Pim

Billy Harper Quintet - Antibes 1975

74 posts in this topic

My post was not about the format war.

I was surprised by the (implicit) allegations against the Sam label and this particular release. The care (and undoubtedly expense) that was spent on the production of this release seems to testify of great respect for the music and the musicians.

If my impression was wrong, I would like to know why. 

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45 minutes ago, Eric B said:

Re CD sales -- I read an interesting interview with Steve Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records recently, from Feb. 2020. Granted Cuneiform is a niche within a niche, but pretty eye opening for me at least.

https://plusoneme.substack.com/p/steve-feigenbaum-talks-about-cuneiform

You don’t see much about CD sales.

They don’t talk about it because it isn’t perceived as interesting or hip by the media. Something that I can sell 1,000 copies of as a CD, if it comes out on vinyl, and the band doesn’t take any from me, maybe I can sell 75 or 100.

Based on recent statistics, that’s not necessarily true.

See Vinyl records outsell CDs in US for first time since 1980s and 

US MUSIC FANS SPENT MORE ON VINYL THAN CD LAST YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1986

(That is the way the last article appeared. No shouting intended)

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Those are aggregate statistics, right? Let me see a breakdown by genre, then we can talk.

This music is totally niche music now, so these reports of mass consumption habits are just hat - mass consumption, not a granular look at genre consumption.

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37 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Those are aggregate statistics, right? Let me see a breakdown by genre, then we can talk.

This music is totally niche music now, so these reports of mass consumption habits are just hat - mass consumption, not a granular look at genre consumption.

The RIAA doesn’t break it down by genre. 

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56 minutes ago, Brad said:

Well, maybe because vinyl costs 2x-3x more than CD’s do, sometimes even 3.5x more.

Let’s talk units-sold, please, not just “revenue”. I’d argue that “content-providers via physical media” are servicing HALF the number of end customers, even if vinyl is a lot more profitable (or at least generates a lot more revenue, but I can’t speak to the relative cost of producing albums vs. CD’s).

Hell, I don’t even mind barebones CD packaging (if that’s what it takes), which would keep the production costs down at least somewhat. Make LP’s the boutique format, and CD’s perhaps more akin to the status cassettes held in days past — but I do not like downloads because I don’t trust I’ll have ready access to the data 20-30 years from now. And I’m not about to pay $25-$35 per LP for what I consider to be a lesser format. It holds less data (45 or maybe 50 min vs. 79 min), and is much more prone to scratches, and then there’s the hassle of side breaks.

There’s no way I’m paying triple $$ for an inferior format, and one that’s inferior in nearly every way (from my perspective). CD’s aren’t perfect, but they’re vastly superior to all the other widely available and accepted physical media formats we’ve had in the last 50 years.

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Are we to believe that jazz consumers have the same consumption habits as people who buy music as lifestyle accessory?

I mean, I'm sure there's an overlap, but how much of one?

I'm laughing at how I was forced out of buying LPs into buying CDs, now I'm possibly being forced out of buying CDs and into buying LPs again.

Well, no. Now we have internet and digital everything. There will be no more forcing. Sell me something I will buy.

 

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Format war all over again. Sigh.

I don't know if the situation is different in the US, but friends - musicians and others - who are active in niches within the niche (decidedly "non-commercial" music) assure me that they sell a lot more vinyl than CDs today. To such an extent, in fact, that it makes little sense to release their music on CD, even though it is a lot cheaper (and therefore potentially much more profitable) than releasing a record. 

That is not a value judgment, but an observation. And it's not the same thing as the largely artificial vinyl-hype on the commercial music market (the music as lifestyle accessory you refer to).

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Good luck, then.

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2 hours ago, corto maltese said:

My post was not about the format war.

I was surprised by the (implicit) allegations against the Sam label and this particular release. The care (and undoubtedly expense) that was spent on the production of this release seems to testify of great respect for the music and the musicians.

If my impression was wrong, I would like to know why. 

Because the music is being released (with great respect, sure enough) in a purposefully limited, high-price format. Access to the music is curtailed - intentionally. If Sam Records do not want to deal with CDs (who knows, they might really not sell), they could have at least made the download / streaming option available once the LPs sell out. Would this somehow degrade "great respect for the music and musicians"?     

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This is a larger excerpt from the interview with Steve Feigenbaum (Cuneiform) cited above. Some interesting observations and a lot more nuanced than that one sentence about sales figures. 

