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GETTING STARTED (written in 1999 for Murder Dog)

By, Wendy Day

In this column last month, we discussed the importance of having great music that will sell outside of your
circle of friends, choosing the single based on reaction from local DJs and retailers, owning only two or
three markets at first in which to release and work your record, and timing as the most important element in
the success of your project (after good music that is). hen your project is pressed up it should have a bar
code (!"# #odes can be ordered through $%&.'%(.%)&*++this takes a minute, so call months in advance) so
it can be recogni,ed for -ound-can. .his is the /fingerprint/ that tells you how many records have been
sold at retail stores who use the -ound-can bar code scanning system, which -ound-can, Inc claims to be
)(0 of the stores selling urban music (I disagree, I find a tremendous amount of independent retailers to be
without -ound-can). 1ost of the better distribution deals through larger2major labels have been given to
labels who have been able to prove through -ound-can that they3ve sold 4*,*** units and more. 1aster "
sold &(,*** units on his own prior to "riority picking him up, Do 5r Die sold 4*,*** singles++ -ound-can++
before the 6ap+7+8ot deal, #ash 1oney sold between 9(,*** and :9(,*** on nine releases before their
groundbreaking deal with !niversal, and DJ D1D sold 44,*** before ;lektra scooped him up (all
substantiated by -ound-can). <ar codes and pressing up units costs money which leads to the topic of this
column= financing. !nless you are independently wealthy or a, uh, street entrepreneur, you need to have a
plan that covers your e>penses. -o let3s focus on getting that plan together to get the paper.
.he most effective thing to do is to make a list of all the stuff you need to put out your record from studio
costs to artist advances (pay your fucking artists), pressing costs, mastering costs, artwork, phone calls, one
sheets, posters, flats, postcards, promotional tours, t+shirts, stickers (if necessary), shipping, etc. ?o through
the steps mentally of what you3ll have to do to press up and promote your record in the target area you3ve
chosen. @ind out if you need to hit someone off with some loot to work radio (college radio, underground,
and mi> show), or to hire someone to be in charge of retail++from putting your record in the stores to
collecting the money after it sells (the hard part). Do you have a street team or should you hire oneA 7
seasoned professional in most areas will cost you B(** to B:,(** depending on how big each market is++
and be careful, I3ve seen many, many people pay street teams who have done nothing and then blamed it on
the record. .he plus to hiring a professional street team is that you are using their juice, connections, and
e>perience to accomplish your goals. If money is a problem, you can do it yourself, but I find the e>tra
juice is worth that little bit of loot. 1y personal choice for street teams is Jellow from #h3rewd 1arketing
(www.chrewd.com) in #hicago, who has street teams in most markets around the country (or at least %*
cities2towns). Jellow is a no bullshit guy and be prepared to pay up front. I trust him, he has never let me
down or made me look bad to anyone I3ve ever referred.
7fter you3ve made a list of everything you need, price it out. #all around to different places to get price
Cuotes and ask how long it takes. @or e>ample, if you3re pressing #Ds and cassettes
call a bunch of places for prices, like Disc1akers, 6ainbo, "en D "i>el, "romotion ;>press, 1usic
#onnection, !niversal Duplicating, etc. .here are a bunch of pressing plants who
advertise in <illboard maga,ine in the classified section. 1ake sure you ask how long it will take and ask
how long reorders take too (:: days is a realistic number). 1ight as well ask them how the prices change
for reorders. .he price should drop a bit as your Cuantity increases.
I asked a few smaller labels how much they pay to press a #D and got a variety of different answers
ranging from )* cents per #D (owEE) to B:.(* per #D. #assettes also had a varied range= from 4( cents a
unit (incredibly goodE) to B:.** a cassette. .hose who offer vinyl for mi> shows Cuoted me prices of B:.**
to B:.9( per record. <ear in mind that length of music changes the cassette price, amount of colors in the
artwork affects all prices, amount of pages in the liner notes affects prices, etc. hen I asked these same
smaller labels how many pieces they ordered to begin with, most #Ds were around (,*** units (depending
on the si,e of the markets), vinyl was about (** (that may be a minimum order amount for pressing), and
cassettes were between :,*** to 9,(** depending on the markets and type of music. 1usic in Fouston
moves #Ds % or ' to : over cassettesG in HI #Ds outsell cassettes only 9 to :. Jeep in mind the amount of
time your reorders will take and order accordingly. 1ake certain you have enough money to repress, as it
takes awhile for the stores to pay you unless you have a runaway hit, in which case you can eventually get
the stores to pay for the product up front. hen #78 released Do 5r Die3s "o "imp, it blew up so fast
and hard that stores were paying up front and reordering weekly (they moved about 4*,*** singles between
@ebruary and July just in #hicago). 5nce demand has developed the entire balance shifts++the label gains
leverage. ith leverage you3re controlling shitE
7fter you3ve figured out how much money it3s going to cost you to put out your record, now comes the fun
part. 1ake certain you figure in your own cost of livingG in case you don3t have a $ to ( to support you,
you/ll need to eat while you3re working your record. 7t least until retail starts paying. If you3ve enlisted the
help of a distributor like -outhwest and2or -elect 5 Fits, you might just get paid every %* or 4* days after
the first :9* days. .his is the place where I see most small labels fail. .hey can3t afford to repress until they
get paid for what they3ve already delivered, but they won3t get paid for what they delivered until they
deliver the new shipment. If you get hemmed up here, it could kill your project. 6ather than lose out here,
don3t start something you can3t finish. .he more demand there is for your product the more power you have
to set favorable terms when you come to a regional distributor. In a perfect world, you set the terms and
they come to you. Iou control this by selling units. .he more risk a distributor takes with your product, the
less favorable the deal will be for you. <y proving your record can sell, you are reducing their risk before
they get involved. .his is why you3d want to go directly to retail as opposed to signing up a distributor from
the beginning. If you do go with a regional distributor, when figuring out how much money they owe you,
take /reserves/ into consideration. hen you ship to a distributor they hold back some of your money for
product that the stores may return in the future. 6eserves are usually held :) months and are 9*0 to 9(0 of
your loot.
