rich, part whatever.

By early 1996, Rich and I were so much on the same wavelength in every respect that it was almost scary.  There were a few subtle differences: he didn’t like sports at all, his musical taste leaned more towards electronic music while ours leaned more toward guitar-oriented stuff, and his political beliefs, while generally liberal, tended to avoid the two-party political system in favor of less mainstream parties.  But that was about it.  Aside from those things, we were exactly alike in terms of social beliefs, ethical opinions, career objectives, family beliefs – just about everything.

We’d get on each other’s nerves once in a while, and we’d piss each other off with something we said occasionally (I still remember buying my first SUV in 1998 or so, and being so proud of having my first new car, and having Rich say “It’s just a station wagon, you know”). But we were as close as two people could get.

Rich was fascinated by the whole “baby” thing.  He would sit there and marvel at the feeding, the burping, the changing.  He was all about the toys – he’d come over with a toy car “for the baby,” then he’d sit there and play with it for a while.  Or he’d grab a baby toy and turn it over in his hands, dissecting it from the outside, trying to figure out how it worked.

More than that, though, he spent our first few months of parenthood asking questions about Dromedary, over and over.

“When’s the Jenifer Convertible release date?”

“How many bands do you have lined up for ‘Baker’s Dozen’ now?”

“Have you found out who you need to talk to about the Shorefest?”

I knew what he was doing.  Between the new job, new house, and new baby, it was awfully hard to keep those priorities straight and still focus on Dromedary.  Any one of those things by itself could be an immense drain in terms of time.  All three made it virtually impossible to focus on anything else.  Rich was trying to make sure I wasn’t taking my eye off the ball.

He’d bring over a new CD and pop it into the stereo, saying “check out this band.”  He’d swing by See Hear on his way home from work and then bring me a new zine when he came over.  He’d call me and tell me about one band or another, playing in the city or Hoboken, and try to get me to go.

From my standpoint, I was still moving full speed ahead with Dromedary, but I was also in a situation where I felt that the label needed to take a giant step forward that I simply couldn’t provide by myself.  Our biggest problem was distribution (or lack thereof), and with two great records on the horizon from Jenifer Convertible and Footstone, I was beginning to get really frustrated with the lack of interest on the part of distributors.

I felt as if I had done everything that I could do to put the label in a position where its releases would be interesting enough for a distributor to want to get involved with us exclusively.  We got great press, and a decent amount of it.  We had a great track record.  We had a schedule of exciting releases from great bands, a few of which were planning to record with some high-profile engineers.  There was a lot going on with Dromedary.

And still, I wasn’t having any luck getting people interested in doing anything more than just taking a small stack of records on consignment.

The problem with that was simple.  I never expected Dromedary to be a moneymaking venture.  But I didn’t expect it to be a money losing venture, either – at least not over the long haul.  But that’s what was happening.  I was paying to manufacture records and never getting paid for the sales.

When you’re dealing with consignments, it’s a weird sort of shell game that I’ve described before – but I’ll explain it again.  A distributor would take your records – maybe 25, or 50, or even 100 – at whatever your wholesale price was.

You’d ship them the records – say it was 100 CDs, at a wholesale price of $5 each.  So they’ve got $500 worth of your CDs.

You send them posters, one-sheets, stickers, whatever other info you can send them that would help them sell your records.  And then all that shit sits in a warehouse for 90 days.  The title of your record goes on a tip sheet that gets sent to record stores.  Occasionally, a record store buyer will call the distributor and order one of your titles.

90 days goes by.  You want your money.  So you send an invoice to the distributor.

They send you back $50, because they only sold 10 of your CDs.  They also send you back the other 90 CDs that they took.  Your account is now closed, and no record stores can order your title from that distributor anymore, because they’ve sent you back all the copies they had in stock.

Your other alternative is not to send the invoice.  This means the distributor is sitting on $500 worth of your music – 100 copies of your CD that you paid for – and they can sell those CDs.  Since you won’t send them an invoice, they hold your money.

But now I had a house and a baby.  The idea of having a distributor sit on my records for 90 days without paying, while Sandy scrambled to pay the mortgage and we had no extra spending money whatsoever, well, it was beginning to really  get under my skin.

It was also bothering me not to have money to pay our bands.  I understood that the records hadn’t really made money.  But I felt it was the distributors’ fault for not getting the records into stores – we were doing everything we could to promote the records.

We had actually written some checks.  Each band got a small check for Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth (“small” meaning, like, less than $10).  At some point I packaged up a bunch of CDs and shipped them to each band, almost as a consolation prize.  We had also written small checks to cuppa joe, Footstone and the Mommyheads.  But I knew that at some point, someone was going to say “Why should I put out records on Dromedary?  It’s like a black hole.”

The thing was, I agreed with them.

In early Spring of 1996 I was approached by a band that wanted advice.  Unlike a lot of bands that would come to me and ask me if I’d put out their record, this band just wanted some feedback on what they should do.  They felt like they had good songs, and a couple of small labels had become interested in doing a seven-inch.  They weren’t sure if they should sign with one of the labels, or put something out themselves.

“If you have the work ethic to actually do the work,” I told them, “don’t sign with a record label.  Record labels take money that belongs to you and put it in their own pocket.”

~ by Al on October 23, 2009.

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