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The Holidays Are For Box Sets: Finding the Future Through the Past

MachineHead_BloodstoneDiamonds“I wish I could have seen The Cure back then,” my friend Xio said to me the other day. “When I was 13 in 1996, my diary was full of crush notes to Robert Smith.” Xio went on to see The Cure a couple of times, and Depeche Mode too. Of course today, both bands have achieved a legendary status, enough to justify multiple box sets of singles, rarities, remixes, live performances and such. And right now, the holiday gift giving season is the time for the latest avalanche of super deluxe box sets in the physical realm.

With so much of our business moving to digital and especially streaming, you’d think the days of these pricey coffee table heavyweight packages would be over. But as art objects in and of themselves, box sets bring an immersive fan experience that is qualitatively different than streaming some of those same tracks on Spotify. They are an excuse to celebrate our inner geekdom and obsessiveness to the smallest details. Like Jimmy Page’s more prominent acoustic guitar in the Sunset Sound Mix of “Stairway To Heaven” on Led Zeppelin’s just reissued/remastered IV Deluxe (aka ZOSO), or the instrumental versions of some of your Zep classics on I-IV before Robert Plant added his vocals. Really? I never heard John Paul Jones’ keyboard part in there before! Or the improved stereo imaging and fine sonic detail in Bruce Springsteen’s classic The River, just issued this week (as part of The Album Collection 1973-1984.)

But it’s not just a question of sharper bass with more low frequencies or a kick drums that you can feel in your chest vs. fairly HQ 320 kbps MP3s that are easy to purchase. Let’s face it, no one reads 20 page liner notes by veteran Rock writers like David Fricke or Greil Marcus online about all the minutiae involving The Velvet Underground Super Deluxe with its 3 different mixes of the same album or Bob Dylan & The Band Basement Tapes Complete with multiple versions of the same song in different tempos or styles. It’s a different listening experience sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon reading the book while the music plays than rocking some tunes on your smartphone on a bus or a subway on your way to work. Something vinyl lovers have long known as well.

As the physical realm continues to adapt to the realities of the modern niche market place, box sets are where record labels can recoup on long-term investments and trend setting cult artists can finally grab some of the mainstream attention they’ve long deserved. Like British Invasion-influenced Pop masters Big Star finally getting their due with multiple box sets, reissues and a fine documentary, “Nothing Can Hurt Me,” after years of only being acknowledged by fellow musicians and indie trailblazers like The Replacements. Today, the simple act of physically compiling brings streaming attention to the new classics, such that Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and company can play their college radio “underground hits” to packed stadium sing alongs decades later, as many of us witnessed in Forest Hills, NY this past summer.

In the last few years we’ve seen a wide range of large box sets from icons like The ClashWoody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and even Judas Priest. The real question is who are today’s musical heroes that will be compiled in the years ahead? Will LCD Soundsystem ever merit a reissue like Underworld’s 5 CD Super Deluxe Dubnobasswithmyheadman including live rehearsals by an Electronica group in the act of composition? Are Machine Head destined to become the next Judas Priest or Metallica? Or will they be this generation’s Diamond Head spearheading the mostly under the radar NWOBHM (that’s new wave of British Heavy Metal) and thereby influencing every major Thrash/Speed Metal act in their wake? Will Eminem and Jay Z ever be anthologized like James Brown was on the 4 Funk-filled Star Time CDs? And can the Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 and even Nickelback transcend their mass appeal to reach Journey’s guilty pleasures God-like status for stadium anthems? “Don’t Stop Believin’…”

Rock the Cause Gets Physical With Us

Rock the CauseWe are excited to announce today that Rock the Cause has expanded their distribution deal with us to begin releasing their albums physically as well as digitally, worldwide. This means we can continue to work together in a unified way to promote awareness for the slew of social issues supported by Rock the Cause — across the globe.

