Indies Artists Asked To Pay $250 To Sell At Best Buy

image from www.zmogo.com Independent artists who want their CD's stocked in their local Best Buy stores are being told to pay a $250 non-refundable upfront fee and to use a preferred vendor, the RegionalCD.net division of J Distribution

Best Buy's official web site instructs indie and regional artists: "If you are ready to take your band to the next level, find out more by visiting RegionalCD.net." On that site, founded by a "former regional buyer for Best Buy," artists are told to send a J Distribution a CD for review. If selected, the first shipment must be accomponied by a $250 non-refundable "start-up fee".image from images.bestbuy.com

The J Distribution site does not tell artists what wholesale price it is paying for the CD's that Best Buy will sell or what the return policy is. But normal industry margins run $3-$6 to the artist after packing, manufacturing and shipping (not including recording and promotion costs) are deducted. At that rate, an indie act would have to sell 40 to 80 CD's just to recoup its $250 "start-up" cost.

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  1. I have a better way to spend $250. Just give it to some homeless person on the street because at least then you’ll have a better chance of him finding your Cd and being able to buy it online than somebody who happens to walk by your Cd in your local Best Buy.

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  3. If someone can’t sell 40 CDs, they probably shouldn’t be involved in this program. That being said, I’ve been in touch with the guys at J Distribution and found out that they pay $5.15 per CD. At that rate, if I can sell 49 CDs, I’ve covered my investment. If I can’t sell 49 CDs, I probably shouldn’t quit my day job!
    Another poster asked how many Best Buys your CD is sold at. J Distribution will put my disk in stores in metros where I’m performing and promoting. (They ask for information like how much air play am I getting in each market and how many downloads have I had from iTunes and Amazon in order to identify markets in which to place my CD.) Personally, I prefer this approach. That way, I know I’m not wasting money burning disks for them to sit in markets where I don’t peform.
    Hey, at the end of the day, it’s the artists’ job to promote themselves with this program. If you want someone else to do their promotion, then get yourself picked up by a label. Just be prepared to have the label deduct all of their marketing costs from the amount you end up getting paid. I’d rather be in control. If I don’t sell any CDs, I have only myself to blame!

  4. That really is a harsh “start-up” price. It also doesn’t help that Best Buy is grossly exaggerating when they say “If you are ready to take your band to the next level…”.

  5. 250.00 is really nothing the scheme of things. The cost is worth the physical exposure and the ability to say “buy my cd at Best Buy”.

  6. I’d like to know the promotional strategy and power behind the offering. Can the listener go to a station and hear tracks? If that’s the case then it could provide value, if people really go to Best Buy to discover new music. The distribution reach has its benefits,but only if people can sample what they’re about to purchase.
    Investments are crucial in life but they should be deeply researched before being made, even if it’s only $250.

  7. @brent
    it doesnt say anything about end aisle display or listening stations. Those are typically waaay more expensive program.
    TO be completely honest, this is actually BestBuy opening back up to indies. Last year they took out thier regional co-op section so alot of indies with fanbases & marketing dollars were assed out. (my label included) SO this is a positive for those with a machin behind them.
    just my 2cents.

  8. To answer some questions: The $250 does not provide you with Listening Posts or other marketing; only access to the stores. It does provide access to multiple stores – in fact as many as make sense for you as an artist (touring markets, etc.)
    Personally, I understand paying for price and positioning (that has value), but resent paying to have access for someone to sell my product. (Either I can make a case that its worth stocking or not.) And I question if the fans of most indie artists would even think about looking for their CD in Best Buy.

  9. ^4th quarter end aisle display placement increases our impulse buys. so even though they arent “looking” a casual fan may pick up the cd or someone in a more rural town that only has a bestbuy or walmart and insists on a physical cd. it also serves the purpose of a flyer and counts as an impression.

