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Saturday, January 28

Saturday Morning Coming Down

A few parting shots before I take the weekend off from this discussion. It's the eagerly awaited Royalty Statement Weekend where I get to work on spreadsheets for two days and write little checks for the little bands on my little label that happily, so far, don't have this dilemma presented to them. They and we would love to sell more records but thankfully none have demanded their CDs into Best Buy yet.

The most important thing that I'd like to say here, and I'm not sure that I've done a good job expressing this yet, is that we have this discussion out of love and deep respect for Merge, Secretly Canadian, Touch and Go, and Caroline.

I was trying to help talk a retailer off the ledge on Thursday and I was reminded about an amazing 2000 interview with a guy who has grown to be one of my heros, writer/editor/publisher Dave Eggers from McSweeney's Publishing. In this interview, he offers what I consider to be one of the most important treatises on supporting others who see the big picture and who are doing their best to make things better--people who DO GOOD WORK. There is not doubt in my mind that the folks at Merge, Secretly Canadian, Touch and Go and Caroline are good people doing good work and that they deserve our support and encouragement in that. They are also human and make mistakes and when they're big ones, like we believe this one was, then we also have a duty to point it out and open it for discussion but within a context of respect probably greater than came through in my initial diatribe.

I have heard some surprise from the labels involved at the level of anger and feedback that they received over their action. Obviously I don't speak for all of the retailers and other angered by this action, but for our part at CTD, the feeling of hurt and betrayal came because of our long respect and admiration for the way these four labels normally go about their business. As I said before, nobody is offended when the dog licks himself. I can't believe too many people felt mad, hurt or betrayed that Best Buy ran this promotion or surprised about some of the people in this coop. It is when labels and artists that you don't expect make such a move that people are hurt and that hurt comes out in anger. And that anger is understandable. But I think it's important to remember to try to express it in as constructive a manner as possible so that we can look at this, hopefully learn from it and move on and keep trying to do good work.

I made phone calls yesterday to most of the people I've listed to tell them exactly this and I hope that message got through loud and clear.

The last thing at which I'll take a poke is the third justification I've heard for the Best Buy coop. Like Roxy Music, it's a classic.

Everybody else was doing it.

This rationalization is usually reserved for those 16 and under, because most kids quickly realize that when searching for answers to parents and offering this up that the response is usually a quick cuff to the back of the head and off to bed without dessert. Unlike Eno, I'm not sure it works much better in the adult world than it did when we were all much younger.

Read Dave's interview
, especially his answer to Question 11, and take it to heart. And while you're at it, buy one of his books. He needs the cash and he'll use it to do good work.

This feel good post is dedicated to Tiger Adams 3/16/97-1/28/06 who died very suddenly this morning shortly after it was originally posted. Thanks Tiger. You were truly a good dog and everybody who knew you (except possibly Rob Miller, who you liked very much) misses you.

8 comments:

  1. "nobody is offended when the dog licks himself. I can't believe too many people felt mad, hurt or betrayed that Best Buy ran this promotion or surprised about some of the people in this coop."

    Meaning who, precisely? Whose "involvement" assuming you're actually aware of the extent they were "involved" are you not surprised about?

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  2. "The last thing at which I'll take a poke is the third justification I've heard for the Best Buy coop. Like Roxy Music, it's a classic.

    'Everybody else was doing it.' "

    Is that a direct quote or something you heard 3rd hand? And given that you've already made your admiration and respect for Merge, Touch & Go, Secretly Canadian and Caroline a matter of public record, surely no harm could come of attributing such a statement to a person or organization?

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  3. I'm very sorry for your loss of Tiger. I have an older dog as well and I know I'll be a wreck when he passes, his name is Riley.

    And Windy, we'll both make it one way or another for as long as we can in this lousy economy.

    To the labels: Supporting independent retail means more than plugging into one or two national coalitions, it means paying attention to markets and knowing which stores actually sell your records. HINT, NOT ALL OF THEM ARE SOUNDSCAN(GASP!). The sales at tastemaker stores are the ones that result in many more sales down the road as the music lovers expose the music to more and more people. The level of support these stores would ask for is so minimal...just to have posters and advances means so much. And I can speak for almost all of them when I say we'd be happy with burned copies without artwork...we just want to hear them and play them for our customers.

    And one more thing. I have a one stop which does the unthinkable. They allow me to take some CDs and DVDs on a consignment basis with 60 days dating and full return privs. What does it mean to me? It means the difference between empty bins and bins filled with thousands of dollars of stock that I can sell...we both win!

