Sunday, May 15, 2005

Spoon: The Record that Arcade Fire Underwrote

Some speculation from Coolfer on how Merge financed the big push on the Spoon release this past week - and if you believe that MP3 bloggers really pushed Arcade Fire over the top, then MP3 bloggers financed the Spoon hype (and joined in, to boot):

My understanding is that Merge has SHIPPED 80,000 copies of this thing -- the biggest ship in Merge's history -- and, I'd guess, close to the sales Spoon have had on any single catalog title.

That's where Best Buy comes in. As Coolfer Glenn has often pointed out, Best Buy and their ilk (Wal*Mart, etc.) are the key to selling any release in real quantity. But that comes with risks for a label. You often need to have massive quantities of a title manufactured (10,000+) just for mass merchants to step to the table, and bring in your title. (Yeah, I know there are regional plans and what not for these big accounts, but that's not always an option. Last year I heard an anecdote about Well Known "Indie" Band who signed to a major in part because their former indie label home got cold feet after Best Buy offered to stock their first record. The record had sold about 20k through indie and boutique shops at that point, and they were scared shitless of massive returns if people didn't buy it from the chain.

In Spoon's case, Merge is in little danger of getting screwed. They have a very strong sales history. (Anyone with Soundscan access care to post some numbers?) Merge probably figures they can turn over profits for the first 7,000 or 8,000 sales in an effort to really play with teh big boys. I'd also guess they're flush with cash from Arcade Fire and some other recent releases. Hell, they didn't even hire an outside publicist for Arcade Fire, something that probably saved them in the neighborhood of $6,000-$12,000 minimum on that project alone!


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