  10. An important question here is how many they can stock at a time? If only one or two units, with a week minimum to re-stock, good luck selling 20. In the 90’s, a Texas rep at MS Distributing did that to us even though we were all over radio and selling thousands in other markets. Then he said “See? It doesn’t sell.” Wanker.

  11. I find it incredible that anyone is bitching about this fee, or thinks it unreasonable.
    Firstly, chain store music sales vs. 2008 are down nearly 25%.
    Recently, Best Buy told distributors that they were going to purge their inventory of more than 3,000 titles because they had never sold more than 10 units a week chainwide. They have no plans to carry new release titles from ANY artist that is expected to sell less than 500 units the week it streets.
    This is a major reduction in both catalog and new releases that Best Buy will carry, the end result being that many title by well known artists will no longer be carried by the chain. Only stuff that turns will be carried. They’re a chain retailer, they don’t care about music, they care about the return on investment of every product that is taking up floor space in their outlets. Go to Best Buy on any Tuesday and look at their new release section – they don’t stock anything on street date that isn’t popular or has huge $$ behind it. Majors labels are being told “No Thanks” by BB every week on hundreds of titles.
    So, you’re pissed that they won’t spread your self-released chainwide, that you’ll have to pony up $250 bucks to get it into their stores? WTF, welcome to the record business. The major labels had to cough it up for decades – so what, now in this age where no one buys CDs, where retail is almost dead, where the overwhelming majority of music changes hands but money doesn’t, YOU want a break? LOFL.
    Most indie retailers will take CDs on consignment, and frankly, that’s where 99% of these titles belong. Indie retail is a far more nurturing environment than a Best Buy store, a store clerk might actually be able to answer a question about your band, and people who go to an indie record store are inherently (for the most part) active music buyers. The Best Buy program is actually a good thing for those artists who have developed a local or regional following to the degree that a CASUAL music buyer might buy their CD.
    $250 is nothing – price & positioning fees at Best Buy have always been many thousands of dollars, this startup fee probably barely covers paperwork expenses. But it does weed out out that aren’t serious. As one poster mentioned above, if you can’t afford $250, you probably shouldn’t be trying to get your record into Best Buy. For most developing artists it makes more sense to give their music away, and/or selling direct to fans & via consignment at indie retail.
    I’m no Best Buy fanboy, but the fact that they’re offering local and regional indie acts ANY opportunity to be in their stores, in this climate, and especially at this price, should be applauded. When I first read the article, I thought the $250 was a typo, and the program was $2500, which still wouldn’t be that expensive, so long as they spread the record nicely.
    And that’s really the most important question in this (as with any P&P program) – how many units are they taking? Depending on where a band is based – let’s take NJ for instance – there might be 50 stores in a tri-state area. To make any impact, each store should stock 3-5 units, which means the spread should be about 250 CDs.
    To determine whether this program is worth anything, an artist should ask:
    1) How many units are being bought by BB when we buy this program?
    2) How many are being spread to stores, vs put on a shelf in the warehouse?
    3) How is the spread allocated? Are stores with more traffic shipped more units, or are locations where the artist has a strong fanbase being shipped product to meet the demand?
    4) What if any marketing is being done at the store to support the release? Is there a special “local artist” section, or perhaps a tag for the CD card to highlight this?
    These are questions that any record business sales guy would ask an account before spending P&P money, and in the DIY world, an artist should really understand what they’re buying. Ironically, artists have always paid for these programs out of their own pockets without realizing it, because P&P is a marketing expense, and pretty much always recoupable.
    Again, I think most developing artists should be giving their music away, because it really isn’t worth anything (commercially, not creatively speaking) until people want it, and you have to make them want it. But if you’re at the stage where getting your CD into a chain regionally makes sense, this BB program is worth considering, provided you get satisfactory answers to the questions above.

  12. I always say if the bigger guys don’t have to pay a fee to be carried than neither should the little guy. If you don’t think my product won’t sell, don’t carry it – I need a partner at retail.

