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Posts Tagged ‘Christian music marketing’

Locating the Sub-Genres in Your Music Department

pair-of-cdsThe nice thing about being a type of department store for Christian merchandise is that the whole enterprise doesn’t rise or fall on a specific product type. Sure, it’s disheartening hearing about what’s happening in Canada with HMV stores, but most of us probably continued placing CD and DVD orders, right? Just because the guy running the marathon next to you just crashed into the grass next to the sidewalk doesn’t mean you have to stop running.

Even if these sub-sections don’t have specific signage, staff should know how to locate all of these for customers.


Where to put things?  For example are mass choirs a subset of choral music or urban gospel (black gospel)?  At the very minimum, books are displayed spine-out, but CD spines are harder to find, and in flip-bins, a small subsection of music can easily be missed.

  • Bluegrass Music — This should be distinct from country gospel or southern gospel
  • Wedding Music — Usually found among the soundtracks; if you’re still carrying those.
  • Celtic — A tricky genre that almost always involves some cross-filing, since the group Iona (which we still get asked for) belongs in contemporary, but many of the generic Celtic music aligns better with the traditional and worship sections.
  • Chants and Liturgical — Tracked more in stores which are responding to a distinct Catholic market; but for stores that don’t, you should be able to locate the Taizé and John Michael Talbot quickly for that small market segment that wants them.
  • Mass Choir — There’s a disconnect here between people who ask where the section is and people who actually buy.  We found the word “gospel” resonated more with our staff, so it ended up as subset of southern gospel, which objectively would be my very last choice. Probably better in urban or a choir section if you have one.
  • Budget samplers — Anything under $5 really belongs at the checkout. You’re trying to introduce non-music customers to new artists, not lose a sale within the music department itself. Keep impulse music at the checkouts.
  • Music parody — Really there’s just Apologetix and most people would ask for them by name.  Are they still doing new albums?
  • World Music and Jazz — You probably don’t have enough of anything to form a section, but if you do, staff should know who and where they are in the store.
  • Local artists — Music you’ve taken in on consignment from local bands and artists deserves to be featured within its proper style, not placed in some independent ghetto.  If it’s rock, put it in rock.  If it’s worship, put it in worship. They probably left you a quantity so just put them face out where people can find them. True, they’re taking up space where you’d rather display things you actually own, but hopefully you negotiated a decent margin. (We are so blessed in our store because YouTube’s David Wesley, with his album of acapella worship songs, is also a local artist. Let me know if you want some CDs!)
  • ‘Tween music — Hate to say it, but in our store it’s a subsection of the children’s department, which is physically as far removed from the rock/contemporary section as possible. Ideally, it would be located in contemporary, but we’re really full there, and the parents are more comfortable when it is still part of the kids section.
  • EDM — Electronic Dance Music is still the rage (or should that be rave) with some customers and would probably be happy in a section of its own.
  • Spoken Word — Sorry, these aren’t music. Yes, some of the scripture medleys have a music background, but they really belong with your audio books.

What specialty music sections are unique to your store?

The Interconnected World of Christian Media and Why When They Hurt, We Hurt

A friend asks you what you work at. You might say, “I’m in the Christian bookstore business.” Or you might say, “I work in Christian Publishing.”

But we’re also dependent on — as they depend on us — the world of Christian periodicals and websites (they review the books and music we sell), Christian television (they interview our authors), Christian radio (they play the music we carry) and Christian concert promotion (they bring the artists to our cities, or one nearby). We also help them by carrying their magazines, referring people to their websites, promoting their TV shows, directing people to local Christian radio, and putting up posters and selling tickets for Christian concerts.

But when people in one of those industries are hurting, we hurt, too.

A case in point is the cancellation of the Newsboys concert last week in Toronto.

  • This sends a signal to other US Christian bands that Canada might not be worth the hassle.
  • It sends a bad signal to Christian kids, depending on what they hear. They might feel their favourite artist did something bad, or it might engender a dislike for the Canadian government.
  • It impacts the Christian concert promoter and all the ancillary organizations that stood to benefit from the concert. In the Toronto area, it probably affects some CD sales at stores like ours.
  • It means a few thousand kids didn’t get the spiritual benefit from the concert, perhaps definitely this represents a few first-time commitments to Christ that never happened.