 

I’ve read a lot about the vinyl revival, does vinyl sell?

I released a lot of vinyl and the only way it sells is if the band is playing a lot, and is selling it themselves from the merch table. The big legacy is going to be all these people with unsold vinyl albums and unsold CDs. I went very broke chasing the vinyl thang. If the artist sold it, it sold. If the artist didn’t sell it, it didn’t sell. That’s really it. And when I say the artist sold it, I mean they took it on tour with them.

What about these small, boutique vinyl stores? They seem to be selling records.

They may be doing great, but it’s not enough to pay for the huge amounts of money you have to spend to make a vinyl record. The amount you have to spend to make a vinyl record is huge compared to making a CD.

Are CDs still relatively cheap?

Yes. When I release something on CD, I can sell between 300 and 1,000 copies, even now. That’s what I am doing now. That’s what Cuneiform is doing now. I was selling a hell of a lot more than 1,000 of my better titles when I had a staff that I was paying. A great title was selling 10,000 copies. 

You don’t see much about CD sales.

They don’t talk about it because it isn’t perceived as interesting or hip by the media. Something that I can sell 1,000 copies of as a CD, if it comes out on vinyl, and the band doesn’t take any from me, maybe I can sell 75 or 100. That’s what I can sell. Now if the band takes the rest, it can work, but they have to take them. It is very nice when the band buys copies of the CDs from me, but I don’t require it to release a recording. But if the band says to me, “WE WANT VINYL.” I say, “Great, my minimum quantity is 250, and I want 30 of them. Are you going to take 220?” If they say, “Sure,” then we do it. If they say, “What the fuck are we going to do with 220 copies?” I say, “Well, what the fuck am I going to do with 250?”

Why does it work if the band sells vinyl?

Vinyl is great to sell off the bandstand. People want a souvenir. They want a shirt—they had an incredible time at the show—they want to talk to you after the show, and shake your hand, and tell you, “I had an incredible time.” Even if they don’t have a record player, a record is this nice big thing, and it’s a perfect thing for the band to autograph. It’s a way to show how much you loved the show you just saw, but it’s not necessarily the way people are listening to music. There are people who like vinyl and they do buy it either mail order or from stores, but it’s not enough. At Wayside Music, which buys other people’s releases from distributors and makes it available to people through mail order and online sales, we have a lot of vinyl customers. We sell a lot of vinyl, but it’s all one of this and one of that. It’s 1,000s of things, but one of this and one of that. A really big vinyl seller for Wayside Music is three or four copies. That’s great. And since I am buying them one at a time, that’s fine. But if they cost me a fortune, and my minimum quantity is 250, selling four copies kind of sucks. 

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7 minutes ago, Д.Д. said:

Because the music is being released (with great respect, sure enough) in a purposefully limited, high-price format. Access to the music is curtailed - intentionally. If Sam Records do not want to deal with CDs (who knows, they might really not sell), they could have at least made the download / streaming option available once the LPs sell out. Would this somehow degrade "great respect for the music and musicians"?     

I don't know if they have the right to make a download available. I guess that will depend on the terms of the licence agreement with the owner of the recording (INA).

Let me be clear: I would love to have this music (maybe the complete concert?) on a CD produced with the same care. But that, for whatever reason, is apparently not an option. 

 

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I guess I will be able to buy one from Billy off the bandstand then, eh?

I bought a T-Shirt from him like that back in 1980, an LP would last longer and never shrink!

LP FTW!!!!!

10 minutes ago, corto maltese said:

I don't know if they have the right to make a download available. I guess that will depend on the terms of the licence agreement with the owner of the recording (INA).

Maybe the logic is that if there's no CDs made that the music will not get transferred over into the digital domain where it can, in theory, live forever.

Uh...no. That horse done left the barn and that barn got razed to put in condos.

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1 hour ago, corto maltese said:

Why does it work if the band sells vinyl?

Vinyl is great to sell off the bandstand. People want a souvenir. They want a shirt—they had an incredible time at the show—they want to talk to you after the show, and shake your hand, and tell you, “I had an incredible time.” Even if they don’t have a record player, a record is this nice big thing, and it’s a perfect thing for the band to autograph. It’s a way to show how much you loved the show you just saw, but it’s not necessarily the way people are listening to music. There are people who like vinyl and they do buy it either mail order or from stores, but it’s not enough. At Wayside Music, which buys other people’s releases from distributors and makes it available to people through mail order and online sales, we have a lot of vinyl customers. We sell a lot of vinyl, but it’s all one of this and one of that. It’s 1,000s of things, but one of this and one of that. A really big vinyl seller for Wayside Music is three or four copies. That’s great. And since I am buying them one at a time, that’s fine. But if they cost me a fortune, and my minimum quantity is 250, selling four copies kind of sucks. 