  13. The bigger guys have paid BB and other chains millions in P&P fees over the past decade, plus given them all kinds of rebate programs, customer retained discounts, and favorable terms for paying for the product (dating). They’ve always paid. If you want a partner at retail, you have to deal with indie retail, and even CIMS has P&P programs:

  14. Dude…I like your insights, yours are The Smithsonian of comments, but even Moses kept it brief.
    I think the issue here isn’t that we think it’s unreasonable, but rather, unnecessary. You can make money from dollar 1 these days on your own website. You don’t have to pay to play anymore, you don’t have to pay a facility to make CD’s… anyone who does that shit is a fucking sucker.
    See, the DATA on who’s making money isn’t on display because it’s private. Why would any independent artist who’s making money without a manger or a label EVER tell anyone what they’re making? It used to be something that the dinosaurs bragged about. Now it’s something the creators rely upon, and it’s nobodies fucking business but ours.
    If that doesn’t accommodate the old school middle man megalomaniacs, well that’s the way the bed has been made…
    Sleep tight,

  15. Dude, the OP was about the program, and the fee BB is charging. It wasn’t about direct sales versus physical retail. Nobody in this thread said NOT to sell direct, or that going thru BB is preferable.
    If the original post was titled “Which Makes More sense: direct to fan sales or traditional retail P&P” then it would have been a different discussion entirely. Sales data, what artists earn and who they tell, and axe grindings about dinosaur middle men isn’t exactly germane to this thread. Most posters on HB (myself included) agree that direct to fan is smarter, but that’s not what the original post is about.
    Moses might have been brief, but he also stayed on point.

  16. YOU SAID:
    “So, you’re pissed that they won’t spread your self-released chainwide, that you’ll have to pony up $250 bucks to get it into their stores? WTF, welcome to the record business. The major labels had to cough it up for decades – so what, now in this age where no one buys CDs, where retail is almost dead, where the overwhelming majority of music changes hands but money doesn’t, YOU want a break? LOFL.”
    If some idiot pays that money then won’t that subsequent sales DATA be public? The idea is to expand on the implications there, Old Record Guy.
    Paying $250 to BB does more that just “spread your self-released…” and I’m here to talk about whatever else that means. Why are you so focused on avoiding the implications Oh Moses The Topical?
    As far as axe grinding…”WTF, welcome to the record business” DUDE, your record business is fucking dead and I want nothing to do with it.
    brendan b brown

  17. there’s a difference between paying a retail store for pricing & positioning, and paying your distributor to do their job. best buy isn’t collecting $250, this other company is. do they also take a percentage of the wholesale cost that best buy pays out?
    i could see very few situations where this would actually make sense for an artist.

  18. Brendan – it’s obvious you think you got fucked by Columbia and it still bothers you. You might not want anything to do with the record business now, but you were happy to sign a contract and play the game until you got dropped. But hey man, I didn’t drop you – I didn’t work at Columbia. I don’t consider any old or new paradigm to be “my record business” – it all is what it was, and what it is. Your anger or judgement towards me is misplaced. And hey, we have something in common, I got laid off in a merger, so I got “dropped” too.
    99% of the anti-record business, DIY is better rhetoric never seems to explain HOW to do things yourself, how to view a given opportunity. I’m sure that many artists out there have zero experience with P&P, what the advantages or disadvantages are, how to gauge the return on investment. This is a traditional type program and just shooting it down is your opinion and your right, but for those who might actually might want to try it, dismissing it doesn’t help. You have experience in how these things work that few people can compete with – how about getting a little more verbose yourself, reducing the vitriol and talking about your personal experiences getting records into stores as a major label signed artist? It would be interesting to hear whether your albums were stocked well when you were on tour, how many units were shipped versus returned, instores you may have done – and of course, your recent direct to consumer DSD download sales – that stuff is truly valuable to people who haven’t experienced it.
    OK, this idea program sucks – what else should an artist do if they want to get a physical CD out regionally where casual consumers might see/buy it?
    Surely you can see that just being another voice in the mob saying, DING DONG! The greedy record labels are dead!” doesn’t contribute much to where we need to go.