Anyway, if you missed this, here’s what we ran last week at Thinking Out Loud, which includes a link to the April cancellation, and the full statement by the band…


The Newsboys Shut Out of Canada for the Second Time

Newsboys

Back in April, we reported on the cancellation of The Newsboys concert in Toronto, Canada.

This week, lightning struck twice in the same place, despite the due diligence done by the band. Should Christian bands simply forget about trying to get into Canada? I don’t want to be sensationalist, but it makes you wonder what the backlash from this might be as the word spreads. Here’s the announcement this time around; this time sharing the full text of what the band wrote, posted at the promoter’s website:

September 21, 2016

Dear Toronto Newsboys fans,

It is with our deepest regrets that we have been forced to announce the cancellation of our Toronto concert tomorrow, Thursday Sept. 22nd. This cancellation is a direct result of the Canadian Border authorities blatant disregard for the policies and procedures of legally crossing the border, and we feel an explanation to our fans is in order.

As you may know, in April we attempted to cross the border to perform for you at Church on the Queensway. This crossing was just like the 5 other times we have crossed since 2009. We worked for weeks in advance of our arrival to provide all the necessary paperwork to make the crossing as smooth as possible. As we attempted our initial entry, Michael was told that he had a 9-year old traffic violation on his record and because of it, they were not going to allow him entry. We were told that he would need to take the appropriate steps to fix this issue, and as such, we were forced to postpone the show a few months while we sorted it out.

This shocked us, as we have been to Canada to perform for you several times prior, and not once was this issue raised. Regardless, as we are instructed Biblically, we respected the authorities’ decision and immediately hired attorney’s in the US and Canada to work to resolve this issue, and we rescheduled the concert for our fall tour. After 3 months and hundreds of hours, and an extensive financial investment, the lawyers were confident that Michael had done all he was asked and so yesterday, Michael flew to Toronto to attempt re-entry, this time with an 80-page document supporting his request for clearance. Michael even went 48 hours earlier so he would have plenty of time to present his case. Unfortunately, the border agents refused to accept his explanations, and once again denied him entrance, this time without even an adequate explanation of the denial.

To say we are shocked beyond belief is an understatement, and we are extremely disappointed in the agent’s decision. Obviously the agents have the serious task of protecting your nation, and we respect that, but the decisions of these two agents was made unilaterally and without merit, going against the stated laws and regulations that our attorneys were instructed to follow. It is extremely disheartening to spend all the time and resources we did, only to have it come down to how the agent “feels” and decides.

Ultimately, we are most disappointed that we will not be allowed to come share our songs and our ministry with our fans, but as we are reminded in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We may never know the true reasons behind this decision, but we do know God has a plan for all of us, and we rest assured in the love He has for His children. We will continue to vigorously work to clear this issue so that one day we can return and celebrate with you, but we feel until this is 100% cleared up, it is only right to refund your ticket purchases.

Thank you for your understanding and may God be with each and every one of you!

Sincerely,

Michael, Duncan, Jeff and Jody
NEWSBOYS

This time around, there is no mention of a future concert. The promoter, Premiere Productions had nothing about the cancellation on their blog.

As a Canadian, this totally infuriates me. All over, “a 9-year old traffic violation.” This band is an international Christian ministry with a solid reputation. Were other forces at work here? What does this say to Christian kids in Canada about their government?


Much of what happened may have been at the whim of one border employee. Thousands of kids were impacted. Is it worth sending the article link to your MP? A thing like this gets no mainstream press.

It shouldn’t have happened the first time.

It shouldn’t have happened twice.

 

 

Celebrating 20 Years of WOW The Hits

Wow Hits 2016Christian bookstore shoppers have made this item a staple for two decades now, and in many of them, it is the top selling CD of the year overall. The WOW CDs were patterned after the NOW CDs which were sold in the general market. The idea behind the compilations was to present the best available songs, but without the label restrictions usually associated with CD samplers. To accomplish this, The WOW Partnership was created involving the major Christian record companies. Additionally, bonus cuts allowed the participating companies to introduce newer artists.

