Music Sales Knowledge
by Christopher Knab
Back to The Academy
Test your knowledge
of music sales in the industry...
distributors and retail stores are constantly searching out new product by recruiting the
record labels and independent recording artists, trying to convince them to use their
outlets to get CD's and Tapes to the public. True or false?
could be farther from the truth. At the mid-point of the 1990's, there has never been a
time in music business history when there has been such a glut of CD's and Tapes feeding
into the food chain of music distributing and retailing. It is the job of the artist and
their record label to convince the distributors and the stores that there is a viable
market for their music.
Being an artist
or record label that has a track record of sales matters little to distributors and
retailers. True or false?
False. The most
influential factor that can help convince distributors and stores to carry a particular
record is actual sales figures. If the artist has sold 1,000 or 5,000 CD's/Tapes at live
shows, and/or through mail order, or on the Internet, that is the kind of information that
is music to their ears.
It is the job of
the distributor and their sales staff to promote an artist or band to their retail
accounts. True or false?
False. The job of
promoting a band or artist to distributors and retailers, as well as to radio stations,
and the print media, is the job of the record label. There is a term used in music
marketing known as "selling the seller". This term refers to the technique of
convincing key players in the music business (radio, print publications, stores,
distributors, and live music venues) to support a particular record because of the plans,
successes, and various other merits of the record that will simultaneously benefit each
key player in the food chain. As far as distributors go, once convinced to carry the
product, they simply inform their retail clients of it's availability, and leave it to the
label to do most of the promotion.
airplay is a strong negotiating factor in securing the services of a record distributor,
and makes their job of working with retailers much easier. True or
airplay is the most effective, yet most difficult promotion to obtain. If a record label
has secured airplay in any particular region of the company, the distributors of product
will be more inclined to carry the CD/Tape.
An artist or
band that is currently on tour in support of their record helps a distributor sell records
to their retail accounts. True or false?
True. Next to
airplay, and perhaps even more important over the long haul, is live performance. It is
very important and very effective in helping popularize the music of a band or artist. Any
and all successes at playing the club and concert circuit should be monitored carefully,
and the reports of the successes on the road, passed on to the distributors and stores.
Labels make up "Distributor One Sheets" that list any and all information about
a record that may help convince the distributors and stores to carry the product. Put tour
info, radio airplay, print support, and any promotion or marketing plans on the sheet,
along with the list price, the Barcode, the catalog number, and a brief Bio summary
describing the genre of music.
labels get support from distributors when they need to re-press a CD/Tape because the
record is selling well. True or false?
False. One of the
biggest mistakes start-up labels make is being under financed. If a record label secures
distribution, and the stores end up selling the product (due to a successful promotion and
marketing campaign), the distributor calls the label to re-order the CD/Tape. If the young
label has not anticipated the sales, and set aside the funds to re-press, there is a
strong likelihood that the record will die a swift death. Distributors are not banks.
important selling point a record label has when talking to a distributor is that they have
a recording artist that makes really good music. True or false?
False. The most
over-used word in the music business is the word "good". Remember, the music
industry is a business. "Good" is taken for granted. (Why else would a band or
artist even record?). Success facts, plans, and strategies geared toward the benefits of
the product for the particular business that a label is dealing with, is the way to go.
Without a back
catalog of consistent sellers, a start-up label will have a difficult time convincing
distributors and stores to carry their product. True or false?
True. The music
business is an insecure business. Artists, musical trends, and fads come and go. A
distributor or store takes a chance every time they plunk down their cash to purchase
product. Will it sell? Anything that the label or artist can do to prove that it will
sell, enhances the possibility of linking up with distributors.
Getting paid by
a distributor is the easiest part of dealing with a distributor. True
False. It is the
hardest part of dealing with a distributor. Not because they are dishonest--some are, some
aren't--but because they are very cautious. Again, the volume of product they deal with is
mind boggling. If the record sold from the distributor to the store, will the store sell
it? Will it be returned? Are there other distributors selling the product? Be consistent,
honest, and in constant communication with distributors and stores. Develop relationships
and friendships along the way. Plan and execute your marketing strategies. By the way,
Distributors purchase product based on the retail list price. Their cost is usually around
50% of the list price. Discounts are offered in various forms to entice the distributors
to buy more product.
help retail accounts get advertising in the print and broadcast media. True or false?
True. The way
they can help is through what is known as "co-op " advertising. Arrangements are
made between retail accounts and the record labels to share in the cost of media
advertising. The labels provide product in exchange for a store purchasing a set amount of
product to be available in-store. The ad mentions the label's product, and the store's
logo and location, and price. The retailer buys the ad and deducts their share of the ads
cost from their invoice.
9 or 10: Sales
7 or 8: Sassy and Savvy
5 or 6: Mild Mannered Mogul
3 or 4: Neophyte
2 or less: Sucker
Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He
is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Knab's book, 'Music Is Your Business'
is available from the Music Biz Academy bookstore.
Visit the FourFront Media and
Music website for more information on the business of music from