Agony Shorthand

Monday, May 01, 2006

After our post from a couple weeks ago on "The Rapidshare Connundrum", Scott Soriano of S-S RECORDS and the CRUD CRUD & STATIC PARTY mp3 blogs sent us his take on the whole RapidShare/SoulSeek phenomenon and its implication for labels like his. I thought it might be a good marker for just how far easy downloading has come in a couple of short years & what it means for 2006-07. A return to vinyl? It's sure looking that way, isn't it? Here's what Scott had to say:

"....Just read your thing on rapidshare and your concerns about it. I am not sure if there is much of a difference between soulseek style filesharing of LPs and rapidshare downloads of full LPs (that are in print) on specialty blogs. Though you can trust a blogger's taste, same goes with individual soulseek posters. People not only search for specific things on soulseek, they also follow certain posters and hit all their files.

As far as the impact on a label's sales, I can't speak to the impact of rapidshare and a specialty blog, but I do know that the combination of soulseek, lower priced DSL, fast burners, and 10 cent cdrs killed my CD sales. I put out three cds, all great records, all that got great reviews and much airplay on WFMU and other stations. I pressed and sold 1000 each of A Frames s/t & A Frames II and sold them in less than a years time (slower than both vinyl sales by the way). I did a repressing of each thinking that they would sell the same or faster due to the Subpop signing. Funny thing happened with the rise of soulseek and the other things I mentioned: My sales of A Frames CDs ground to a near halt. Of the second pressing of both cds, I've sold about 300 of AF II and 500 of AF s/t and that after more than a year.

The Monoshock cd has sold about 500. Its release was unfortunately timed with the jump of popularity of soulseek. After we were done editing it Scott Derr thanked me for putting it out and hoped I was able to break even. I quipped that it would sell 1000 and download 3000. I was off. It sold 500 and probably downloaded (or was burned) 5000. Of the 500 I sold, about 450 was in the first 9 months. In the past year and a half I've sold 50. If not for Revolver pushing it, I would have sold far less.

Compare that to undownloadable vinyl. A Frames - Complication 7" sold 1000 in 4 months. 1500 of A Frames - Police 1000 were pressed in November and 150 are left. I pressed 500 each of Frustration 7" & Cheveu 7" and that was maybe a month ago. I have 200 left of Frustration, who have a following, and 300 of Cheveu, of whom few outside Paris knew about til the S-S record came out.

I reluctantly started doing CDs because there was a call for them and I thought the profit would make it able for me to put out more and more obscure vinyl. Plus it would enable me to actually pay the bands decent money rather than give them a pile of records with the words, "Here sell these." This worked for one pressing of each of the A Frames CDs and then the downloaders, filesharers and burners killed that. I now put out only vinyl because I love the format and it pays for itself. I can sell a small run of 7"s by a relatively obscure band in far less time than I can a CD by a known band. The way it is now putting out a CD by a known band is pretty much and announcement to people that it is now available for free on soulseek.

Because putting vinyl on to the internet involves a real time commitment and not point click copy download, only real obsessives do it. And real vinyl obsessives are always gonna track down and buy the vinyl even if it is available as a download. People also want an object that they think is real and so they buy vinyl. Cheveu's Dog was available on their My Space site for at least 6 months before the record came out and if anything its availability has helped vinyl sales. I think this is because people look at CDs as a cheap ripoff and as disposable as a bic lighter.

You might suggest that I get into the paid download game to make up for the loss of CD sales. Being a small label, doing the pay for download thing is cumbersome and really not worth it. The major distros of downloads dont deal direct with small labels. They want volume not one download a week. So to get in with something like itunes, I would have to go through two more layers of distribution, which means the distros make more than me for doing nothing but accounting. At the end of the year, I'd be lucky to split $500 between the label and the bands.

All that said, I do an MP3 blog, though it is of music that is very obscure and/or out of print, and I download off of similar blogs. I don't have a problem with it. What I do have a problem with is the mass denial by "indie" people regarding download/filesharing's affect on labels. There is this cavalier assumption that everyone who checks something out via unpaid download is going to buy it. In my experience, that isn't true. At least not with CDs. I say, just be frank. Downloading/filesharing is not home taping and it does have an adverse effect of labels, the impact being greater on small labels where 500 lost sales is a hell of a lot more than a major losing 5,000 sales. That is something that really needs to be kept in mind if one is truly a supporter of independently produced music. This isn't about greed. It is about finding a way to pay the bills."