This. 

There's a small, local punk label here in town that relies on cassettes and 7" records to help hype the bands in their stable. It's pretty successful in that niche, so much so that other small labels around the country picked up on how those pieces of physical media tie the fan to the band and experience (I'm sure this local label wasn't the originator of that practice, but bands that left and moved elsewhere took that method with them and it's still working). 

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6 hours ago, corto maltese said:

But you criticised the "limited edition model" because it brought the artist less income, didn't you? Mosaics sell out too...

Isn't it possible that the licence agreement with INA also contain provisions on the size of the pressing? And would the "percentage of the pie" offered to the artists not be determined by INA, the owner of the recording? The Sam Records website mentions that the album is released "with the full permission and cooperation" of Billy Harper. Is there any reason to doubt this?

Of course I have no intention of accusing you of anything and I want to respect that you cannot reveal all your information on a public forum, but I honestly don't really understand your criticism on this specific release and label. Taking into account the high quality of the production and presentation and the very reasonable price, this can hardly be considered as an example of making quick money on the backs of the musicians. I don't need to tell you that there are hundreds of new releases in the shops every week where such practices are taking place.

Again, Mosaic is doing collections of previously (but for an alternate take or two) released material not new material. Mosaic will deal with the record company in question, not the artist in most cases. A new recording requires permission from the artist and a fee to be paid to release this new work. INA owns the physical recording but does not own the rights to the music created on said physical recording. Technically, they can not release the music without the artist's permission. Yes, the artist can turn down the deal if it is not a good deal for them and I have had to do this a few times myself but sometimes an artist will need the money especially during, say, a pandemic and might accept an offer they would not usually accept. You can lay this at the feet of an artist saying it's the artist's fault for excepting all the shitty deals they felt they had to accept through the years but that would not really be fair. Historically, artists have been given shitty deals and that has changed a bit over the years but it has not gone away. Artists are more aware certainly but they are offered crap all the time and feel they have no choice sometimes. I can probably guess that both INA and the record label made more money off this release then the artist. I personally don't think that is fair. This might not be the cases if more records were pressed or CDs were pressed as well. I recently turned down a low offer for a similar situation to this and they remedied it by pressing more LPs to give the artist a more acceptable fee. 

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Mosaic has done a small number of original releases, in fact. 

 

On licensed reissues, I suspect that the license is sold for a fixed sum and not on a royalty basis.  

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49 minutes ago, david weiss said:

Again, Mosaic is doing collections of previously (but for an alternate take or two) released material not new material. Mosaic will deal with the record company in question, not the artist in most cases. A new recording requires permission from the artist and a fee to be paid to release this new work. INA owns the physical recording but does not own the rights to the music created on said physical recording. Technically, they can not release the music without the artist's permission. Yes, the artist can turn down the deal if it is not a good deal for them and I have had to do this a few times myself but sometimes an artist will need the money especially during, say, a pandemic and might accept an offer they would not usually accept. You can lay this at the feet of an artist saying it's the artist's fault for excepting all the shitty deals they felt they had to accept through the years but that would not really be fair. Historically, artists have been given shitty deals and that has changed a bit over the years but it has not gone away. Artists are more aware certainly but they are offered crap all the time and feel they have no choice sometimes. I can probably guess that both INA and the record label made more money off this release then the artist. I personally don't think that is fair. This might not be the cases if more records were pressed or CDs were pressed as well. I recently turned down a low offer for a similar situation to this and they remedied it by pressing more LPs to give the artist a more acceptable fee. 

I'm sorry, but I don't see the logic in your reasoning. Would Mr. Thomas deliberately have fewer records (or CDs) pressed than he could sell, just so that he would not have to pay an acceptable fee to the artist?

I also believe that you are grossly overestimating the profit that Mr. Thomas could ever make from this release.

