it means that I'm not going to be able to sell your product very effectively. And I'll probably talk about you behind your backs, too.

    As for Best Buy, I'm happy to hear from Mac and Nick that indie label owners and distributors were not consulted about BB's loss-leader pricing antics. Course, I also have to admit that I knew nothing about BB's cute li'l "left of the dial" deal (poor Westerberg!) until Nick emailed SC accounts about it. No one to date has shaken a new Cat Power cd in my face and accused me of being part of the problem not the cure. 'Courese, we've been in business for over 30 years, and I've seen chain stores pull this sell-below-cost horseshit more times than I care to think. It's sad that they're now trying to co-opt indie labels and distributors, but it's far from surprising. BB & the Below Costello's are evidently smarting from last year's poor music sales, so they're shooting the only blank they know how to shoot: find new shit to sell cheap. I've noticed recently that BB has actually raised prices on back catalog cds (even some UNI product!), and their sale pricing has become even more erratic than usual. Let's not give them more credit than they're worth. Let's just stick together and exterminate the BBrutes.

  13. mark at vons attitude is exactly the poor attitude im talking about. i tell you, i'd rather buy some cd's from best buy then to be sliced up a helping of that guys negativity. at best buy the only hastle i'll get from them is having to say no to the 10 free issues of rolling stones magazine they want to sign me up for.
    as for special packaging. sounds to me like somebody is afraid of change. maybe 30 years is too long to be in business with that attitude. as far as there not being any room to display the "special packaged" item. that is a load of crap. you don't seem to have any problem making space for dukes of hazzard lunch boxes and family guy action figures. give me a break!
    btw, i'm not saying lets package 12"records in spinning rim style cases or put cd's in something that looks like supermans crystal escape pod. although that might be fun. im just saying lets be more creative in the packaging area.
    in a world where you can download any song or video you want for free. the only option left i see IS to do SPECIAL artwork and fun extras for the fans. give them a reason to buy the cd. and dont treat them like shit when they come in to get it. if a cd takes off and best buy wants to carry it? fine, they will recieve the store ready version and you will be the place to get the ltd edition extra cool packaged version.
    as an artist i would love to see such detail be given to my release. then if it sells or not, i have the satasfaction of knowing that i did something really cool that i will look back on proudly as a complete expression of my art. as a fan i love to buy special packaged items. i have records that i have more than one copy of just because i wanted the special artwork/packaging.
    best buy is best buy. they will do what they do. make your store the place that people know they can go to and find stuff that they wont find anywhere else and put on a happy face. trust me, it could be worse. you could be working at taco bell.

  14. First and foremost, this is America. The Dollar is our motivator. Business are born and die everyday. The music industry is in the business of making money. Many people become far too sensitive in the music industry when the result is failure. If you are a good business, you will survive. Take a look at Apple vs. Microsoft. Apple started to defeat the giant in its own personal way. Granted Microsoft will always be a giant contender, but now there is room for Apple. So I ask every "indie" store owner, what are you going to do to make your business shine. Don't look for a hand out. Start thinking creatively, maybe as business people, or outside the lines of how music is being sold currently. Genius exists by accident, trial and error.

    Blaming Best Buy is a cop out for failure in your own store. If a spindle of 50 cdr's is 7-10 dollars, you are damn right i am going to find a way to acquire music by another means than shelling out 18 bucks for some liner notes. That is cost effective for the consumer. Sure you can debate that with copyright infringement, but who promised anyone it was a fair world. No one. It isn't and it never will be.

    I have been to many "indie" stores throughout the US, and the common denominator is the kid behind the counter. Some people are too hip for the general public. I don't need to be given attitude about buying an old Beach Boys record that isn't "Pet Sounds". In true business form you should try selling yet another record from 1971 I may never heard of. Suggestive selling. Treating the customer as a peer, not an inconveinance.

    There are so many ideas out there to be capitalized. Open your eyes, the good people that practice good business will find a way to flourish. They always do.

  15. people seem to be veering off from the initial point here.

    bbuy is undercutting many indie distributors and stores. this is THE issue. if the undercutting with indie titles continues and expands with bbuy, this will effect the marketplace.

    how does this have anything to do with "making your business shine" or how is "blaming bbuy a copout"?

    there also seems to be lots of complaints about indie store workers having attitudes. which in some cases is true but why let it bother ya? just find and buy your shit. if you cant deal with the attitude of a store clerk then most likely you'll have problems dealing with real problems in other aspects of your life.


