November 12, 2012
Superfly Music Emporium opened it’s doors to San Marcos in it’s new location located right next to campus. Owner Zach Jennings and business partner Richard Skanse took a leap in expanding their business this year -the two own and operate a music merchandising store along with a magazine that is distributed for free. Jennings comments on the prospects of opening a business in the music merchandising industry.
“I’m sure if you looked into the top ten businesses not to open in 2012, number one would be a music store, and number two a print magazine.” Here, Jennings refers to the challenges faced by the two industries in general – where technology has put compact discs and print media to the wayside for less expensive broader reaching mediums sourced over the internet. “We were able to land the space, build the store the way we wanted to, stock the inventory the way we wanted to, add different products, add the t-shirt press, and all of a sudden we’ve got a completely different business model than we had. Whereas before we were kind of struggling to make it into the black, each month financially speaking, we are now I think in a position where we can be very profitable because we have so many different things that tie together at the end of the day.”
Country pop icon Taylor Swift set records last week with her new release “Red.” The album hit record sales -1.2 million in the first week. This number isn’t just big – it’s the highest first week sales total in a decade. This success can likely be attributed to the merchandising sales team behind the artist – one that made an important distinction in sales. Here’s Skanse’s take:
Skanse: “What I’m not a big fan of is the streaming services, I think there’s this attitude of music as a utililty.”
Jennings : “It completely de-values the music.”
Swift’s team made an important distinction in two ways. Red was not released to Spotify or any other streaming service, where artists make only fractions of the profit. Additionally, the first week of sales released only to vending services that promote the sale of a complete album rather than a single.
“it’s fun to have everybody pick out a record and put it on the turn table and and have everybody listen to it, adn then you’re invested in it, you listen to the entire side, and then you flip it over. You don’t just listen to one single theyre trying to get out adn then go from that to something else. it makes you appreciate the album and the artist that much more. Swift expertly sold her album as a complete disc – fans could order their copy at the sticker price with an order of Papa Johns pizza. What might be surprising is that the same principles still hold for smaller artists, like the ones Jennings and Skanse carry in their store. Texas state marketing senior Timmy Willingham works at the “noise company” a small record company that was founded by indie-pop icon Ben Kweller as an avenue to release his own records. Kweller self released his latest album “Go Fly a Kite,” in which the physical copy featured a “user manual” which included the guitar tabs and lyrics to each song, and a case which folded out into a paper diorama – a playful aesthetic Kweller likely felt that his fans would relate to.
Willingham says that the music merchandising industry remains the most profitable avenue for musicians, though the industry poses many challenges. Here, Willingham spells out some of his own advice for successfully merchandising a band. “Some General advice for merchandising your band, is if you really to get big enough, you need to incorporate your merch in a different company than your record label for liability reasons. The quality of shirts needs to be top notch. You can’t really pay a professional designer to do it because they will charge you way too much, find a friend designer, and get them to design something. You have to have high quality shirts because even if the design looks good people will not buy it if it’s not a top quality shirt. Online sales are really important. If an artist gets big enough they can have an online “When you sell merch at a show, the venue will take a cut of it. and they will try and cheat you and take more so you always have to count in your merch with the venue and count your merch out with the venue or they will try to cheat you because it is very cutthroat.”
While Jennings and Skanse hope their business takes hold in San Marcos, their passion for the artists helps them look at the way consumers might shape the face of the music industry.
It helps to ensure that those artists are going to keep making that music because if the artists are not making money off of that music they are going to stop making it, and what you are going to have is a bunch of homogenized music that sounds only like what plays on mainstream radio because there aren’t going to be the outlets to get their music out and actually make some money off of it.
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