If you need to raise capital from investors, that3s a little trickier. .here are a few places to turn for help. I
have found the -<7 (-mall <usiness 7dministration) very helpful in terms of networking and finding
information. .o actually get investors to believe in you and support you, you must have a tight business
plan outlining what you plan to do and why someone should invest in you. .here are two places that can
help you set up your business and get you information regarding investors, business plans, and ta>
structures= the -<7 (www.sba.gov or )**+)9&+(&99) and -#56; (www.score.org), which is -ervice #orps
of retired ;>ecutives++they are volunteer retired e>ecutives who are happy to help up and coming
companies through business counseling. @or writing a business plan (something every company should
have whether raising capital or not), there are many books that are helpful. I like the "alo 7lto computer
software program called <usiness "lan "ro which leads you step by step as you plug in the key information.
5ther sites that I3ve heard about (but never been to) on the web are= 7merican ;>press -mall <usiness
;>change (www.americane>press.com2smallbusiness)G ?et -mart (www.getsmart.com) which is geared to
financing your businessG and 7ssociation @or Independent 1usic (www.afim.org) which is a trade
organi,ation for independent record labels (the convention every 1ay is ama,ing for information and
meeting regional and smaller distributorsEE). If you don3t have access to the internet at the crib, you can hit
any Jinko3s (it normally costs B:9 an hour and B:.(* per page to print out what you want to keep) or a
local library (may be free in your area) to access the web.
.his series will continue in every issue of 1urder Dog and will contain information on pressing, street
teams, distribution, foreign licensing, overseas distribution, artist development, flow of product, retail and
radio, artist imaging and more. ;ach issue will also answer two specific Cuestions sent in by our readers.
7lthough Cuestions can not be answered individually, they should be directed to 6ap #oalition at ::: ;ast
:'th -treet, K%%$, Hew Iork, HI :***%. 7nd remember, if you don3t own your own shit, you3re just a
L. Fow do I do specific research on which markets to target with my projectA
7. 5ne of the helpful attributes of -ound-can is that it breaks sales figures into the top :** markets for rap
music sales, so if you want to find out how many records ?oodie 1ob has sold in #hicago, 7tlanta, or @lint
1ichigan and you have a friend who works for a record label that subscribes to -ound-can or if you have
good game, you can get relatively accurate numbers. .his will tell you what artists, who have a similar
sound to your project, are selling and what their top markets are (or at least a similar audience++for
e>ample, someone who buys 5utkast might also buy ?oodie 1ob, so to determine where to sell a ?oodie
1ob album you might look at -ound-can numbers for 5utkast, at least until your project begins to break in
key markets and then you chase those markets). "rovided your own market is realistic for the type of music
you are putting out, it is important to own your own hometown market. It is important to add a couple of
markets close enough to work from home, unless you can afford to spend time on the road in each market.
ith #rooked 8etta, we started in Jackson, 1- (where the group is from), owned that market, and then
e>panded into 8ouisiana and 7labama.
L. Fow do I find out what radio stations are playing my record and how do I get -ound-can to count my
record salesA
7. I call this /fingerprinting./ @or radio, you submit your record (in all song versions) to <D- on cassette
or #D, and they count the number of the reporting stations who spin your record. .he record must spin for
at least two minutes in the version that3s fingerprinted, so if it3s slowed down or sped up or mi>ed with
another song, it won3t count. 6adio promotion departments at larger record labels subscribe to <D- and are
able to pull up results daily of their records3 <D-. -o when DJ D1D3s 9( 8ighters was getting %(* spins at
mi> shows throughout the -outh, ;lektra 6ecords was able to pull up the stations and e>act figures of how
much play it got at each reporting station. @or e>ample, we were able to see an e>act physical number of
how many times .he <o> (J<MM) in Fouston, JJD7 in Dallas, and <8M in 1obile played the song
each week without physically being in each marketplace. .o get your songs /fingerprinted,/ send a note
listing the names of each song (7 side and < side of 67DI5 singles), the name of your record label, and
the type of music that it is, with the copy of the songs you want /fingerprinted/ to <roadcast Data -ystemsG
):** H :*:st .erraceG Jansas #ity, 15 4':(%. It3s free to get listed and counted, but you must be a
subscriber to access the results.
.o be tracked at retail, you send a copy in each format you are selling (each must have its own separate bar
code)= vinyl, #D, and cassette, to -ound-can and they fingerprint the bar code on the packaging. It3s free to
get listed and counted, but you have to be a subscriber to access the results. ;very ednesday, -ound-can
updates their sales figures and those sales determine the ranking of the <illboard charts (sometimes they
add radio play to determine the ranking of certain lists like the Fot 6N< chart). .he easiest way to be
counted at -ound-can stores is to call -ound-can at $:'.%9).$:** and ask for a .I.8; 7DDI.I5H
-F;;. and then fa> your commercial #D, #assette, and vinyl bar code on their special form to
$:'.%9).*9%' (this is the fa> number only).