I have a lot of respect for your efforts in the interest of the artists and I agree with much of what you write, but are you really sure about your allegations in this particular case? To be clear: I am in no way involved in this release or other projects of Mr. Thomas, with whom I only had a conversation once when I was in Paris. It was about music and it was very pleasant.

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1 hour ago, David Ayers said:

Mosaic has done a small number of original releases, in fact. 

 

On licensed reissues, I suspect that the license is sold for a fixed sum and not on a royalty basis.  

Well, there would be a different deal for original releases I suspect and negotiation directly with the artist if they were the source of the material. 

I never said the licenser got a royalty as well (though this is not unheard of), I said they get a fixed price based on the number of LPs or CDs pressed...

But then there is also downloads....

38 minutes ago, corto maltese said:

I'm sorry, but I don't see the logic in your reasoning. Would Mr. Thomas deliberately have fewer records (or CDs) pressed than he could sell, just so that he would not have to pay an acceptable fee to the artist?

I also believe that you are grossly overestimating the profit that Mr. Thomas could ever make from this release.

I have a lot of respect for your efforts in the interest of the artists and I agree with much of what you write, but are you really sure about your allegations in this particular case? To be clear: I am in no way involved in this release or other projects of Mr. Thomas, with whom I only had a conversation once when I was in Paris. It was about music and it was very pleasant.

It depends on how it is released. If it is for record store day, it does need to be a fixed amount. If for general release, it does not have to be a limited edition.

I have not implied any nefarious intent on Mr. Thomas' part for only pressing 2,000 copies and making it a vinyl only release. I've just said that this could effect the artist's ability to earn a decent paycheck for his work. 

I have not estimated any profits for Mr. Thomas, just stated that his payday was bigger then the artist involved. Perhaps that's fine but it really depends on how much more, no?

I've had plenty of pleasant conversations with many record label executives, many were pretty honest and some were outright thieves....

 

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I find that honest thieves are the easiest people in the world to deal with.

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14 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I find that honest thieves are the easiest people in the world to deal with.

And sometimes they treat you to the nicest dinners....

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They got the money, right?

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22 minutes ago, JSngry said:

They got the money, right?

Not to hear them tell it....

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18 hours ago, corto maltese said:

I don't know if they have the right to make a download available. I guess that will depend on the terms of the licence agreement with the owner of the recording (INA).

Let me be clear: I would love to have this music (maybe the complete concert?) on a CD produced with the same care. But that, for whatever reason, is apparently not an option. 

 

Well, Pharoah Sanders 1975 Paris live recording (also belonging to INA) is available for streaming: https://open.spotify.com/album/4OIvs636Rl3NeLlsK9Wktt , so I guess this is not impossible in principle. 

And Shepp's Live in Paris 1974 is available for download: https://transversales.bandcamp.com/album/live-in-paris-1974 .

I doubt it that INA is imposing "no CD" restriction on Sam Records, so it is in all probability Fred Thomas' decision.     

Edited by Д.Д.

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7 hours ago, Д.Д. said:

Well, Pharoah Sanders 1975 Paris live recording (also belonging to INA) is available for streaming: https://open.spotify.com/album/4OIvs636Rl3NeLlsK9Wktt , so I guess this is not impossible in principle. 

And Shepp's Live in Paris 1974 is available for download: https://transversales.bandcamp.com/album/live-in-paris-1974 .

I doubt it that INA is imposing "no CD" restriction on Sam Records, so it is in all probability Fred Thomas' decision.     

Transversales has indeed released several live recordings in cooperation with the INA, but only on vinyl (no CD's).

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On 6/2/2021 at 9:07 AM, Eric B said:

Re CD sales -- I read an interesting interview with Steve Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records recently, from Feb. 2020. Granted Cuneiform is a niche within a niche, but pretty eye opening for me at least.

https://plusoneme.substack.com/p/steve-feigenbaum-talks-about-cuneiform

You don’t see much about CD sales.

They don’t talk about it because it isn’t perceived as interesting or hip by the media. Something that I can sell 1,000 copies of as a CD, if it comes out on vinyl, and the band doesn’t take any from me, maybe I can sell 75 or 100.

I thought this quote was even more eye opening:

"We sell a lot of vinyl, but it’s all one of this and one of that. It’s 1,000s of things, but one of this and one of that. A really big vinyl seller for Wayside Music is three or four copies. That’s great. And since I am buying them one at a time, that’s fine. But if they cost me a fortune, and my minimum quantity is 250, selling four copies kind of sucks."

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