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sound of the city

PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:38 am
by dan mckay
Charlie,

I loved your sound of the city compilations from america, especially the new orleans and memphis editions. They opened up a lot of (old) new music to me, but if you don't mind me making a suggestion, how about doing one each for london, liverpool and manchester? You can trace back good music from each city (with the exception of possibly manchester) to the mid fifties, and even before. It is quite rare to come across compilations of such quality, and it would be great to show off some of our own musical heritage in the same way.

what do you think?

more cities

PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:25 pm
by Charlie
Thanks Dan

the sad truth is that these did not sell very well.

The original discussion was for a worldwide release, but the woman who commissioned the idea went away on maternity leave, and in her absence there was nobody with the energy and commitment to persuade the business affairs people to go for worldwide licences.

And it was difficult: with alternate titles to cover potential rejections, we were looking at a total of 250 licences. As soon as you go for worldwide release, you are looking at five to ten phone calls per track. If you ask Sony UK, for instance, to license a track for the UK only, the decision can be taken quickly; but if you want worldwide release, you have to track down Sony licencees in every major territory, to make sure there are no plans for this particular track that will be undermined by inclusion on this compilation.

So, disappointingly but understandably, EMI licensed the tracks for UK release only, and a series that might have crept towards 20,000 per title if it had been released wordwide, sold a little over 2,000 per title in the UK only.

When I was first working on the series, I did have thoughts about where the follow-ups might come from, if it were a success. Detroit, Nashville and maybe Philadelphia in the USA, Paris in France, and probably Liverpool and London as the first UK cities to try.

The criteria were that each city needs to have an in-depth history of music I like - I'm not sure that on this basis I could make Manchester stretch to a double-CD collection.

Now that you've raised th subject though, I realise there is another label that might be interested in picking up the baton.

But first, I have to finish the work I'm in the middle of now, clearing the rights for more than twenty songs used in the film Almost Heaven, due out later this year.

PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 5:01 pm
by RobHall
I've long thought that there's a series to be done on cities that have an annual carnival with a distinctive musical style - Rio, New Orleans, London... There must be more that those of you who are better travelled than myself can think of - ideas, anyone?

The distinguishing factor would be an emphasis on partying/generally having a good time, rather than attempting anything like an historical survey.

Rob

PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 5:35 pm
by NormanD
RobHall wrote:I've long thought that there's a series to be done on cities that have an annual carnival with a distinctive musical style

This sounds like a good one for Putamayo records. Their CD covers alone suggest a good time being had.

Sound of the City CD

PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:14 pm
by David Godwin
... only an average of 2000 sales for each city? Maybe my copy might have rarity value in years to come. But, more seriously, I wonder about the cost of these in the high street shops. Certainly, I saw the series retailing at a minimum of £16.99 in these stores, and I thought then that this was too high for a series that might have seemed, to other than fans like us who would know the care that went into this series, a compilation of reissues. How is the decision made on the cost in the "high street"?

too expensive

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:25 am
by Charlie
So many decisions in major record companies are made without being made, if you know what I mean. Somehow, the albums wound up being full-price without anybody thinking whether that was a good idea.

Ace Records survives this way, though, selling almost all their albums to a small niche market at full-price. Most of them hover around 1,000 per album. But every now and then, one of their series bursts into a different sales plateau. The excellent Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll albums all sell over 10,000 each, and I believe that each volume in Dave Godin's Deep Soul series gets to that magic 20,000 mark. But then again, these figures probably include a lot of export sales, including to the US.

Whereas EMI, being a major, doesn't export into territories where it has a licensee, even if it has not made the album available for that licensee to release. Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) could write a book about it. Or maybe not.

The Tenner Threshold

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:26 am
by Howard
Yes - I'd always thought a high price is only justified for a new recording.

I think so many people these days are used to cheap various artists comps, and even free comps of oldies but goldies on the cover of Mojo and the likes. Perhaps that high price did put off potential buyers. The trouble with record companies is they seem to have very little insight into the psychology of the record buyer. For example the Honest Jons re-release compilations of Betty Swan and Candy Staton priced at about £15.99. They too were just too expensive for dusted down old masters freshly burnt to CD. I was pleased to see my verdict vindicated by these two albums appearancing in Fopp this week for a fiver. Hopefully less-than-honest Jons will learn to go more mid-price with future re-releases.

