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I am tired of seeing people that I love as people and that I love to work with, people who "get" how to sell records, get cut because of stupidity and carelessness in the way their company runs their operating expenses and daily operations.
INDIE RETAILER ASKS
WHAT'S GOING ON
Vintage Vinyl's Jim Utz Is Bullish on Record Biz, but Wondering About All the Recent Layoffs
A commentary by Jim Utz of Vintage Vinyl, St. Louis

Sales here at Vintage Vinyl continue to rise and stay up. Over the past few months, we have been averaging between 10% and 20% growth increases over last year's sales. Even with the sluggish start of 2003, projections are now that we are going to be up for the entire year for the first time in tw years. Seems as though we are about to be turning a very positive corner for the company; hope that all of you make the turn with us.

Before this gets started, let it be known that I am in one of the best moods after a beyond amazing weekend and consider myself extremely positive about the nature of all things at the moment. With that now out of the way...

I have to admit that over the past few weeks, I actually get jitters after I hit send on this chart/report because of all the mass of returned emails I have been getting due to the cuts at all the labels and distributors, wondering what friend or associate has lost their job. All the bloodshed and casualties have left me questioning tons about the music biz and, importantly, its leaders, especially things with the bigger companies.

Wondering how new releases of non-heritage or established artists are going to be developed if there are no retail reps to help nurture and even (gasp) help sell some records when things are trending down so quickly? A bio/sales sheet and a promo isn't the answer. Going to your B2B to do the work isn't the answer either.

Who do we go to about setting up promotions that might actually sell some records, especially when we (VV) have to continue to "sell" ourselves and reputation over and over again to prove that we know what the hell we are doing?

Who is going to send us promos that we can play instore that might actually sell some records since everytime we lose a rep or an office closes, our promos seem to dry up?

If cost cutting measures need to be taken, how about not investing over $3 in packing materials and shipping to send us one folded-up poster in a mailing tube for a tour support display the day after the show has come to town? This is always my favorite example of record-label waste, though I could toss off another 30 or so if you want them.

How about coordinating your promo mailings where we don't get five copies of the baby band that are probably going to be dropped after the first week's sales numbers don't meet expectations and radio has dropped off? How about sending us just two copies of that record and maybe at least a single copy of the record that happens to be in the Top 10 that we haven't received evem one of yet, but all are customers want to hear?

Instead of overnighting tickets to us the day before the show, how about having everyone in the "ticket chain" do their job and not wait until the last minute and mail them out a week early? All tours are usually planned months in advance, so why are tour-support ads, ticket buys, etc., decisions left until a week or so out? Who is bogging down this process and why do THEY still have jobs?

I know that most people receiving these emails send in your plans (in-store promotions and ticket requests, etc,) months in advance, so most of this rambling, unfocused rant is directed at the people that are making all of you wait to do your job.

I know for a fact that when we (I) have close working relationships with a label rep, sales are directly and positively impacted for said label. We (and a lot of non-chain retail) are willing to work with all of you on promotions. If the people aren't coming into stores to find out about music, then we have to go out and find them. Ask us about lifestyle accounts, local DJs that are hot and good music people, things like this where something as little as a sampler and a coupon might stimulate sales. Two of the more successful tie-ins like this of late were promotions we did with Verve/MCA Records and Naked Music/Astralwerks Records where samplers, postcards and a choice selection of venues and DJs stimulated sales that would not have happened here at the store.

The days of procrastinating, indecisiveness and dumb business are over in our little part of the music world if you plan on having jobs anytime past 2005. It is now or never to get shit changed. Where the music business has changed drastically over the past two years, the business models that a lot of the labels seem to be using have stayed the same from this retailer's perspective.

I am tired of seeing people that I love as people and that I love to work with, people who "get" how to sell records, get cut because of stupidity and carelessness in the way their company runs their operating expenses and daily operations. What is terrifying is that I know that retail is the "bastard stepchild" of the music biz and that the real money and attention (and, I assuming, real waste) is still rampant in these other areas.

Good luck with whereever you land Christine, Derek, Jerry, Mark and Heather (and whomever else that hasn't had their email account turned off yet that I just don't know about).

And as always and most importantly, I could be (and probably am) incredibly wrong, misguided, and don't understand how things really are on the other side of the fence, and if anyone receiving this wants to educate me or pass me on to someone who could answer some of these questions, then I would love to hear information as staying educated is a constant goal of mine and the key to our survival in this business.

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