The CD series has its own page on Wikipedia:

WOW is a series of annual compilation albums featuring contemporary Christian music. The birth of the WOW record project can be traced Grant Cunningham, A&R Director at Sparrow Records. In November of 1994 Grant made a business trip to EMI Limited in London, at the time was the parent company of Sparrow Records where he noticed that several British record labels were issuing an annual CD of top-rated songs, known as the NOW series, containing collections of pop songs. Grant brought the idea back to Sparrow. Sparrow executives suggested a similar project be developed for Christian pop music and Grant was assigned the task of getting the project off the ground. The WOW franchise represents the most successful collections of Christian music ever issued.

Released in late 1995, “WOW 1996” was the first in the WOW series and the first recording put together by the three major Christian record companies of the time: Word Records (now Word Entertainment), Sparrow Records (now part of EMI Christian Music Group), and Reunion Records (now part of Sony’s Provident Label Group). Still today, after each submitting label agrees to a reduced master royalty, the final decision on the tracks to be included is made by committee. Production, marketing, and distribution for the “WOW Hits” series is handled by EMI Christian Music Group.

Wow Worship LimeThe Wikipedia page has two more paragraphs, one of which I added this morning dealing with the huge popularity of the more recent WOW Worship series. That series began in the fall of 1999 and are named by the color of the cover, possibly in a nod to the timelessness of some worship songs. There have also been hymn collections and Christmas collections, and in the U.S. the WOW Gospel series highlights the best of urban and mass gospel choir-inspired music.

With WOW Hits 2016 due to release mid-September, I found it interesting that one writer has already suggested ten songs that didn’t make the cut. (If you’re looking for some tunes to listen to, he has the videos embedded in that post.) Furthermore, just to show what a coveted prize getting on the Wow complications is, Josh Andre also offers twenty songs that he feels should be considered for WOW 2017. Somebody takes this really seriously!

These albums always make a great gift. For the the recipient, they represent an instant commercial-free playlist, especially for people who live on the fringes of Christian radio reception or are completely foreign to the contemporary Christian music genre. The 2-CD sets are now usually made available in both a regular and deluxe edition, the latter containing more bonus cuts, but the standard minimum is usually 30 songs, making this a great bargain.

Happy Birthday to WOW!

 

David C. Cook Canada Cancels Music Loyalty Program with Only Six Weeks Notice to Consumers

The company that controls distribution of well over 90% of the recorded Christian music sales in Canada, David C. Cook Canada, has canceled its Buy-5-Get-1-Free loyalty program, a staple of music sales and every bit as much a tradition in this country as Hockey Night in Canada. The company claims that “changes in the marketplace” force this and that “some of the record labels we represent no longer support the program.”

But in a letter which begins, “Dear Retail Partner,” the company is asking us to spread this word to customers, who have only until April 30th to redeem the stickers. With a diverse, scattered customer base, it is totally impossible to inform the number of people who will be impacted by this, and they will in turn vent their frustration on us, the front-liners. Retail partnership indeed.

Dealers are going to have people coming in all summer and into the fall, walking up to the counter with CDs and reaching in their pocket for coupons which were obtained and retained in good faith.

As of mid-week, our bookkeeper informed we have about 48 such coupon sets sitting in a drawer, and absolutely nothing urgently needed that would cause us to redeem them anytime soon. But we’ve already given away the product. Even at a lower price of $14.99, that’s nearly $750 in retail tied up in little bits of paper and plastic, not to mention the cost of shipping the original units we gave away, plus the cost of shipping replacements.

This sudden move lacks grace, and grace is the hallmark of our faith.

Furthermore, with stores known to “buy around” the Canadian distributor, eliminating the consumer loyalty program effectively ends any hope of vendor loyalty. But that’s if you decide to stick with music at all. The second time around redemptions are actually a Buy-4-Get-1-Free because the customer kept the coupon from the free item. That means it’s at least a 25% saving in the mind of the customer, even more so, if they bought less expensive discs, but redeemed the scrip for a more costly one. So basically, you’re eliminating the advantage at a time when physical music sales already face fierce competition.

Christian music sales in Canada will drop significantly.

Any company that would do this to the very consumers who have stuck with and supported physical music shows absolutely no respect for the people who have supported it all these years. While I know I will be told, “you don’t know all the factors that went into this,” I do know that the manner in which this is being carried out is just mean.

You can hurt me, do anything you want to me; but when you hurt my customers, you cross a line. Six weeks is insufficient notice.