In case you didn’t know, Rock the Cause is a Minnesota-based non-profit whose goal is to create social change through music. Not only do they put on fab concerts and organize volunteer projects, they also have a noteworthy record label. Yep, they’re what you’d call “multi-taskers.” Even if you haven’t heard of them directly by name, you’ve probably crossed ways with them in some way or another.

Ever caught yourself tearing up to the YouTube sensation, “Clouds,” by Zach Sobiech, or any of the subsequent tribute videos? Well, it just so happens that Rock the Cause has a lot to do with that magical story. The label helped Zach fulfill his final wishes before he lost his fight to cancer by releasing the “Clouds” single as well as the Fix Me Up album, by Zach’s band, A Firm Handshake. Rock the Cause has made sure that all proceeds go straight towards the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Research Fund to continue to honor Zach even in death. Now, the non-profit will be releasing a deluxe edition of the original Fix Me Up album on May 6. With exclusive bonus content, the record will also be released physically for the first time, and we are so pumped to be part of it.

But that’s not all — Rock the Cause has also teamed up with various musicians across the U.S. to create a compilation album honoring Jason Molina, the singer-songwriter of Magnolia Electric Co. who passed away last year. The label reached out to many of the artist’s friends, family and fellow musicians to make an album of original Molina songs, covered by the likes of My Morning Jacket, Murder by Death, Songs: Ohia, Communist Daughter and many more. This killer collab of tracks, titled Farewell Transmission: The Music of Jason Molina, will be up for grabs April 22 (yes, digitally and physically) to celebrate the life and music of a one-of-a-kind artist.

Scott Herold, founder of Rock the Cause, is excited about this growing partnership, saying “The Orchard is a one-stop shop for us when pushing charitable music into the front lines of brick and mortar retailers.” We’re just as thrilled: “Working with Rock the Cause has been such an inspiring journey for our team. Projects like these bring real meaning and a sense of purpose to what we do,” remarked Orchard COO, Colleen Theis.

If we weren’t clear about it before, we are beyond stoked to be part of such a rewarding partnership. Read the full press release on our website.

Watch This Space: Amazon Disc on Demand

Amazon Disc on DemandWorking across both the digital and physical markets, I am frequently asked my thoughts on the future of physical music sales. While I believe a physical market will survive for music, I also often point to services like Amazon Disc on Demand as an interesting space to watch. Many questions arise over this service, and I aim in the below to address some of the more common questions I’m asked.

What exactly is Amazon Disc on Demand?

Amazon Disc on Demand uses the digital files that are delivered for the Amazon MP3 store to print a CD or DVD on demand for customers who order a physical copy. The transaction counts as a digital sale, but results in a physical copy.

What are the benefits of Disc on Demand?

No stock is held. You are able to sell to customers who prefer physical copies of releases without the exposure of having hundreds of units of stock sitting in warehouses across the world when demand may not justify that level of exposure.

What releases are good for Disc on Demand?

If the physical release of a title does not exist in the market, Disc on Demand provides a good option to reach customers who prefer physical units but may otherwise be missed. Disc on Demand is a particularly good option for older catalogue titles on which sales have slowed to the point where the physical is deleted, or perhaps should be to save on costs of slow-moving lines. It could also be a way to test the water for developing artists and releases.

In what territories does Amazon have the Disc on Demand program?

Disc on Demand is only live for music in the US and Germany at the moment. It is to be launching in one or two “major European territories” in the near future. These territories are not confirmed, but one could likely make some educated guesses.

Can I have a booklet with a Disc on Demand release?

Disc on Demand releases do include booklets which can be 4-32 pages. However, DoD booklet artwork currently needs to be in a different format than booklets for the MP3 store. Releases via the Orchard are currently set up using a standard template, but if you have an important release for DoD with which you would like to add a more detailed booklet, please contact your Client Manager.

But isn’t the quality really poor?

