A Check-In With Mojo Vinyl And An Old Friend
January 17, 2014
"Vinyl is the real deal. I've always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don't really own the album. And it's not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive."
-- Jack White
"My introduction to all this great music and to 'the music business' came from hanging around, and eventually, working at independent record stores. Nothing beats browsing in your favorite store, listening to music, finding something new or old that you've been searching for, all that. And without these stores, there's just no way Wilco would still be around."
-- Jeff Tweedy
"The indie record stores are the backbone of the recorded music culture. It's where we go to network, browse around, and find new songs to love. The stores whose owners and staff live for music have spread the word about exciting new things faster and with more essence than either radio or the press. Any artist that doesn't support the wonderful ma and pa record stores across America is contributing to our own extinction."
-- Joan Jett
For those that don't know about it, the advent of Record Store Day(s), which occurs twice a year and includes for that day only releases by such bands as Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead and many more, has had a huge effect on the vinyl buying public.
The big Record Store Day is in April, and the smaller one, also called Back to Black Friday, occurs the day after Thanksgiving.
Year over year, Record Store days have increased the sale of music (specifically vinyl), and have rejuvenated what was once a dynamic retail music market. Of course that market is nothing near like it was when retail record stores like Tower Records, Wherehouse, Licorice Pizza and others ruled. But Record Store Days have recreated the emotional connection for the music consumers who love to shop and spend time at great music retail outlets.
I thought it would be a good idea to check-in with a good retailer, and an old friend as well, to talk about the state of the vinyl market, Record Store days, and more.
I had the pleasure of working with Win Sirotta during my tenure in national promotion at Capitol Records. Before joining Capitol, Win was Music Director at WLIR/Long Island, and he booked their 'Tuesday Night Live Free Concert Series' from Ultrasonic Studios. (The first of its kind in the country.) Win then joined Capitol Records in New York City in Artist Development, and went on to do local radio promotion, and became the label's East Coast Regional AOR (Album Oriented Radio) Manager. He later joined EMI Records in Atlanta, Georgia as Southeast Regional Album Promotion and Artist Development.
Q. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me today. I've been writing about the vinyl market for several years now, and I've watched it grow year over year. It seems all the major labels look at the vinyl segment as insignificant because the amount of revenue captured each year from the vinyl segment is dwarfed by CD and digital sales. Many label execs thought it was a fad at first, but it sure seems like the vinyl market is not going away and continues to grow. Do you see the increase in vinyl sales at your store?
A. Yes, absolutely. Here at Mojo Vinyl in Roswell, GA, about 20 miles north of downtown Atlanta, where I work, that is certainly the case. The store has been in business since June 2012, and in 2013 we grew our business 150%! About 90 % of that was vinyl, with a mix of 80% used and 20% new. The remaining 10 % has been in turntable sales. We completely sold out of turntables this holiday season, and wanted more, but even our suppliers ran out! That is an amazing stat. Mojo Vinyl sells three turntables ranging in price from $150 to $500. Our best seller sells for $250. Of course, anyone purchasing a turntable needs vinyl so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of our major uptick in sales, we are moving to a new facility, three times our current size. Our original location was only 425 sq. feet with over 6,000 titles! The new store will be 1100 sq. ft. with over 10,000 titles!
Q. How were recent Record Store days at your place?
A. This past Back to Black Friday, we had 18-degree weather, yet there were over 30+ hearty vinyl heads patiently standing in line for over an hour waiting to get in the store. We served coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts to those folks. It was a blast!
Q. Someone once said "There's no such thing as having too many customers," so I'm surprised the labels don't see the growth in the vinyl market as a major positive instead of something minor. Imagine how many more consumers could be engaged at retail if the labels really exploited the segment, do you agree?
A. Rand Cabus, the owner and I, have that same discussion almost daily. Having been in the record business at Capitol and others, like yourself, it still amazes us how ultra-conservative the companies remain in their attitude towards new vinyl.
Many of the titles with veteran acts such as Pearl Jam, The Allman Brothers; Steely Dan and even The Beatles Remasters are very often either out of stock or backordered for many, many months. Even new artist vinyl that the younger generation loves, such as Mumford and Sons, Black Keys, Tame Impala and Bon Iver suffer the same fate. After Apple blew away most of their profits, the companies have little idea of what to do with vinyl. They apparently, would rather not have ANYTHING in stock, so they manufacture too conservatively and miss many sales. The glory days of selling Platinum and returning Gold are no more. They would rather sell 1-2,000 without having to actually work, while leaving maybe another 5-10,000 on the table. The new Pearl Jam was backordered BEFORE it shipped! Donald Fagen's "Sunken Condos" was available for two weeks and never again. Must have sold their allotment of 500. They never learn, do they?