…Tonight we started the information process:

Our customer notification of music program cancelation

UPDATE: With no previously published expiry date, or any posted terms of service, pulling the plug on this program without actually shutting down the company may contravene Canadian consumer law.

 

Chart Irregularity Not Applicable in Canada

Christian Retailing May-June Print Music ChartFrequently we are reminded that the non-white population demographic in Canada is quite distinct from our U.S. friends.  Every once in awhile, it shows up in the Christian music charts. A decade ago (or more) Fred Hammond frequently charted in the top spots on American lists, but few Christian retailers we surveyed at the time could remember ever selling one of Hammond’s albums. So when Deitrick Haddon showed up in the top spot in the current print edition of Christian Retailing with LXW — League of Extraordinary Worshipers — we decided to go to YouTube to hear some of the music. The genre is unmistakably a mass choir, gospel sound; but what really caught our eye initially was the low view numbers (in the hundreds) on the YouTube videos we were watching. (We since found some higher ones; so apologies to my Twitter followers.) One video has a banner thanking people for keeping the album on the Billboard charts, but we couldn’t find anything in the Christian listings there that corresponds to the current chart position at Christian Retailing.

More Supplier Direct Marketing to Consumers

 

David C Cook Canada Direct Marketing

I have to admit, in hindsight, it seemed too good to be true. Most Sundays find my wife either leading worship from the piano or backing up other worship leaders on bass. As a former worship leader myself, we both enjoy articles about modern worship trends, so when David C. Cook Canada offered her a free CD for signing up for a newsletter, we took the bait.

This week, we found the hook in the bait. She’s being offered 25% off three CD titles. That’s really the meat of the e-mailed newsletter. When you think of the vast number of worship-related articles that are published each week on various worship-themed blogs and websites, they opted instead for a mini-devotional (their words, not mine) and then the pitch for 25% off new releases by Paul Baloche, Rend Collective and Kari Jobe.

I let them know what I thought of all this:

…If anyone in our area on your list buys a CD through you, then you are stealing sales from us.

Everything that undermines the local bookstore, whether it’s Amazon or betrayal by our own suppliers, brings our entire industry one step closer to complete shutdown.

This is basically what it comes down to these days. Distributors want to see the numbers they have all grown accustomed to. Jobs depend on it. So it’s sales by any channel and at any cost.

The irony is that just before I saw the e-mail, I took David C. Cook’s dealer survey. As I also told them,

This afternoon I was asked to do a survey about ways David C. Cook can help us in our ministry; but apparently there is little concern for how David C. Cook can hurt us in our ministry.

This type of marketing hurts. Technology allows the company to swoop in like vultures and grab sales in our territory before we know — if we ever do — what’s happened.

But we’re Christians, so we’re all expected to smile and be gracious about it.

CBD Continues Limited Music Marketing in Print

On August 13th we reported on the very limited space now given to Christian music releases in the print catalogues offered by Christian Book Distributors (CBD) and the January-February 2014 catalogue continues this trend.

The copy I receive in the mail contains only one CD, on page 64, the back cover, which is an advertisement for Thrive, the new Casting Crowns album. The print version CBD encloses with shipments contains a half page music feature on page A16, consisting of ten pictured albums and four line listings. Eight of the pictures would fit in the contemporary category while a Hillsong Live CD and Matt Redman’s latest might be considered worship. Southern Gospel and traditional music albums are not represented at all.

CBD’s catalogs consist of regular numbered pages as well as a series of pages inserted into the middle in some editions, but not others.  So presumably everyone gets pages 1-64, and some people get pages A1-A32. (Does anyone know why they do this?) The music is on a half page in the insert section. The rest of the media pages in the catalog are devoted to DVDs.

CBD January February 2014

That’s half a page in 96 total pages, or approximately half of one percent of the entire catalogue. CBD offers ten specialty catalogues, but music is not one of them.  So the best we can do is repeat the questions we asked in August:

…Why has a major mail-order and online retailer chosen to so radically ed-emphasize its music department in print? Of course the downloads have never been listed in the print catalog but over the years CDs and accompaniment discs played a big part.

Is this a signal that music sales are declining faster than anyone wants to admit? What is CBD’s long-term strategy?