NickH and I were discussing this topic the other evening. When you go to a gig and the artist is selling his own CD for a tenner we both agreed we'd be a lot more likely to take a chance on it, than if he crossed the tenner threshold. You've got to know your market, and price accordingly.

Another example are cinemas. Most of them sit empty most of the time, because of the greed of the management. Then the Peckham multiplex starts selling tickets for three quid and now they're constantly busy.

As I've said elsewhere - put the Sound of the City compilations out as a mid-price box set with extended Charlie footnotes and I'll be one of the first to snap it up.

My philosophy can be summed up as - entertainment comes to those who wait. A new DVD costs £20. Three months later it's half that. A year later it's on TV.

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2005 9:37 am
by Con Murphy
FOPP is very good isn't it? There's one near Virgin in Reading and it's incredible how the latter survives given the price differences. I've yet to pay more than a fiver for a DVD film. I agree with Howard on the price of the S of the C series, in fact they'd need to be more around the £8 mark to tempt me. It's all great stuff, but I can't afford 15-16 quid CDs I'm afraid.

CD costs

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:32 am
by David Godwin
I have a mental block - or, rather, considerable resistance - to CDs costing £16.99 or more, and held off buying the recent Tinariwen and Lhasa albums until I saw them at HMV for £9.99. There is the odd exception, such as the Dylan Halloween concert that I had wanted to hear for years. Incidentally, in the large local HMV, copies of the same recent Tinariwen album were, somewhat mysteriously, available at three different prices, £16.99, £14.99. and £9.99. It certainly pays having a dig around. Must plead ignorance on FOPP - can someone explain where and what this is?

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:58 am
by Con Murphy
It's just a music, DVD and book chain.
There's just the one FOPP in London, in Covent Garden.

http://www.fopp.co.uk/fopp.asp

Rather embarrassingly, anyone clicking on World/Folk reviews will get a blank page (maybe an opportunity there for Howard to flex his Thesaurus?), but I can assure you they do cover it reasonably well (in Reading anyway), although I find they are best for old Jazz, Blues and Soul stuff.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:32 am
by Howard
To be precise, it's just off Cambridge Circus. Bargain of the week - picked up yesterday - was The Culture Music Club of Zanzibar for an astonishing £3.00. Currently on sale in Virgin for about £15.99.

I sometimes feel sorry for Charlie - getting desired CDs delivered by the truckload. He misses out on this activity that is so vital to the well-being of the male psyche - the hunt!

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:46 am
by Con Murphy
Howard wrote:Bargain of the week - picked up yesterday - was The Culture Music Club of Zanzibar for an astonishing £3.00.


Incredible. I shall take a long wet walk up to the Reading outlet this lunchtime in the hope of them having it here also.

The hunter gatherer psyche..

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:06 pm
by David Godwin
How did the lunchtime hunting session go for you guys? Mine was an undoubted success. The first move - a quick swan into HMV - was the usual waste of time. Pickings are easy, but hardly satisfying, and the ammunition is liable to run out quickly. Why is it that the huge "Clear Out" signs are never in the Jazz, Blues, World and (dare I say it) Folk sections. Incidentally, there is a good take on the use of the "Clear Out" signs in George Pelecanos's novels; something to do with the legal implications of using the word "Sale". However, this was followed by a deft shimmy into Oxfam bringing an excellent reward. A deleted ACE records vinyl album in mint condition. This was KC Douglas "Big Road Blues". Hunting can be difficult in charity shops, and much stalking is required. You often have to rummage through stacks of Easy Listening, and may even have to touch tainted meat such as a boxed set of James Last albums. Patience is essential, although little ammunition may be used, and £3.99 was a fair price for an ACE album.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:21 pm
by Con Murphy
No Culture Musical Club for me, I'm afraid. They did have Culture Club's Greatest Hits for £3 though, but that's as near as it got for me.

Seasick and serendipity, synchronicity or soundofthecity...

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:40 pm
by Joe Cushley
Well, David Godwin's recent purchase has a very particular resonance. KC Douglas taught Seasick Steve guitar in Oakland in the 1950s. He worked for Steve's grandfather for a while. He was a Mississippi hobo buddy of Tommy Johnson's back in the day, before making the slightly more unusual move out West rather than North to Chicago/Detroit.