The biggest, most obvious mistake the companies make is their pricing of newly manufactured vinyl. Especially when pressing on 180-gram vinyl. Many new records are priced between $39.98 and as high as $69.98! That's ludicrous. One company that has done it properly is our old friend Capitol. The Beatles Remasters we sell at $26 and they sound great. So why is "Queens of the Stone Age" selling at $42? The most absurd pricing yet is Neil Young's "Psychedelic Pill. " The retail price is $79.98! We have not sold one, and we are proud of that fact. Fans of Neil can get 'Harvest,' 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,' 'Live Rust' and 'After The Gold Rush' combined for less than $80.
Q. Do you find the consumers who are buying vinyl as just specialty buyers? Or are more and more music mainstream consumers looking for music on vinyl ... especially on new releases?
A. No, it is across the board. We recently price-reduced our Jazz collection and now are regularly selling Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal and Billie Holiday records. The ages of buyers and what they buy is forever surprising. College-age kids are buying Miles Davis. And boomers are buying Mumford and Sons. That, in itself, speak volumes about the future growth of all things vinyl. Yes, once mainstream buyers start or restart their collections, they buy almost weekly.
Q. How much do you sell vinyl for at the store? Do you think the higher price for vinyl inhibits selling even more?
A. See my comments above regarding companies price gouging on new vinyl. We have a simple system in place based on quality of both record and sleeve (very important). Whether the LP has the original poster ('Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits' with the Milton Glaser poster, for instance) or not. Popularity and availability, ala, Zep 1 or 'Animals' by Pink Floyd also determines cost. Also whether it is still sealed or not. For instance, a sealed 'Led Zeppelin 1' sold for $98, while an excellent used one sells for $28. Our pricing for used records, depending on quality, is $8,$12, or $18. If the record is okay, but a tad scratchy it's $8. If almost perfect, the same title would be $18.
Q. Is there a particular format of music that sells better on vinyl? If so, why do you think that might be?
A. So far Classic Rock is far and away our most popular category. The 12-25 year olds love the true old rock and roll, and they supplement that with newbies such as Mumford's etc. The Boomers buy classic rock because that is what they grew up with and cannot hear anywhere else. We have an amazing amount of over-40 folks buying new turntables not only for their kids, but for themselves as well. Jazz is quietly becoming our second favorite category. And companies such as Columbia are doing a great job in releasing wonderful Jazz like Miles and Brubeck. Blues is steadily picking up and is the third best-selling category. John Lee Hooker, Peter Green and Muddy Waters in particular do quite well. New females such as Adele and Amy Winehouse also sell very well.
Q. I've always believed the emotional connection that vinyl records made with consumers was much stronger than CDs. The artwork on album covers, the actual smell we used to get when opening that new album, the lyric sheets with words we could actually read instead of those with CDs which you need a magnifying glass for, and more. Do you see all that as part of the connection consumers are making again with vinyl?
A. Absolutely! To see these young customers hold an LP and intensely devour the liner notes (remember them?) with great interest is a wonderful thing to behold. It's as if the records are artifacts wondrously found in a cave somewhere. Many young buyers also realize an entire album of one's work is a much better indicator of an act's talent and tells a story. The one-off iTunes songs do not. We have quite a few customers who come in weekly and go through each bin completely. That's 30 bins!
Having been in the record business eons ago, I have a myriad of stories to share with customers regarding records they buy. Telling folks stories of my years on tour with artists for both Capitol and EMI records and promoting acts such as Wings, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Bob Seger, Steve Miller, etc. and great obscure bands such as Be Bop Deluxe. It enhances their buying experience and they love hearing stories about the artists and business back then. It makes for terrific storytelling and helps cement the process having come full circle, and I thank Rand every day for the phenomenal opportunity to educate and sell REAL music!
Q. Does your store feature new vinyl releases with in-store posters, etc.?
A. We put posters up when available, which isn't too often. Rand is a master of social media and Mojo has over 1,100 followers and growing daily, so our customers know to look at Facebook each day. We even let them call us and we will hold a title for 24 hours if asked. It works. Other than FB, Mojo does no advertising. It's all word of mouth.