CBD Scales Back Music Marketing in Print

August 20, 2013 1 comment

CBD Fall 2013While the Christianbook.com website is buzzing with music releases, customers looking for the latest tunes in the 96-page September-October print catalog are in for a shock: There’s only 13 CDs listed.

The baker’s dozen music items consist of the new WoW 2014 CD on page 2, and a top dozen in another part of the catalog. While we didn’t see any children’s music-only resources, it’s possible that there are a few of those.

CBD’s catalogs consist of regular numbered pages as well as a series of pages inserted into the middle in some editions, but not others.  So presumably everyone gets pages 1-64, and some people get pages A1-A32. (Does anyone know why they do this?) The music is on a half page in the insert section. The rest of the media pages in the catalog are devoted to DVDs.

The question of course is: Why?  Why has a major mail-order and online retailer chosen to so radically de-emphasize its music department in print? Of course the downloads have never been listed in the print catalog but over the years CDs and accompaniment discs played a big part.

Is this a signal that music sales are declining faster than anyone wants to admit? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make music cutbacks after the Christmas gift-giving season? We’ll have to wait for the November-December edition to speculate on CBD’s long-term strategy.

Rend Collective Tops UK Christian Sales Chart

As Christian Retailing noted this week, a new weekly Christian music chart has begun in the UK. Checking out the May 18th edition, we found Rend Collective Experiment in the #1 position this week.

Official Charts Company - Christian List - May 18 2013

Here’s a sample of their music.

EMI-CMG Name Change Ignores Foreign Distribution

Capitol Christian Music GroupWhile nobody here wants to be the Grinch that denies the brand name capital implicit in the iconic Capitol Records label, changing the name of EMI Christian Music Group to Capitol Christian Music Group — complete with a rendering of the U.S. Capitol building — is, from a foreign markets viewpoint, just plain dumb.  Especially at a time when the regard that people in other countries have for the United States is rapidly, rapidly diminishing.

This is a time in music sales history when you don’t want to do anything to alienate customers — any customers — be they foreign or domestic. Furthermore the original label name mostly recalls memories of groups like The Beatles, hardly a reference point for the Christian rock or modern worship buyer.

Methinks the people at EMI need to buy a copy of Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation, and read it before they suggest that the new name and Christian music sales are in any way compatible.

Read the story at the (U.S.) Christian Retailing website.

Pricing Hymnals

Dealing with short discount product.

While they don’t comprise a high percentage volume of our print music sales, people do occasionally ask for hymnbooks. It’s important to remember that when these are priced, they are priced with bulk sales in mind, at a short discount. In terms of the number of pages, actual content, and the work that goes into assembling them, they represent one of the best deals in your store for any hardcover product.

However, a product can’t exist in computerized inventory with two prices. So it becomes necessary to incorporate a standard markup when you sell a single hymnbook to a customer. For that reason, as on any short discount product, it’s important that sales staff not quote the price as it appears in the database.

A 40% discount on book product means the selling price is the cost price X 1.667. If that places the product in too high a range for your comfort, you can always use 1.500 as a slight bow to the posted MSRP. If a music committee is considering a volume purchase for the church, or even for a choir set, you can always offer to rebate the difference on the sample copies when they place their bulk order.

Another challenge with this is that most online sellers consider the database price to be the price, but most don’t offer additional discounting on that price point. Again, we find that a simple explanation satisfies most customers. This problem also arises with some publishers’ pew Bibles, so it’s important to explain to staff the intricacies of quoting prices on short discount items.

Should Stores Carry Products That Piggyback on Others’ Success?

August 21, 2012 1 comment

Sometimes a really influential book will produce a “Songs Inspired by…” CD and usually these are authorized by the publishers of the book in question.  But as my wife pointed out to me, “They’re missing a word; the book is called Heaven is For Real, not Heaven is Real.”

At this point, you, the retailer have an ethical dilemma. You can either say, “I’m not going to be part of this capitalist greed,” and not carry the CD — which, by the way, is available in regular stereo and split track versions — or, you can get in on a piece of the action and order heavily and make sure the CD is quite visible throughout the store.

I’m not going to suggest anything here one way or the other, but you’re welcome to leave comments. Just remember that while the cover is the same yellow color, the title is not a perfect match, so this is far from an authorized product. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Or does it?