“We Need Distribution”
The odds are that you cannot afford distribution. Let me explain why…
Most inexperienced folks believe that a distributor is the pipeline to the people. In theory it is, but in practice it is not. A distribution company is only as good as the record companies promotional power. Yes it is important to get your CD in the store, but it is much more important to get your CD OUT of that store. It’s as much the record companies job to do that as it is the retailers. A distributor can only try its hardest to convince a retail store to take your CD. To secure shelf space a record company needs to present all its marketing commitments (and honor them) so retail stays confident that it can shift units.
Let’s face it, record stores are saturated with product. Why on earth would a store take a CD if it isn’t sure it will get sold. What that retailer needs to see if it is to readily accept your product is:
Radio Play – If a single is being worked at radio (through an independent radio promoter) and getting spins, this might be enough to convince a store in that neighborhood to take your record. The amount of demand for the record will determine the amount of units the store takes.
Retail Price And Positioning – Visibility in a record store is everything! If you were to buy an “end cap” (those displays at the end of an aisle), or a month on a listening station, or rack display, this is enough to attract the attention of a store. However, it has become increasingly competetive even when you pay for this!
Touring – Playing live shows can help create a demand for a CD and this of course is key.
All labels have what they call a “one sheet” – a hand out sheet with bullet points outlining their marketing strategies and promotional commitments. This is the first step, but then those commitments have to be met. These commitments are extremely expensive.
If a label refuses to spend promotional money on their act a number of things can result;
The CDs remain in the store buried amongst the thousands of others waiting to be found.
The CDs after a matter of weeks, get returned to the record label.
The record store takes less units from the same artist’snext CD, often refusing to stock it altogether.
The last point is interesting. A brand new artist can generate much more excitement in the retail marketplace than an artist with a failed record. The label with the new artist, providing they stump up their promotional dollars and have a good several weeks at radio before they go to retail, can distribute a good amount of units in the marketplace. The artist with a previous record that “bombed” however, will need to do a good deal more convincing in order to get the stores to take more product.
So my big question is; “Can you afford distribution?“. To get a record in every store via a reputable distributor immediately puts you in competition with major labels who have gobs of promotional money they can drop if they need to.