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ARSCLIST  March 2014

ARSCLIST March 2014

Subject:

Re: Brand suicide

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Mar 2014 06:50:31 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Hi Carl:

Polygram, as a standalone division of Philips, was actually OK with keeping things in print on CD.
Philips understood the long tail but the US division hated getting returns from stores. So sometimes
the US division wouldn't keep an item in inventory. It's still not fully coordinated, but it's
somewhat better since someone in the US can just order from Amazon.uk and dent the US division's
reported sales if the US division didn't get something into retail.

Where things got terrible was when Universal and Vivendi entered the picture. They hired a bunch of
consultants to "rationalize" their "cost savings" that they had sold to their shareholders. This
first of all meant firing anybody anywhere in the world who knew any history of the company (because
they were making decent money because they had been around long enough to know some history). Then
it meant that consultants ran computer programs on the catalogs and deleted all the "slow
sellers" -- indeed chopping off the long tail. This particularly hurts classical and jazz catalogs
because they are about deep variety rather than shallow hits. The problem persists to an extent
today, but now it's partly driven by retailers. There are few if any returns (if something sits in
an Amazon warehouse long enough, they sell it for pennies on the dollar to someone like Newbury, to
take the asset off their books, and then keep it around to do order-fulfillment for Newbury), so
retailers won't order huge quantities of anything. There is a threshold where it's not worth
releasing something, even as a download.

In recent times, I think the UMG folks have been much better with the classical catalog. This team
at Decca Classics has reissued now hundreds of back-catalog items in large and medium-sized box sets
for huge discounts vs the original single-CD prices. So has Sony and so had EMI before it was sold
and chopped up. I think Warner Music is still getting their heads around being a major classical
player, but they have experience with back-catalog issues from owning Rhino.

The big trend nowadays, which is just now getting serious traction in the music business, is the
concept that the old tapes need to be played again and transferred to "archival" high-rez formats
before they get to where it's too expensive ever to use them. Margins are very tight, so now the
challenge is to find the least costly but most effective ways to do this. I can say first-hand that
it is a struggle to shake loose any reasonable funding, but the transfer/mastering guys understand
the realities and are working out efficient and cost-effective workflows, so we're heading toward a
meeting point. You're seeing it in the jazz arena already, especially with Columbia/Sony and
UMG/Blue Note. More will happening soon, including in classical. The companies are beginning to get
the bean counters and shareholders to understand that it is an asset-preservation issue, not a
quarterly numbers issue.

-- Tom Fine


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 24, 2014 5:04 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Brand suicide


> That wasn't the half of it, and I don't know half of it myself. But, my
> experience during the '80s and '90s was that most of the catalogs were so
> unstable that by the time awareness of a particular recording matured, you
> couldn't get it anymore. I'm speaking of the classical realm. That seemed to
> be true of all the Polygram labels, both new productions and reissues. EMI,
> too. What were they thinking? The long tail was constantly chopped off.
>
> Was this driven by the US offices and only suffered here? Was it a result of
> US tax regulations regarding inventory accounting? A pop music concept of
> product cycle life-time? Or were the business organizations so messed up
> that they couldn't properly support their product and serve their markets?
>
> If small firms like BIS and Bridge could/can (at least intend to) keep all
> their work in print, how was it the majors couldn't or wouldn't? This
> question of availability seems to have an additional aspect now, with the
> debate over copyright longevity.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:45 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Old Mercury recording venue gets a rebuild
>
> Polygram was foolish not to provide something putting Mercury's best foot
> forward. They did the same to Chicago, I am pretty sure, judging from how
> bad the Kubelik material sounds as released on that CSO anniversary
> compilation put out on RCA. I think both of these were put out in the era
> when Polygram was putting out Mercury Golden Imports, so they had 2-track
> Dolby-ized dubs that they could have provided, the same tapes they cut the
> Golden Imports LPs from. Definitely not ideal, but better than leaving
> someone to make their own dubs off scratchy old LPs. Further proof of what a
> bad brand-owner Philips was. They never missed an opportunity to avoid
> promoting something they owned.
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Dennis Rooney" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Saturday, March 22, 2014 1:58 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Old Mercury recording venue gets a rebuild
>
>
>> Dear Carl,
>>
>> That 75th anniversary gatefold Lp set was something that can pass into
>> history. Vox was releasing the MinnOrk's recordings and the
>> Prokofiev/Stravinsky was slipped in as a bonus; however, the U.S. Vox (or
>> Candide, or whatever they released it as) had a nasty bass cut (you had to
>> obtain the French mastering to hear the real quality of those masters). I
>> transferred the shellac material from my own copies. The Mercury material
>> came from commercial Lp pressings after we could not obtain copies of the
>> master tapes from Polygram. An anniversary collection of photographs was
>> offered with the discs. I regret only that the Mitropoulos/MSO Fantasia
> and
>> Fugue never appeared in improved form due to a producer at Sony Classical
>> who decided in 1990 to have the original session lacquers scrapped!
>>
>> Ciao,
>>
>> DDR
>>
>>
>> On Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 5:31 PM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>>> I have a souvenir of your days in Minneapolis, DDR. The Minnesota
>>> Orchestra's 75th anniversary album. First the disk has that Ormandy
>>> Weinberger, a couple selections with Verbrugghen, two with Mitropoulos,
> and
>>> evergreens with Dorati and Skrowaczewski, spanning 1925 to 1961. Fast
>>> forward to 1977 for the second LP, where Dennis' productions of
> Petrouchka
>>> and the Three Oranges Suite were recorded in the Orchestra's current
> (once
>>> again and hopefully permanent) home. An enjoyable set.
>
> 

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