  19. Wow Old Record Guy,
    I applaud your sudden willingness to branch out and go way off topic, but you know less about what happened between me and Columbia Records than I know about who you even are.
    You said of me that I was, “…happy to sign a contract and play the game until you (I) got dropped.”
    Nothing could illustrate the fundamental difference between artists and executives more succinctly than that statement. Music isn’t a game to me like it is to you, it’s my life. I’d rather fight a Polar Bear with an avocado than not be able to put the music in my head on tape and share it.
    You would be correct to say that the termination of that relationship in 2003 was the best thing that ever happened to us. We dodged quite a bullet there and it wasn’t the result of any merger, but rather, an artist speaking his mind and an executive speaking his.
    You said this: “WTF, welcome to the record business.” I say again, I want nothing to do with your version of the record business.
    DIY is better, worse and different for everyone. If you actually make music and have a single tech bone in your body, you’ll figure it out your own way. Creativity is an individualistic enterprise, beautiful collaborations not withstanding. My ideas will not be suitable for all or even any other independent acts. The era of method homogeneity is over. So yeah, Ding Dong.
    As for your suggestion that I depart from brevity and reduce my vitriol into advice; NOTHING I know about music retail from 1999-2004 would help anyone accomplish anything today and that’s the only point worth making. I can however recognize the prevailing attitudes from that era when I see them and in that case, my anger is a big fat fucking gift.
    No one says it better than you: “This is a traditional type program and just shooting it down is your opinion”
    Yep, it is indeed my opinion that the only traditions worth saving in music are fidelity and great writing. Everything else would benefit greatly from being young and new.
    Music as a cultural art form will not survive denial of it’s youthful impetus much longer. Everything old must die so that everything new can thrive.
    Disagree with me if you want I love a good difference of opinion, but don’t ever say you and I have anything in common aside from hypebot.com and maybe our our Phil Collins solo CD collections…wait, I don’t have one of those…just the hypebot then.
    brendan b brown

  20. This has been more than an interesting thread. To Brendan, As much as I think that new and emerging great artists are on board with DIY, most that I run into have not even heard of sites like Hypebot etc. How many bands post on their website “NOW ON ITUNES?” Many bands look at itunes, Best Buy, etc. as a badge of honor. These bands had zero independent points of entry into the old system and for some, probably see this as a way to play with the “big boys” (albeit they are really playing with Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas.)Before you go off on me, you and I both know that they are missing the point. I talk to start up indie bands constantly and most still talk about CD release parties, radio, etc. and I feel in the back of their minds, still involve the lure of celebrity in their rock and roll fantasy. That is all this is, a way to exploit those who still dream a dream that they don’t know doesn’t exist anymore. Happy New Year to all!
    Jeff Scheel
    Gravity Kills
    “product” of the old paradigm and believer in the new

  21. If I agree to a table for 2 does that mean you’re paying, Old Record Guy?
    No no…Fuck that. I answered every one of your points after careful consideration. This is a civilized debate. I don’t hate you. I talk the way I do because it’s how I have learned to express myself. Don’t front thin skin all of a sudden…this was just getting to be fun. Come back and address my points or I’ll loose all respect for you, sort of.
    What about youth culture denied?
    What about the old ways having no present day applications?
    I don’t think there is any long term benefit to having your CD on the shelf in a National Chain unless they are paying you. Please debate that.
    What about Polar Bears?!
    C’mon don’t chicken out.