The Amazon Disc on Demand program suffers from a bit of a perception problem stemming from the somewhat lesser-quality of the packages at the time the service launched. Amazon has long since improved the quality of DoD products, increasing the booklet paper weight to 130gsm. Having seen several DoD packages, the quality can be indistinguishable from many “proper” physical releases.

If CDs are being printed to order, doesn’t it take a long time for customers to receive their copy?

No — the order is immediately sent to Amazon’s printing facilities, and the CD can be shipped out within 24 hours. No additional processing time occurs.

How is the pricing set?

While Amazon reserves the right to set retail price, a vendor can specify a desired list price and a royalty is paid through on this amount when a disc is sold. Your Client Manager can assist with further information.

Do Disc on Demand titles sell?

Sales of course vary by title, but we have seen steady sales through Disc on Demand. A particular recent success story happened with Acoustic Live by Nils Lofgren. When Nils toured as part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Acoustic Live sold over 700 units through Amazon Disc on Demand in Germany, hitting #3 on Amazon Germany’s Live Albums chart. The physical version of this title had been deleted, and Disc on Demand was able to service a market that otherwise would have been missed.

How do I have my releases delivered to Disc on Demand?

Please contact your Client Manager for further details.

What Digital Can Learn From Physical

February 7, 2013 Industry Trends, Marketing 1 Comment


Who wants to know the difference between North American and European pallets? Anyone?

If you don’t get it, it’s ok. Many aspects of physical distribution are lost in the digital world. However, some aspects of music distribution transcend format. While many labels have strong digital strategies in place, below are some of the more recurring areas where the digital world could at times learn from physical. 

Timing is everything. 

You can not release an album in the physical sphere with two weeks’ notice. Even if stock is manufactured, it needs time to ship to its various destinations, hit the stock room and be processed. Sell in times for physical retailers are 6-8 weeks, more in some territories. If sales information is provided late, retailers have already allocated their budgets for a release date and have moved on to the next. Exceptions happen of course. If you have the new Beyonce album, things have a way of moving faster. But if you have the release of a developing artist, proper release set up time is best heeded.

In the digital world, we can release an album with much less notice. Deliveries are faster and pitches are sent later. But what more can be achieved with a longer set up time? The most common question I receive from digital accounts is not about what is out in two weeks, but what is out in two months. Greater and more creative promotions with retailers can be set up with a longer lead time. Give time for editorial teams to live with a release ahead of street date, maybe become fans. The more time, the merrier.

Okay, timing isn’t completely everything. Music is pretty darn important.

In the physical world, retailers order stock from the distributor and are then invoiced on the units shipped to them (with some exceptions). This is what is considered to be a sale, though units can subsequently be returned. Shops are not likely to spend their limited budget to rack an album they have never heard. Promos or listening links are sent to sales teams so that they can send to key retail buyers. Retailers often see a lack of music as a signal that a label is not fully supporting a release, and they won’t support it either.

Although the editorial teams at digital retailers are not buying titles as they are sent, they still need to determine whether a release will be successful for their store and whether it is worthy of their limited and valuable editorial placements. Don’t forget that the editorial teams at digital services are also music fans. If you want them to support your release, let them hear it.

Have an artist on tour? Don’t forget to tell your distributor!

… Continue Reading

The Orchard Loves to Market… Part One

Here at The Orchard, we take pride in delivering the music of our artists and labels to all of the places around the world where it can be purchased or listened to. Once it’s delivered, we use our charm and relationships to get front-and-center placement so that our clients’ music gets the attention it deserves, and the royalties, too.

We figure that everyone enjoys pretty pictures, so we created the graphic below to highlight some of the outlets we market to. There’s a lot — which is why we have a global team located in major music markets to do the heavy lifting.

The Orchard's Marketing Map: Money Makers

Thanks to Airene Resurreccion for the graphic.

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About The Orchard

The Orchard is a pioneering music, video and film distribution company and top-ranked Multi Channel Network operating in more than 25 global markets. Founded in 1997, we empower businesses and creators in the entertainment industry.

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