Q. Many stores that carry vinyl are starting to sell turntables as well, does your store do that? If not, where are your customers buying turntables these days, do you know?
A. Again, see my comments above. One of our better selling points regarding turntables is pointing out the inferior models being sold at teen outlets such as Urban Outfitters, Target, etc. These stores sell tables made by the Crosley Company, and inevitably and quickly, they either break completely, or they cannot play any slightly warped record at all. They then visit Mojo and get a better one. Buyer beware, turntables under $150 will not last.
Q. To date, what albums have been the biggest sellers on vinyl?
A. Led Zeppelin I, II, & III and Untitled or ZoFo/ Then, Mumford and Sons – Babel, The Beatles White Album, Revolver, and Abbey Road. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue!, Bon Iver and Pink Floyd's entire catalogue. We post new additions each day on Facebook and both Zep and Floyd rarely last 48 hours after posting. Classical and Country are our least sellers, however, some artists such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Lucinda Williams do quite well.
Q. Your final thoughts?
A. Incredible as it may seem, our customers range from 12-year-old girls buying 'Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits' to Boomers buying Miles, Dave Brubeck, and Muddy Waters. Personally , I have the most fun when I'm able to turn kids on to stuff like early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green and from the Bob Welch period. Kids are astonished that Mac existed prior to Stevie Nicks. It's a trip and I feel like professor.
We get this remark all the time, "I'm now buying ALBUMS I gave away 25 years ago!" What has happened is that it skipped an entire generation. The 12-25 year-olds 20 years ago could have cared less since they were all about Rap and the self-imposed in-ear experience. Now the kids are being tuned in either by their parents, or uncles and aunts. They are listening together as opposed to being on completely different levels. It gives me hope for the future, sonically at least.
Many also are realizing that listening to vinyl with good speakers is SOCIAL, as opposed to five kids listening to five different tunes with ear buds. (Editor's note: Amen to that!) And they get the difference with the better, truer, fuller sound. These kids are sponges for music that was made before they were born. Last week I whipped out the first Mink Deville record, which I promoted at Capitol in the '70s! I put it on the turntable and a newbie asked who it was. I told her, and said that is was good music with attitude! She agreed and bought it on the spot!!
I love what's going on and see it getting bigger and better as more folks get exposed to it, while not being able to stand what's on the radio, or if they can even locate a decent station without Sirius or Spotify. This vinyl thing amazes us each day and I don't see anything but positives for the future. Rock On. Our motto is LISTEN NAKED, and we don't mean clothing. Thanks Steve, I look forward to doing this with you again sometime.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
CHECK OUT '20 FEET FROM STARDOM' IF AT POSSIBLE
This week I had the pleasure of watching one of the best documentaries about the music business I've ever seen. I was thrilled to hear yesterday it's nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary category.
From the film's website, "Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.
These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting, to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film."
It is one terrific film and I think you'll enjoy it every bit as much as I did. Check it out: 20 Feet From Stardom,
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
THE NET NEUTRALITY STUFF FROM THIS WEEK'S NEWS
In what could be a major blow to the concept of net neutrality, a federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule essentially aimed at keeping Internet service providers from being able to charge content companies to speed the rate of their downloads. The court ruled the FCC doesn't have the authority to prevent the practice of "discrimination" because it hasn't classified broadband Internet as a "common-carrier" service, like traditional phone service. Read more
New chairman Tom Wheeler could pick the fastest path to Net Neutrality -- but risk the fury of Republicans and Internet service providers. Read the story at TheWrap
Broadband providers aren't "common carriers," court says, and that makes all the difference in a decision certain to shake up the fixed broadband and wireless industries. Read more
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
SPRINGSTEEN MAY RELEASE LIVE SHOWS FOR SALE
From Rolling Stone: Bruce Springsteen fans may have soon have the ability to download complete concerts from the Internet, possibly beginning this month when the tour resumes with a series of shows in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Springsteen manager Jon Landau let Backstreets in on the news at SiriusXM headquarters when Bruce was visiting for an interview on E Street Radio.