  16. a quick comment, when was the last time you went back to a restaurant which provided you bad service, comment 15? same rule applies with record stores.
    let's try not to take this personal, and start attacking people's character, you're the one losing money. find a way to improve your business, i want to shop at "indie" stores, but it seems throughout the years nothing has changed!

    ps. home depot tried to undersell thier products too, and the same home improvement stores that are independent are still open! just because you sell music, doesn't make you immune to competition. economic darwinism. who knows, maybe independent musicians can actually start to sell records at places like best buy, and get the attention they always dreamed they deserved.

  17. I've owned a small record store in Dallas, TX for a number of year, and currently work for a small label in New York. I know both sides of this issue. As a small retailer, you can't just sit around and bitch about being undercut in price. Make the best of a bad situation. Best Buy selling the CD for less than you can get it from your one stop? Got to Best Buy and get it! I've heard countless stories of stores being creative and getting around Best Buy's so-called 3 CD limit with sale items. When you can't compete with price, you have to compete other ways. Why do you think stores like Sea Level in LA continue to strive while others are faltering? That's because the recognize the value of customer service and building loyalty. Do you know the people that shop in your store? Do you have CD's ready to recommend to them personally when they walk through the door? Do you talk to them about things you know they will like?

    And to whoever complained about not being able to order from ADA... that's not a good excuse. I ordered direct from Merge for a number of years. I'm sure you can too.
    Erik Courson
    Good Records-Dallas, TX
    spinART Records-NY, NY

  18. regarding previous comments about indie stores doing special things, making themselves stand out a bit from the chains, i second that idea. might i suggest some outside of the box thinking like merge uses on a regular basis?

    bought the vinyl copy of the clientele album and have an ipod? merge hooked me up with a free download of the album.

    can't get enough merge on your ipod? merge has started doing podcasts. i just found the east river pipe podcast on their website. brilliant!

    that's why merge is successful. they do things to please their customers. indie store owners that don't do the same won't survive, even if this best buy dilemma is solved.

  19. There's some good things that have been discussed here. The one thing I wanted to echo is the history aspect. I think we can generally agree that "indie" music has definitely been in the mainstream's dialogue perhaps more than usual in recent months. Another way to put it would be: "there's a shit-ton of dudes/ladies we personally know, have worked with, have toured with, etc. who are being pushed and splashed all over mass media currently."

    And as such, any time a few bands from an underground subculture/particular aesthetic gain mainstream notoriety and achieve success at that level, there's a pull from the top and a push from the bottom to try to dump 393,784 other bands of that background into the perceived feeding frenzy. Because if Bloc Party and Death Cab pulled it off, other bands with similar backgrounds could/should too, right?

    But if you look at the history, it's all cyclical. As the original author put it, this has been done before. This reminds me a lot of Seattle and the early 90's. Tons of attention, airplay, and critical acclaim given to acts who used to be part of "us" for quite a while before breaking through to mainstream popularity. So hundreds of decent and credible bands from that scene/sound/whatever you want to call it start pushing themselves or being pushed down that path.

    But massive retail-friendly success and inclusion has a maximum capacity. There's only room for 5 or so bands who really pull it off. The rest just lose lots of money banging their heads against glass ceilings while change spills from their pockets. There was room for Nirvana/Soundgarden. But no room for PAW, even though they were far more sick.

    And then it all crashes. Maybe every three years? The 5 bands remain somewhat significant in the general consciousness, but the rest fade and a lot of people were left holding an empty bag. Indie rock and cyclops metalcore schlock are due to hit a wall soon. The mainstream attention span requires that the cycle keep spinning and something else rise to the top. That's good news for white guy ska bands - you could be next, brodeo.

    What's important here is that the subculture that's currently in the mainstream crosshairs doesn't destroy its foundation by the time it figures out that there's not room for any more up top. Sure, some people are getting carried away (spending, focus) and crossing lines I'd never personally cross. But I feel that a lot of indie labels still work hard in terms of trying to service indie stores. And I hope they understand that historically, it's been the support of those stores that contributed quite a bit to mega-retail and mega-labels paying attention in the first place.

    In the end, if something like this irks you, then open up the communication lines. Talk to the people involved and things tend to work out. In that regard, I think it's awesome that Patrick spoke his mind and that some of the folks involved took the time to put together replies and share explanations/philosophies. We'll never ever completely agree with how somebody else does their thing, but hopefully all parties involved won't take too big of a hit from all of these developments and endure well into the future.

    Good luck to you all.

  20. Damn I love Paw! Thanks for even bringing 'em up...songs about washing machines rule!

    Well written opinion, much less "he said/ she said" than many I've read!

  21. Brent.
    I just wanted to say thanks for your thoughts.

    Well thought out. Well put. And damned rational.

    I strive for that but don't hit it much of the time.

    I think you're on the money and I hope this all does smooth out sooner rather than later.

    And I loved Paw, too.


Be nice!