« Mr. Witham's Wacky Side | Main | Happy Birthday Soultrane »

We'll give it up for writers...just ask!

Several writers have been talking in the blogs lately about the "stinginess" of record companies when it comes to sending promos to the press (Tom Hull, Scratch My Brain and be.jazz). Many small jazz labels have stopped sending jewel cases or Digipaks to reviewers in favor of CDs in slimline cases, wallets or envelopes. There is even a movement afoot to stop sending promos altogether while making the music and artwork available to writers digitally.


This is a sensitive issue for all concerned. We know that writers are not paid nearly enough (or at all) for the good work that they do, and of course everyone associated with jazz is struggling these days. And before all the wailing starts, let me just say up-front that if a writer wants a full Digipak of a particular title, just let us know and we'll send it to you. We love you, and we want you to have the real deal if it is something that seriously interests you and you want to write about it.

For 8 years Cryptogramophone dutifully sent full Digipaks to writers to show off our beautiful packages, and reward reviewers for their diligence. However, 500 digipaks (which is about how many we send to radio and press) is about 1/4 of our average sales on a title these days, and most of these end up on Amazon and in the used bins before a title is even released. Since Amazon is now our biggest customer, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot by giving away so many finished Digipaks.

Then there is the issue of cost. The wallets we send out cost about a quarter apiece, as opposed to the Digipaks which can cost as much as $1 or more. It also costs twice as much in postage to send full packages as it does to send CDs without the Digipaks. With six releases annually, that's a cost of about $5,000 per year. With the loss of retail outlets like Tower, and sales down 20% each year for the last three years, independent jazz labels have to find ways to cut back just to keep our heads above water. We really can't afford to make beautiful, expensive packages anymore, but we love them, and we're reluctant to let go of the dream.

And finally, we know our music isn't for everyone. Someone who loves a Nels Cline CD, may not love a Myra Melford or Bennie Maupin title, so we know that even the most responsible writer will trade-in some of our promos. Plus, our percentage of reviews vs. CDs sent is about 5%. So, what's the sense in sending out full CDs when most of them will just be resold, thereby wiping out two sales for every CD we give away (the sale we lost, and the CD we can't sell), while having to pay $5,000 per year for the privilege!

By now writers should know that Cryptogramophone is committed to beautiful (and expensive) packaging as well as great music. They should also know that we will always send a finished copy to a writer if they ask for it. We understand the writer’s perspective on this issue, and hope they will try to understand ours. We will never deny a legitimate reviewer access to our Digipaks if they ask for it. It’s kind of like sex. We’ll even give it up on a first date, but you have to ask!

Comments (3)

Plus, our percentage of reviews vs. CDs sent is about 5%.

That has to be the key to making promo budgets work. How can we be more efficient with our mailings. I am not a reviewer, but I write a music blog (as you know, since you have commented there). I am sent generally unsolicited copies of things, some of which I have written about. Some of the stuff that has been sent to me is SO FAR removed from my taste, or anything else that I have written about, that it is a complete waste of time and money for that label. You would think that the PR companies could save everyone some money by sorting their lists, at least a little.

We do try to tailor our lists, and we rely on our publicist to keep things current, but there are so many things we can't control...like writer's workloads, what else is being sent out at the same time, what is happening in the music world...and of course, there is no accounting for taste. And we do have to send to guys like Don Heckman, who may only review one of our CDs every 10 years or so (even though we're in his own backyard), but when he does, it's to significant effect. I'd love to find a more elegant solution to this problem, but really, what's more elegant than asking? God forbid labels and writers should actually talk to each other!

If you can afford to ask them all, then that is the best way. I don't sell as many records as you do, and those extra 50-100 review copies could be the difference between red numbers and black numbers. Of course I could end up with red numbers anyway...

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Tag cloud

Adam Rudolph Alex Cline's Band of the Moment Alex Cline; Nels Cline: Alex & Nels Cline; Downbeat; Continuation; Coward Alma Lisa Fernandez Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 1) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Live Review (Day 2) Angel City Jazz Festival 2009 Photos Antonio Sanchez avant-garde Ben Goldberg Bennie Maupin Bennie Maupin & Dolphyana Bill Stewart Billy Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble Billy Corgan Billy Hart Bob Sheppard California Jazz Foundation Cameron Graves Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Carol Robbins Charles Mingus; Son of Watts Musical Caravan Project; Azar Lawrence; Nate Morgan; Henry Franklin; Alphonse Mouzon; Prayer for My Ancestors Charles Owens Chops: The Movie Chris Barton Cryptogramophone Records Cryptonight Darek Oles Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy David Anderson Pianos David Witham Denman Maroney Devin Hoff Double M Jazz Salon Downbeat 57th Annual Critics Poll Dwight Trible Eagle Rock Center for the Arts Eclipse Quartet Edward Vesala Electric Lodge Eric Dolphy Eric Von Essen First Friday Series at the Museum of Neon Art G.E. Stinson Global Village Monday with Maggie LePique Go: Organic Orchestra Gravitas Quartet Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival; Peter Erskine Greg Kot Gregg Bendian Hale Smith Hannah Rothschild Hans Fjellstad Harry Partch; L.A. Weekly; John Schneider; REDCAT Horace Tapscott; Horace Tapscott Tribute Concert; Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra; the Ark; Jazz Bakery; Ruth Price; Jesse Sharps; Austin Peralta; Isaac Smith Huffington Post Hugh Hopper Ikeda Kings Orchestra improvisation Initiate Ivan Cotton James Newton Jason Robinson Jay Bennett Jay Hoggard jazz Jazz at the Plgrimage Jazz Bakery Jazz Explosion III Jazz Journey with Eddie B. Jeff Gauthier Jeff Tweedy Jesse Sharps Jim Black Joe Zawinul John "Drumbo" French John Fumo Kamasi Washington Ken Coomer Ken Kawamura KJAZZ 88.1-FM KPFK 90.7-FM KXLU 88.9-FM Larry Goldings Larry Karush Larry Koonse Learning How To Die Leimert Park: The Roots and Branches of L.A. Jazz Les Paul Lester Bowie Lily Burk Memorial Live at the Atelier Los Angeles New Music Ensemble Los Angeles Times Luis Bonilla Maggie Parkins Marcus Rojas Mark Dresser Mark Zaleski Mel Morris Michael Davis Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Mimi Melnick Motoko Honda Museum of Neon Art Museum of Neon Art; MONA; Many Axes; Susan Rawcliffe; Scott Wilkinson; Brad Dutz music blog Myra Melford Nasheet Waits Natsuki Tamura Nels Cline Nels Cline Singers Nels Cline Singers with Jeff Parker Nestor Torres Nick Rosen OC Creative Music Collective Oguri Open Gate Theatre Sunday Concert Series Pannonica Rothschild Peggy Lee Peter Bernstein plays monk Rashied Ali ResBox at the Steve Allen Theater RISE with Mark Maxwell Roberto Miranda Rod Poole Ron MIles Royal/T Cafe Sara Parkins Sara Schoenbeck Sarah Thornblade SASSAS Satoko Fujii Scott Amendola Scott Colley Sky Saxon Tribute Sonship Theus Spirit Moves Spirits in the Sky Steuart Liebig Terry Riley The Gathering The Jazz Baroness The JazzCat with Leroy Downs Thelonious Monk Thomas Stones Tom McNalley Trilogy Van Morrison; Astral Weeks; Scott Foundas; Jan Steward; Music Cirle; SASSAS Vincent Chancey Wayne Horvitz Wayne Peet Wilco Wilco; Nels Cline Wilco; Wilco (The Album); Nels Cline Will Salmon