Manage for Success: Benefits of a Deep Catalog, Newsletter #24, April 2003

"Manage for Success" is a free monthly newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully.

It's published by Keith Holzman of Solutions Unlimited, a management consultant, troubleshooter, and trusted advisor, and is based on his many years as a senior executive in the music industry.

Copyright 2003 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.

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As I sat down to write this newsletter I realized that I'm just completing two years of sending these communications to you friends and colleagues in the record industry. When I started doing it I wondered if I was going to be able to come up with enough topics of interest to make reading it worthwhile. And at times I confess it's sometimes been a bit of a struggle. Lately, the ideas come more easily so as long as I have something worthwhile to discuss, you'll continue to receive these monthly messages.

In speaking with a client recently I realized that I'd omitted from last month's newsletter <http://www.holzmansolutions.com/articles/23-mar03.html> at least one key solution to combat record industry perils. And that's the benefit of having a large and deep catalog of releases.

It's back catalog that, as it gets larger through time, becomes the spine or backbone of any successful record label. It's like bread and butter -- a key staple. No matter the ups and downs of the industry, it can help keep you on an even keel, even in such difficult times as we're experiencing now. Record labels and book publishers, who -- with the exception of piracy and downloading -- share many of the same economic and marketing problems, rely on strong backlists to stay healthy.

For example, American book publishers sold 110,000 copies of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" last year, royalty free. And Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" sold 33,000 books even though it has 1400 pages!

I can think of countless labels that have remained in business for many years because of the size and breadth of their catalog of releases. Alligator, American Gramaphone, Blue Note, Compass, Concord, Fantasy, Green Linnett, Hightone, Harmonia Mundi, Motown, Nonesuch, Red House, Reference, Rhino, Rounder, Shanachie, and Vanguard have all build up large catalogs of perennials -- titles and artists that, for whatever reason, the public remains interested in purchasing.

Certain genres peculiarly lend themselves to the building of rich catalogs. They include jazz, classical, folk, blues, roots, world music, etc. These kinds of music tend to appeal to more mature audiences who are not merely relating to the latest pop wonder of the week. These are usually music lovers who are fond of one or more of the above-mentioned categories. When they go into a record store or browse the web they're looking for exposure to newer artists in the genre of their preference, or new and even old releases from artists they've long admired.

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Building a strong catalog is just one of the many paths to record industry success. Another is through managing and using all of the aids available, and to make meaningful use of the information you already have. And that's where I come in. As an industry professional with almost four decades of experience, I can help solve the kinds of problems that many independent labels face. Why not call me so we can discuss your particular situation to see how I can guide you to success.

And if you have a topic you'd like me to address in future newsletters, please call or email me keith@holzmansolutions.com.

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Significantly, it was large back catalogs that many labels were able to mine successfully as they entered the CD era. It gave these labels an opportunity to sell or resell -- frequently to the same customer -- new versions of records they already had in their collections, but in a new and technologically up-to-date format.

In fact, some cynics allege that being able to sell catalog in still newer formats is what's behind the push to SACD and DVD-Audio by the proponents of those systems. And it's mostly been catalog, not new releases, which have appeared thus far in these new forms. One reason is that the older masters are available and can be easily worked on, whereas artists and producers are frequently struggling to make marketing deadlines on new releases and -- although somewhat short-sighted -- can't be bothered to take the time to mix for surround sound.

Many labels, particularly smaller independents, cannot rely on releasing hits to keep them afloat. A lot of these companies will never ever have what the industry considers to be a hit. Yet they remain healthy and at least moderately prosperous. They do this by signing artists who are always working -- in front of the public performing live, or in the studio creating new songs and new releases. If a label can get an artist to deliver a really good album every twelve months or so and they've got six to ten artists signed, why then they'll have built up a nice catalog after four or five years.

Remember: this year's new releases will be next year's catalog.

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You can subscribe to "Manage for Success" by clicking here

And if you have a topic you'd like me to address in future newsletters, please call or email me mailto:keith@holzmansolutions.com


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Copyright 2003 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.