nothing smells quite like the invoices.

I was, of course, hot shit.

I owned an indie label and had two releases out. One was from a band – Melting Hopefuls – that seemed sure to land a deal with a high-profile indie or even a major, and the other featured not only Melting Hopefuls but Godspeed, who had just signed to Atlantic and was in the studio, working on their debut. In my mind, Dromedary was on the way to something much bigger and more significant.

So, despite the fact that I hadn’t the foggiest idea what I was going to put out next, I decided at the beginning of the summer that it was time to get paid. Dutch East India and Twin City Imports were sitting on Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth CDs and cassettes since mid-March; I had given them plenty of time to get their accounting in order, and now I wanted some money.

I made up an invoice design in MacWrite, our word processing program, and then made invoices for both distributors. While I was at it, I made an invoice for Forefront Mailorder. Then, I walked down the street to Frank’s – he had a printer and we didn’t – printed them out, and popped them in the mail.

Pretty quickly, I received a check from Forefront. The amount was nothing special, though, the owner had only taken a handful of CDs. He paid me quickly, though, which was great.

About a week later, I received a giant box in the mail. The return address was Twin City Imports.

That’s curious, I thought. I wonder what’s inside?

I popped open the box.  Inside, nicely wrapped up in bubble wrap, was a giant stack of Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth CDs and cassettes.

What the fuck?

I got on the phone before I even tore open the bubble wrap.  Jules, our buyer, was on the other end.

“Jules, I received a giant box of Elizabeth CDs and tapes in the mail today,” I said.

“Well, you sent me an invoice,” she said.

I was quiet for a minute.  “I don’t get it,” I stammered.

“When you send us an invoice, we send you back everything we didn’t sell, and then about a week later, we cut you a check for everything we did.”

I looked at the giant pile of CDs and cassettes in the box.  “How many did you sell?” I asked.

“Hold on,” she said.  I sat there.  She came back.  “Four.”

“Four?”

“Four CDs.  No cassettes.”

Four?!”

We have a lot of titles in our catalog.  Sometimes the stuff from the smaller indies gets lost,” she explained.

“But I took out an ad in your tip book,” I said.  “I did that because you told me it would help keep the record from getting lost.”

She was quiet.

“Did you guys even try to sell this?” I asked.

“Our sales reps are more inclined to sell the records from bands people know,” she said.  “These are all unsigned bands.”

How any band ever got to the point where they sold any CDs, I didn’t know.  You had to start somewhere, right?  

I didn’t know what else to say, so I said “So you’ll be cutting me a check for $20, then?”

She was quiet for a second.  “Well, no.”

“No?”

“You took out an ad in our tip book,” she explained softly.  “That was $50.  We take the cost of that out of your consignment.  So, actually, you owe us $30.”

I immediately hung up and called Camille at Dutch East.  I explained what happened with TCI.  “Are you going to do that to me, too?” I asked her, desperately.

“Well, that’s our policy,” she said.  “But if you want, we can hold the consignment for another 30 days.”

“Hold it,” I said.  “Hold it, hold it, hold it.”

“No problem!”  I wanted to drive to Long Island and kiss her.  “I can’t send you a check, though.  If I send you a check, I have to close out the invoice.”

“Fine, fine,” I exclaimed.  “Keep the money.  I need to make sure someone can order those records.  When Melting Hopefuls and Godspeed get signed, people are going to want that CD.  And I promised the bands they’d always have this record in print.  Doesn’t do much good to have it in print if nobody can buy it.”

“I agree,” she said.  “A record like this can take off at any time.  You need a distributor.”

“Just out of curiosity,” I asked, “How many copies have you sold?”

“Twenty-one.”

My distributors had sold 25 CDs.  I had sold about 30.  We had given away about 500.

When Sandy got home from work, I broke the news.  She just sort of stood there and looked at me.

~ by Al on February 6, 2009.

One Response to “nothing smells quite like the invoices.”

  1. […] Performance.  TCI sent back all the copies of Elizabeth, and Dutch East held it, as described in this post.  So this ad doesn’t match up with the way things actually happened.  That’s why I […]

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