I’ve been reading a book called “The Long Tail” which is about the death of the record store. Ok, that’s not really what the book is suppose to be about. It is suppose to be about how the internet has allowed the growth of “niche markets” so customers can find all the fringe music that once was unavailable (because record stores didn’t have the shelf space to stock obscure stuff). In theory, this is a great idea. However, the trend I have been noticing – which is increasing in ferocity – is the death of the record store as a result of this new on-line availability. Personally, I fear that within two years, there will hardly be a record store left in America. Why? Because projekt.com and amazon and iTunes can satisfy customer’s needs much better than your local shop. As a customer, you might say, “This is a good thing, I like increased selection via the web.” As a record label, I say, “This is a bad thing, because the result is increased availability but reduced sales per title.” I realize I have to start thinking like it’s 2007, rather than 1997. Every year, more Projekt’s CDs sell via the internet (Projekt.com, Amazon, CD Baby — as well as digitally via iTunes) but it doesn’t make up for the sales lost at retail. If Projekt can pull the feeding tubes of the record stores (which we have been hooked to for many years) we can survive in the new era. I think Projekt is well on our way, because the basis of the label has always been “mail order.” Many of you remember the catalogs Projekt mailed by the ten-thousands in the early-90s to customers looking for “dark” music. Projekt was under the radar of all but a few retail stores; I sold direct to the fans. In the next two years, we might be back to that same business arrangement. Unfortunately, except for the largest bands on Projekt, you find fewer and fewer of our CDs in stores. And then POP! the stores will dissappear like the little dot of light in the center of an old TV screen, after you’ve turned it off.
I’m not trying to be a doomsayer, just a pragmatist. I want to keep releasing my music, and the bands that you love. Of course, I still encourage you to shop at record stores; I dearly would love to see them survive. Yet I have to have my eyes wide open, so I don’t fall down the niche to oblivion.
Sam Rosenthal, Projekt