"Plans aren't totally hammered out yet," the report said, "but it's something they want to try, potentially after each show, and he says Bruce is on board with the idea. Active discussions are ongoing and in the logistics phase; there are even hopes to make something happen in time for the next leg." Bruce Springsteen Exploring Instant Live Recordings
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
TAYLOR SWIFT IN FRONT ON A REBOUNDING CONCERT BIZ
With Taylor Swift leading the way, grossing more than $110 million for her North American tour, the concert business appears to have fully recovered from its summer struggles of three years ago.
Overall ticket revenues have jumped from $1.7 billion in 2000 to $5.1 billion last year, according to Pollstar's newly released end-of-2013 data. Read the rest
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
GAMES BIZ TO HIT $60 BILLION IN A FEW YEARS
GamesIndustryBiz reports that the mobile and online gaming industry is expected to surpass the milestone of $60 billion in revenue by 2017.
The overall gaming industry is likely to push above $100 billion, with 60% coming from the mobile and online gaming. Much of the growth is expected to be driven from the Asian markets. Read More
THE 'A-SIDE' - THE BONUS TRACKS
* 2013 Music Sales in a Nutshell
* The Eagles Reopen The Forum in L.A. With a Nostalgic Night of Hits
* Hanging Out at Stevie Nicks' House
* 10 Videos From Neil Young's Incredible Carnegie Hall Shows
* 14 Artists to Watch in 2014
* 5 Great Beatle cover songs
* Tom Morello to Record First Solo Rock Album After Bruce Springsteen Tour
* Fleetwood Mac Reunite in 1997
* 'American Idol' Earns Worst Premiere Ratings To Date
* 7 Ways To Increase Your Success In The Music Business in 2014
* Pandora station suggestions amp up personalization
* Seven Tips For Choosing The Right Recording Software
* Wireless is the new hi-fi
* The 22 Most Misleading Viral Photos (Explained)
* Best of high-end audio At CES
* Hands-on with Relays, Sol Republic's versatile 'crossover' headphone
* Netflix orders up third season of 'Lilyhammer'
* 6 Tech Trends That'll Empower You in 2014
* 17 slick new headphones at CES 2014
* The 17 CES gadgets you could actually buy soon
* 10 new tablets you're about to see in stores
* The 100 most important gadgets now, ranked
Short News Items ...
'THE BOSS'S HEROES:
Brilliant and big-hearted, Bruce Springsteen is the rock star most considered a hero. But heroes have heroes of their own, and Bruce has never been shy about shout-outs. From John Steinbeck to Joe Strummer, here are the musicians, activists and friends he admires most. Read More
PAUL & RINGO TO GRAMMY SHOW:
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will perform together at the 2014 Grammy Awards, as the show's lineup continues to grow. Along with songs from the two former Beatles, country stars Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and newcomer Kacey Musgraves will also appear, as will Best R&B Album nom John Legend and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Carole King, who was named 2014's MusiCares Person of the Year, will perform with Sara Bareilles.
BOWIE'S "REBEL, REBEL" RE-RELEASE:
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," and Parlophone Records will mark the occasion by reissuing the single as a limited edition 7" picture disc. The A-side will feature the original single mix of the song, which has never been released on CD and hasn't been available on vinyl since the early 1980s. The AA-side will include a remixed version of the song that was released in North America in May of 1974. It's scheduled to hit shelves on March 11th.
THIS CAN ONLY HELP HIS IMAGE:
Justin Bieber was accused of egging his neighbor's house. As part of the investigation process, police searched the pop star's home yesterday for surveillance footage and in doing so, they arrested a friend of his, rapper Lil Za, for alleged possession of cocaine.
If one needed anymore evidence that all the vocal talent shows on TV are cannibalizing one another, here it is: The season 13 premiere of Fox's singing competition bows down 23% from last year's debut. Read the story at TheWrap , and AT&T has withdrawn its participation after 12 years -- "yet another sign," Advertising Age observed, "of the dissipating power of 'Idol'."
N'AWLINS JAZZ FEST SET:
Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Arcade Fire, Santana and Christina Aguilera are some of the big names set to play this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the 45th annual. The event, spread out over two weekends, will take place April 25th-27th and May 1st-4th.
NEW JOAN JETT:
She just keeps rocking! Check out Joan Jett's latest album 'Unvarnished' at her website. The album is ranked at #4 on Little Steven's Top Ten Coolest Albums In The World 2013. You can listen to the tracks, see photos of Joan, and much more. Check it out
ALL-STAR SALUTE FOR ALLMANS:
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers joined current and former members of the Allman Brothers Band for a 26-song salute to Gregg Allman last Friday night in Atlanta. Sam Moore, Dr. John and Jackson Browne took turns interpreting Allman's extensive catalog along with Vince Gill, Derek Trucks, John Hiatt, Zac Brown, Widespread Panic and others during "All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman," which was recorded to air on AXS TV in May. For the sold-out crowd at the historic 4,600-seat Fox Theatre, this rainy night in Georgia proved to be a dream jam.