    If only others were so trusting...I am so grateful to that one stop. They are truly helping my business stay afloat.

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  4. Can't we all just get along?
    the most important thing is that it's called to attention, right or wrong.
    sometimes it takes biting words to get a reaction.
    why is gerard just talking about himself? if you're the only one asking, it's probably YOU. no offense, dude. but your acid tongue is hurting my feelings just to read.
    thanks to patrick for speaking his mind. and for eloquently articulating his thoughts amidst feelings of hurt and frustration.
    it's good to be able to laugh at yourself.

    ps tiger i love you and know that you are in the sweet land of squirrels and stuffed animal sticks.
    i'll miss you.xx

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  5. anon,

    I wasn't aware I was just talking about myself. But thanks for pointing it out --- in a world where we're all trying to get along, there's nothing more helpful than constructive criticism (as opposed to misinformation or innuendo) from someone who lacks the courage of their convictions to sign his or her name.

    Given that Patrick's accusations are in what seems to be a public forum, I'll pose the question a 2nd time :

    who was that "justified" the Best Buy co-op (assuming they actually knew their titles would be sold for $7.99!) by saying "everbody else was doing it."?

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  6. Millicent SourisJanuary 31, 2006 7:59 PM

    It's pretty interesting that a discussion about capitalism ultimately comes down to the independent record stores needing perky clerks.

    This is about money. Selling more CDs. Artists wanting everyone to hear their music, wanting to sell more albums, live off of music, perhaps even being famous. And, maybe, some day long away, playing the half time show at the Super Bowl. This is about labels keeping artists happy so they don't go to major labels. A strange crossroads of business and love of music, something that usually does not mix well.

    It's community versus commerce. The labels have to keep the artists happy and the artists want to be everywhere, but it's a bit unseemly that it's not even the majors jumping off the indies' backs. For these big titles, maybe the returns won't be huge, or those skids of returns (after you take off the Best Buy stickers of course, don't poke the bear with chargebacks silly!) will sell. You don't think the balding white guy with plastic frame glasses in the big office won't dip further into the pool of independent music? You are sweet, trying to spread good music, they are trying to wipe out small businesses. That is their bottom line.

    It's interesting that the labels have the savvy to make the deal and can't believe what Best Buy is charging for the CDs. It's Best Fuckin' Buy people, they chew your kind up for breakfast. They will always out-business you. Can't believe the big company was sly, or mean, or crafty, or broke street date? I bet that they don't even beg forgiveness when caught.

    And riddle me this. Where is this glass ceiling in independent retail? I know, it’s invisible, but it seems that bands are getting exposure on independent labels through shows like The OC and VW ads. Isn’t it possible that people become exasperated with Best Buy because they suck and try to find this awesome music? God that sounds hopeful, and maybe it is, but it’s weird that a lot of these blogs seem to be inferring that “we” are too cool and “regular people” need to find good music too and these damn record clerks! They’re like serial killers! Scarin’ all the customers away. We’re smart, they’re not. They buy dryers and compact discs at the same place! Crazy! It’s possible, slightly, that people who are interested will investigate where to find this music when their crappy Best Buy doesn’t have it. And then they’ll find the joy of in-stores.

    I'll take the existence of Windy and Carl at Stormy and Andee and Allan at Aquarius and Kirk at Record Collector and you the man in the grumpy pants and even that nerdy skinny sullen kid in the corner over the existence of the Arcade Fire album. For some people (please read what Windy from Stormy Records in Detroit has written), this is an ongoing fight to be able to continue to exist. That math makes sense to me. You’re in the business of putting albums out, you care about music. Best Buy cares about being the only store carrying music. Those are two different bottom lines that will not meet.

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  7. hi there --

    as a (very) small label owner myself, i found this discussion very edifying, as i'm sure many lurkers here have.

    i'd also like to add that i appreciate everyone's honesty here. it is great to hear how and why others started their labels, labels which were/are models and inspirations for my own.

    rather than add my own opinion to this (now stale?) mix -- i don't know if we'd ever be in the position to be dealing with best buy -- i thought i'd mention a npr story about the partnership between best buy and cdbaby. it is, of course, somewhat high level, but perhaps cogent:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5184853

    the best buy dude talks about wanting to get indie music in stores because they found that bb employees were referring customers to indie stores so that they could purchase "smaller" releases.

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  8. weird, looks like the url got messed up. here's the link:

    npr story on cdbaby

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Be nice!