the catalog.

Baseball CoverOne of the things Sandy said to me in our “Come to Jesus” conversation really resonated with me.

“You’ve got to figure out a way to sell stuff if you want to afford to put other stuff out.”

Or something like that.

I had sort of forgotten that the whole thing was dependent upon selling some quantity of records.  They didn’t need to go platinum or anything like that, but if I was going to spend a couple thousand dollars putting out a record, I needed to get a couple thousand back, so that I could afford to do the next one.  And if I actually wanted to grow it, well, I was going to need to get more out than I put in.

And we were having some luck at that.  The Mommyheads CD Flying Suit had nearly sold through two pressings and it was clear that we were going to need to make a third.  The cuppa joe CD nurture had just about gone through its pressing.  The cuppa joe seven inch was into its second pressing.

Everything before that, though, plus Lippy, was not even close to finished with its first pressing.  I had plenty of inventory on everything.  Nothing was selling, and nobody cared.

I felt reasonably confident that Lippy would, eventually, sell enough copies to be worthwhile.  It had just come out in the Spring, and it was only October.

But something definitely had to give.

The problem I was having was that I couldn’t understand how, if I hadn’t sold many copies of our early records by late 1995, they would ever sell.  I had almost written them off as mistakes (and our accountant was actually pressing us to write off all the inventory).  I figured that anyone who would ever buy a copy of those early records already had one.

So how was I going to sell enough stuff to be able to afford to put out new stuff?

The only thing I could think of was to expand the mailorder catalog.

I reached out to all my friends at various labels, and asked if we could order more of their titles for our mailorder catalog.  I hand-picked stuff that matched our own records well, and ordered a few copies of each title from labels like Harriet, Pop Narcotic, Ratfish, Simple Machines, Mag Wheel, Carrot Top, and others.

Then I decided to give it a baseball theme.  I jumped on the internet (!) and downloaded (!) all sorts of baseball-related images and imported them into my Quark XPress layout for the catalog.  Rich helped show me how to deal with the pagination so that everything made sense from a layout standpoint, and I learned how to drop the images inbetween the text, and how to watermark the images behind the text.

Meanwhile, I also reached out to our bands and asked them to send me copies of their mailing lists, which they were happy to do.  I combined the lists with mine and wound up with more than a thousand names.  Remember, this was still mostly before the internet – collecting a thousand names meant you had to actually physically encounter a thousand human beings who gave you their name.  This wasn’t a thousand people who visited a website and filled out a form.  A thousand names for a tiny label that didn’t have a clue what it was doing was a big deal.

Unfortunately, I had grown up a little too much and no longer felt comfortable stealing copies from my shitty dayjob the way I had when we did our last mailorder catalog.  This time around, I was actually going to have to pay for the copies.  So I went to Staples and made the copies, paying for them with the credit card from our credit union.

We printed the covers on fancy, pinkish flecked paper, and the inside pages on plain white.  We borrowed Rich’s stapler (he didn’t need it anyway, as he was well past the point of producing zines), and Sandy and I spent a whole lot of time folding, collating, and stapling catalogs.

We wafer-sealed them each by hand, printed out and hand-affixed the address labels and bulk mail stamps, and brought them all to the Post Office in Hackensack once more, using our Bulk Mail permit for what would be the last time.

That’s foreshadowing there.

I was so proud of this catalog.  And it was, in hindsight, so weak.  The layout was atrocious.  The copy was horrific, the reviews of each record were not at all descriptive of the music itself.  I don’t know how I could have expected to actually make any sales from this catalog.

Some examples:

Baseball Cat 1 Baseball Cat 3

Baseball Cat 4

~ by Al on September 21, 2009.

One Response to “the catalog.”

  1. I’m scared about the post office.

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