HERE COMES BEATS MUSIC STREAMING:
Beats Music announced on Saturday that it will be launching its new music streaming subscription service in the U.S. on January 21st. The service, developed by Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine along with Dr. Dre, Beats Electronics president Luke Wood and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, will offer a catalog of more than 20 million songs, fully licensed from all major and independent labels.
Harvard University has appointed Herbie Hancock the 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry. As part of the honor, the jazz legend will deliver six lectures on a variety of topics next month, though he told BBC Radio 5 – as reported by The BBC – those talks will mostly cover personal stories and his own history.
MAYER TO CARTER:
Lady Gaga's ex-manager Troy Carter has just signed up a new client, Rolling Stone has learned: John Mayer.
CHRISTINE BACK WITH MAC:
Vocalist and keyboardist Christine McVie has reclaimed her position in Fleetwood Mac, following a 16-year absence. On Saturday, drummer Mick Fleetwood reportedly told the audience at Uncle Willie K's BBQ Blues Fest in Maui, "This is the worst-kept secret there is, but Christine McVie will be rejoining Fleetwood Mac."
Outkast will be playing over 40 festivals worldwide this year, beginning with their headlining appearance at Coachella in April. Other than their June appearance at New York City's Governors Ball, though, the group has not yet revealed where else it will perform.
GARFUNKEL READY 2 PERFORM AGAIN:
Art Garfunkel is returning to the stage this year, four years after suffering vocal cord paresis that forced the cancellation of Simon and Garfunkel's summer tour.
CAROLE KING ON THE GREAT WHITE WAY:
Phil Collins, Nathan Lane and Clive Davis were all under the same roof in New York last Sunday night turning out for the Broadway opening of 'Beautiful: The Carole King Musical' at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The show chronicles King's early career, from her time as half of the heroically hit-making Sixties songwriting team with her then-husband Gerry Goffin to her emergence as a phenomenally successful solo singer-songwriter in the Seventies.
'X FACTOR' UP IN THE AIR:
Fox's Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly says that if "The X Factor" comes back, it will be with a different format. Reilly made the proclamation at Monday's Television Critics Association winter press tour, where he admitted that the singing competition "underperformed" in its past season.
HBO HAS WINNER WITH 'TRUE DETECTIVE':
HBO's new drama "True Detective" proved to be a ratings hit for HBO with its Sunday night premiere, drawing the network's highest number for a series premiere since "Boardwalk Empire" in 2010. The 9p premiere of "True Detective" — which stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as a pair of detectives who are drawn into a murder investigation — drew 2.3 million total viewers.
Only one awards show can deliver that special blend of booze and ego. Hosted brilliantly Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, the 71st annual Golden Globes Awards had it all: incoherent speeches, shoeless actresses, pubic hair jokes. Here are 20 highs and lowlights. Read More
FX's "Justified" will end after its sixth season, network chief John Landgraf announced Tuesday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Dave Madden, who played long-suffering band manager Reuben Kincaid on the '70s sitcom "The Partridge Family," has died, TMZ reports. He was 82. According to the site, Madden died of congestive heart failure and kidney failure on Thursday morning following a long illness.
Russell Johnson, who played the professor on "Gilligan's Island," died Thursday morning, his agent told TheWrap. He was 89. Johnson died at his home in Washington state of natural causes, his agent, Michael Eisenstadt said.
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Netflix Instant Thinking About Adding Good Movies
LOS GATOS, CA—In a swift and unexpected departure from their present business model, officials from Netflix revealed Wednesday that the company is currently considering adding a good movie to their online streaming service.
"With the growing success of the streaming platform, we thought the time was right to think about possibly offering, just for the sake of variety, one film that wasn't a total critical and commercial flop forgotten immediately after its initial theatrical release," said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sandaros. Read the rest and laugh
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
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Smart Marketing Consulting Services has been in business sixteen years, and consults clients in the music, entertainment, attraction, media, and technology industry on branding, marketing, online exploitation, maximizing new media, and more.
"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon