I was a bit shocked recently when I discovered there was another level of what can only be described of fraud in the music industry. Its something that’s joked about – but until now I didn’t believe it was actually true.
Put simply: labels getting their artists to buy their own music, or labels buying their own releases.
My instant reaction is that this sounds retarded. In fact, to most people its the lowest form of self-promotion – and very costly too. So why would anyone do it? Its kind of the music industry equivalent of getting someone to bump your bids on Ebay….
Well, given the current low state of sales in the industry, you can kind of understand why someone would consider it. If buying 20 copies of your own track gets you top 10, and more people “notice” your release, then you sell 40 copies as a result, then you’d think it would be worth it. However, by the time you factor in the stores share (lets say its a nice easy 50%), you would have to sell double the number you bought to break even. This is already starting to total up…..
Then there’s whether you do it on one store, or a couple. Which means the costs add up quickly. Say the label has released on 5 stores, buying 20 copies on each store as a starter to get them kicked off.
So for a 100 downloads of their single, they would have to sell 200 to break even. And given that 20 copies would cost around $40, its going to set them back $200 to buy those copies.
And that doesn’t even factor in if the release is a pile of crap. In which case, the investment is $200, plus the cost of the release. The current returns in house music especially, make this a high risk strategy for making money. Combine this with someone buying plays to get them more noticed, and you have a set of seriously dodgy tools which probably won’t get you any admiration from your peers.
I would love to have a list of labels or producers who actually do this and get them to justify why they did it. I’m still shocked that anyone would think its a good idea. Or maybe I’m just naïve and everyone is doing it.
I don’t think its unheard of. Music sales really are dead. So if spending money to make money is the way to go so be it. I’ve always been of the opinion that at best with music you are going to break even at the end of the day. What’s weird is that for electronic music, if you are a fan, there is no reason to “buy” music. Its all available online. Most DJs have their sets available to download as a promo. The only people interested in buying tracks, even album releases are the DJs themselves. I’m sure Europe is different and buying vinyl of new releases is still pretty cool, but in smaller cities good fucking luck!
I think Beatport probably sells a bit to non-DJs but I don’t know how much of a market is in it.
When I used to DJ I’d spend 40 bucks on a mix for digital downloads. You’d browse specific labels and artists and pick from that. Maybe a top 40 list or something.
But at the end of the day its just heavyweights moving the units. And marketing. Marketing is the art and science of spending money to promote your shit so it sells. In the music industry its no different. At a grassroot level for electronic music the difference is that you’re probably going to spend money on putting on events.
I think what’s the hidden factor is that people who own larger labels or who really are selling the records had money to begin with. So tossing a few grand at event promotion, or even a new track or producer is peanuts. Most of the money being made is in ticket sales anyways or club admission. Or drink prices!!!