So How Do I Get Amoeba To Sell My CD?

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, January 17, 2011 10:05am | Post a Comment
I get asked by local bands all the time, “So how do I get Amoeba to sell my CD?” Often, when I explain the process to them, I see their little eyes glaze over and I can imagine my voice turns into voice of the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon (whaa whaa whaa whaaaaaaa…). Truth is, with many musicians, if the process is not instantaneous, it is not worth it, and that’s a shame. Getting a release sold at Amoeba is a pretty easy process. I wrote something on one of my first blogs that Amoeba is the great equalizer; It’s a place where a Ska-Punk group from South Gate could outsell some big name pop star with thousands of dollars of promotion behind them. All you have to do is take that chance.

There are two ways we get CDs from local artists. The first is on consignment. Consignment means that we take anywhere from one to a few copies of your release and give it a three month trial. We do not pay up front. We issue a contract that stipulates that after the term is done, we pay you for what we sold and return the copies that haven’t sold. If all the CDs that we consign are sold before the term, we will call you before the term is up and pay you for what we sold and order more. It’s a way to take a chance on a group that maybe is not as known.

The second is usually for known artists. We call it OTC, short for “over the counter.” These are artists that have an established sales history or have a tremendous buzz and that our buyers know will sell, so we buy their products direct. Artists such as Matisyahu and Zoe sold their independent releases direct to the store before they were signed. Amoeba has done well in the past with international artists such as Inspector, Celso Pina, Ceci Bastida, Bocafloja, Troker, Tita Lima, Ricardo Lemvo and the artists on the ZZK label out of Argentina, all which have come into the store while on tour to sell their releases direct.

Local artists such as Quetzal, Chico Sonido, Chicano Batman, Very Be Careful, Chencha Berrinches and La Resistencia may not be household names, but they have all sold better than most major label Latin artists. Many of these artists listed above may not even be the biggest artists in their genre, but they were the ones who came to the store and took a chance.
It helps to do your research. If you come into the store often, you probably know who the buyer of your favorite genre is. If you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some of the best surprises in my case have come from people who made the effort to seek me out and simply left me a sample CD to check out. Music usually speaks for itself when and if it’s great, there will be no denying it.
There is no need to over sell oneself. Just because you are on consignment doesn’t mean your CD won’t sell. What you want to do is establish a sales history and show that you have fans out there that want your music. Turning into a used car salesman to get the buyer to order more units won’t work. In fact, it just may just turn the buyer off. I once had a band call me up to bring their CD in, only to tell me their minimum order was 500 units! I couldn’t help myself. I laughed and said to them, “What’s wrong with you?” Eventually I got their CD through a distributor and couldn’t even sell the four copies that I ordered.

Be realistic. If you are a band with no buzz and a single CD on consignment, the chances of getting an instore at Amoeba is probably…nil. That doesn’t mean you won’t sell your CD. You just may have to work harder at it. If you are a band that never plays live or doesn’t do any promotion, don’t expect that your CD is going to sell. We have almost 2 million releases in the store and that's not counting the endless amounts of used product that we carry. If you don’t put the effort in, your release will be guaranteed to get lost amongst the many CDs we stock.

Also, be aware that certain things only work regionally. For instance, some bands from the Bay Area may pack clubs in San Francisco and Oakland, but no one has heard of them in L.A. Fuga was a band from Oakland that didn’t sell well at first but soon after their third or forth time in L.A., people started asking for them. For them, it was a building process. Some bands feel like they should have the same success on the road as they have at home and that is not always the case. It takes lots of work to achieve what others feel should come to them automatically.

Lastly, put your best effort out there. It’s not enough just to release a CD; it’s got to be great. There is just too much music to choose from to release something mediocre. If you aren’t feeling it, chances are no one else is going to feel it either, and no number of Facebook friends or publicists' buzz will be able to spin that. In the end, its better not to release something mediocre than to spend money pressing up a bunch of CDs. Most likely, you’ll be sitting on most of them, still in boxes and carrying them around every time you move.

A lot of the bands listed above were once on major labels or major independent labels with distribution and now are doing everything themselves. If there were artists that I thought should feel privileged and seek someone to do their work for them it would be some of the artists listed above. If they are selling CD's direct to Amoeba, why wouldn't any local band that can pack a club not do the same thing? There really isn't any valid excuse. Effort is all you need.

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Amoeba (49), Local Bands (1), Latin Alternative (7), La Resistencia (2), Zzk Records (6)