  22. Jeff,
    Am I that scary? I’m not here to “go off” on anyone.
    You’re right though. I think this is an amoral scam. I have met younger people in new bands who have stars in their eyes too. I’m going to a local basement show tonight in fact, as soon as I finish this dreadful RockBand MIDI work. I tell them if they want to know, that the truth is very, very ugly. That lots and lots of horrible unmusical people are banking on the fact that they can roll new artists who are young and enthusiastic. The music business, what’s left of it, is largely predatory.
    But that kind of ignores something important.. in flush times or skint, there’s no reason to assume that the artists tract is for everybody/anybody. You can’t go to school and get an artists degree. It’s a specialized, disorder, or obsession that turns out to be mostly useless and destructive. Most of us struggle with math, are lazy, depressed. I fucking BURN myself into suicidal insanity every single time I make a record and most of it sucks…. they don’t make me a ton of money these efforts…I’m 36 and I live like a fucking rodent. I have a few married normal friends…We almost have nothing to talk about except Ed Witten’s theories. But I chose that the bad parts included. Are you a mess too Jeff? Maybe it’s not a rule but that’s my perspective.
    A hot shot manager once said this to me: “This is how it works kid, I fuck you, you fuck someone else.”
    I’d rather die in the gutter than roll with a cunt like that. It’s on us to change this crap. Now that the pickin’s are slim the parasites are asking kids who don’t know any better for MONEY UP FRONT so they can keep rolling as they have done….sooner or later there gonna run out of rich kids.
    Seller beware,

  23. Ha, nothing kills a thread like the C word.
    NOBODY has yet figured out how to make things work in this new world, there’s no tried and true model for getting fans, breaking thru the white noise, or selling music or tickets. There are tons of people writing about it, discussing it, offering opinions, the overwhelming majority of which are anti-record label, anti-“old school”, pro technology and DIY.
    Two facts: for many years, labels were willing to invest millions in artist careers, and there are many artists who got paid by labels. NOTE: I’m not saying all artists got paid, and I certainly won’t justify the creative accounting used by most labels to ensure the artists got as little as possible. But the labels did do some things right, and to pave over all that information, dismiss it without attempting to understand which parts of it were good (plenty is written about what was bad), a huge error is being made. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. What knowledge does anyone extract from the same old “screw the greedy labels” rap? ZERO. It’s a tired, automatic response to any discussion about how the business worked, usually made by people who never worked at a major, or were signed to one (that’s why I encouraged Brendan to expand on his experiences, he does have those credentials).
    So, in 2010: who is going to invest millions in YOUR band? Who is going to advance you hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a record, tour, buy equipment? Umm….nobody. And who is writing you a check for streams or downloads of your music? Facebook? Myspace? Spotify? Pandora? For 95% of artists, none of the above. Sounds a lot like the old record business. All those companies got rich, huge valuations, the artists got zero.
    I’m not trying to say things haven’t changed – they obviously have, and at least now artists have tools to better understand who their fans are. But there are as many similarities as there are differences between the new and old business. It is absolute folly to suggest that there is nothing to learn from the history of the record business. A smart artist will read and understand as much as they can about the history of the industry, it will help them make better deals, better marketing decisions, and provide a more informed perspective with which to access opportunities like the one listed above.
    Don’t just read books about digital music, read about other periods in the music business too, you’ll discover it’s cyclical. Round out your perspective, don’t just read one source. I was smack in the middle of all the stuff written in “Appetite For Self-Destruction”, and the author missed a lot of stuff (or left it out to support his conclusions).
    One last thought: a label invests invest millions in an artist; and of course most artists don’t want the label meddling in their music. Creatively, I understand and support this 100%. But if you tried to raise a million dollars from investors, and told them up front that they’d have no input as to how it would be used, what would your chances be of getting the money?
    Strikes me as ironic that asking artists to invest $250 in the program above defines the distributor as a “parasite”.
    “Give me a million dollars and then please f*ck off ”
    “EH? You want $250 FROM me? Now you can REALLY f*ck off!

  24. I once had distribution to Best Buy stores through an indie distributor. Unfortunately they only ordered for about 1/6th of their stores, usually ordering only 1 copy per store. That was years ago. Now it has become even more difficult to get them to order. Just because you sign up with J-Distribution doesn’t mean you will get any significant orders.

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