Coalition of Independent Music Stores Top 200 for Week Ending 01-21-07
Hypebot's New Music Business Briefing For Thursday January 25th, 2007

Indie Retail's VanCleave Sounds Off About The "Keystone Cops" At EMI

FROM MIDEM - "Today I was in the lobby of the Carlton hotel right there on the ole Rivera...and noticed Eric Nicoli across the room..."

"He of course runs the EMI Music Group. We have great friends at the company but pretty muchEmi_71 think the parent company are the Keystone Cops. Anyway, after exiting the scene, I checked my Blackberry to find that iTunes has an exclusive with the Decemberists...Now, this is a band that has LIVED at indie retail forever. Even at Capitol, we have made a very important contribution to the sales of The Crane¹s Wife.  Our Capitol folks have been very supportive."

"We have been pounding the Decemberist¹s management and label for the same type of cool product for the past two years. I even cornered the lead singer, at LaGuardia Cims_75for a few hours to explain our game. Guess what? Seems EMI UK has this policy that exclusive content only can be granted as DIGITAL content. Oh, I see. It is easier to deal with the retailers who are paying a small increment of your income instead of the retailers who are paying the bulk.  It is also amazing that you would grant exclusive content to the very channel that is NOT replacing your lost income dollar for dollar. Keystone Cops indeed." - Don VanCleave / Coalition of Independent Music Stores (Read his full rant after the jump.)

Hello all,

Thanks to some very nice words from our buddy Bob Lefsetz, I managed to acquire a few hundred new friends in the past week.  I welcome all of you to our weekly chart. With us, sometimes you get just a chart and sometimes you get a piece of our mind. I think that all of our current friends who know who we are and what we do will understand if we spend some time this week getting all of these new folks up to speed.

We live in an age where our customer can get anything they want for free just by booting up their computer. We work around that by offering the music freak that wants, no needs, to possess the physical the best selection possible. We also live in an age where a VP of Sales will look you in the eye and tell you that you need to sell a major label  $18.98 list CD that cost you $12.50 for $9.99 to remain competitive. See, that is what the big ass ape in the room, Best Buy, does for the business. For example, they have the Shins today for $8.99 in some markets. Many indie stores have to pay $9.80 or more for this release. Does that sound healthy?  We try to work around that by beating up the same guys they do, which is not that much fun..
We are the first place labels turn to develop and break new artists only to be forgotten when that artist sells enough to warrant attention from the tonnage customers. But, I stray.

In 1995, thanks to Mark Cope and Yvette Ziraldo from Album Network, a large gathering of independent retailers met in San Francisco to discuss common issues and problems. Out of that meeting sprang the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. The goal of the group was to present a united front to the record labels on several levels. On the promotions level, we provide one stop shopping for labels to promote their releases ­ listening booths, positioning, genre programs, catalog sales, etc. in some of the best stores in the country. On the activist level, we were able to provide a unified voice against some of the worst practices of the industry, which of course is a full time job. On the music level, we were able to help break some of the biggest names out there by working together.

Individually we are small stores and large stores. We stock every known genre and have people working for us who know music because it is their life. Not a single one of our staff were selling microwaves or tires in our stores last week ­ we promise. Most of our locations (59 in all) have been around over 20 years and have seen boom times and troubling times. We have monopolized the NARM Retailer of the Year (small and medium) for years.
Contrary to popular press spin, the best stores in the country are not going out of business any time soon.  Our stores sell music on CD and vinyl as well as lifestyle items and DVD. Our stores sell the magic of music on many levels. We are known for getting behind bands before anyone else. Our owners and staff have let many a band crash at their house and have provided late night advice counseling mentoring to starving artists who later become big names. 

A few years ago, we grew very alarmed at the way large chains and big box retailers were allowed to sell more and more exclusive content. So we formed an internal distribution company called junketboy and invited every other indie store out there to participate with us to put out product geared towards our customers ­ the uber fan. In the past year alone, we have released music by Pearl Jam, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Bright Eyes, Flaming Lips, Gov't Mule and about 100 other acts. We now actively work with 300 or more great indie stores including the accounts of our sister organizations ­ Music Monitor Network and AIMS along with Newbury Comics, Amoeba and other well known indie stores. We now distribute our own version of Mojo Magazine and help run the Paste Recommends program. For a look at what we have done release wise, visit www.thinkindie.com <http://www.thinkindie.com> .

On the digital side, we fully intend to sell music. However, we have watched one idea after another throw tons of money at the concept with only one winner ­ Apple. We are only interested in launching a digital service that is DRM free. Hopefully we will get on the map in the coming year with our ideas.  One thing is for sure; we have amazing brands in many parts of the country. Trusted brands that will continue to be a filter for fans of music..
Even though the Internet is world wide, we find that many people are using it locally. I hear constantly from owners who report amazing response to their email blasts about what is happening in the stores and from customers who actually check stock levels online before driving to their favorite music emporium.

OK, that is a thumbnail of who we are and what we do. As a parting note, you want to know what we are pissed off about right? Since Lefsetz sent you, I know you love to have analysis on your screen. You love to know what is wrong. That changes each week of course because we have so many choices.

I am in Cannes, France right now attending Midem, otherwise known as NARM with cigarettes. Today I was in the lobby of the Carlton hotel right there on the ole Rivera checking out all of the big swingers in the room. See, unlike ANY US music convention, MIDEM brings out the royalty of the international music scene. I was having a meeting with one such swinger (unlike Bob, I don¹t kiss and tell) and noticed Eric Nicoli across the room..
He of course runs the EMI Music Group. We have great friends at the company but pretty much think the parent company are the Keystone Cops. Anyway, after exiting the scene, I checked my Blackberry to find that iTunes has an exclusive with the Decemberists. It is an in store recorded at the swank (with all due respect) Soho location a few months ago. Now, this is a band that has LIVED at indie retail forever. Even at Capitol, we have made a very important contribution to the sales of The Crane¹s Wife.  Our Capitol folks have been very supportive. We have been pounding the Decemberist¹s management and label for the same type of cool product for the past two years. I even cornered the lead singer, at LaGuardia for a few hours to explain our game. Guess what? Seems EMI UK has this policy that exclusive content only can be granted as DIGITAL content. Oh, I see. It is easier to deal with the retailers who are paying a small increment of your income instead of the retailers who are paying the bulk.  It is also amazing that you would grant exclusive content to the very channel that is NOT replacing your lost income dollar for dollar. Keystone Cops indeed.

So, in closing, glad I got that email in the lazy sun on the Mediterranean instead of being 10 feet from Nicoli about 30 minutes earlier. Otherwise it would have been one more tale of an ugly American in FranceŠ

Peace,

Don VanCleave
Coalition of Independent Music Stores
3738 4th Terrace North
Birmingham, AL  35222

205-595-1932 x201
205-595-1938 (fax)

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