Nervous Records

Do It Yourself

There are some things to remember before you make your own record for sale. Don't assume that you're going to be able to sell them all at your gigs! It can be quite saddening when all those people who come to your gigs don't actually buy your record! The truth is, that if you can sell to ten per cent of them over time, that's not bad!
     So face it - at some time, you'll probably have to 'interface' with the music biz, whether it's just a guy who sells records at gigs, or a national distributor or an export company. The guy who sells records for cash at gigs will probably give you cash, too, but these people can't get your record into shops or other countries, which is vital if you want to maximise your exposure, but a whole raft of new circumstances arise....
     The first thing that you'll come up against is the problem of price and payment. Larger companies frequently don't operate on a 'cash' basis, and you'll have to start thinking about delivery notes (signed to prove that they had the goods), invoices with a date and your trading address (or they won't pay!) and stock control. Nowadays, even small outfits are computerised, and they need things like a record label name, catalogue number and a title to enter it into their databases.
     Don't expect to get paid just because you've 'sold' your records! Thirty days waiting time is usually thirty days plus the odd days to the end of the month. You probably won't get paid until your records are sold (this is called 'consignment' - you know it as 'sale or return').
     Next comes the pricing problem. Most dealers are dealing with other dealers who expect discounts (and extended credit!), so basically you're gonna sell your records for a lot less that you would have retailed them. It's often about 30-40% of what you expected to get! So why bother?
     These companies frequently have accounts with major retailing high steet chains which you could NEVER get on your own. They have access to export markets that you can't imagine, and in the right circumstances, can shift a LOT of records for you. They also have all the paperwork systems and even special boxes for packing all sorts of odd quantities of records. They should even advise you of what helps them. For example, NEVER make a product with no country of origin on it. It's often an offence to import goods into a country without this, and you've lost a huge section of your potential market! This is becoming more important, and stickers after the event just won't do....
     Of course, the record business is full of shady people who will take your records and find all sorts of ways to avoid paying you! How many will they need for 'promotion'? You'll need to agree on a trading basis FIRST.
Here's your checklist:

  • Artist name (people DO forget!)
  • A record label name (do a quick search on the web before you decide)
  • A record catalogue number (BLOGGS001 is better than BLOGGS1)
  • A record title (get creative!)
  • Country of origin ('Made in the EU', 'Made in the USA', etc)
  • A duplicate book with numbered pages for Delivery Notes
  • A duplicate book with numbered pages for Invoices

Some other stuff...
     Always ensure that you credit the songwriters, even if they are cover songs. It's the honourable (and legal!) thing to do. While you're at it, you should get a licence for the use of cover songs. You'll have to pay for this (see our 'mechanicals' page). While you're thinking about this, consider what may happen if someone in another country picks up on your songs... It's a good idea to put an address on the record where you can be contacted. Hey! Someone in another country might want to give your band a tour, right?
     Try to shrinkwrap your CDs. Why? Well, pick up a box of CDs to knee-height and drop it. Whoops! Lots of shattered jewel-cases, right? If they'd been shrinkwrapped, less would be damaged. Quite apart from that, the major chains prefer it... Then there's the EU Distance Selling Directive....
     A lot of people ask us about barcodes. To get a barcode, you have to join a bar-coding association and pay annual membership fees. It's probably not worth it for you. In any event, the barcodes used in some countries aren't usable by the reading software in others.... Your distributor may be able to help with barcodes. Having a barcode shows a level of professionalism.
     It's often a good idea to look at a copy of a record by a major act that originates in the same country as yourself. There will be the usual things that appertain to that artist, but there will be a lot of label-generic stuff, too. Take a good look at it all and try to understand it, and how it all applies to your little project. Just because they've spent megabucks more than you doesn't mean that a lot of this stuff isn't important for you, too. After all, your CD could appear on the racks right next to Mr. Megastar! Try to make it look equally professional, and DON'T take advice from known bootleggers. They have an entirely different agenda.....
     Work on getting a good relationship with a distributor. They often know lots of other people in the music biz. One day you may need to license your material to a bigger label, and advice from someone that you have a trusting working relationship can be invaluable.
     The next thing to think about is the copyright in the recordings you've made. Sometimes I see bands and think about how they will exercise their copyright and I say to them "Who owns these recordings?". The Usual answer is "We do.", to which I reply "OK - so if I want to buy the rights off you, I make out a cheque to 'We do', right?". You see the problem. It might sound a bit silly, but you should draw up a recording deal between yourselves showing who owns what, you all sign it and each keep a copy. That way, you know where you stand. You should NEVER release a record without all this copyright stuff sorted out. It's not rocket science, but it could be important....