Can the “Think Indie” Digital Music Storefront Save Your Local Record Shop?
A new report published this week claims that Apple’s iTunes has grown even more to take a nice 28% of total music sales in the United States, with Amazon and Walmart tying for second place; digital sales now make up 40% of the market. Record labels are pissed, as their empire of over-priced CD product continues to dwindle.
The conversation of the impact of digital sales always involves the labels, who for years lined their pockets with more money then they knew what to do with (instead of investing in alternative business models outside of CD sales). However, little discussion has been made of the local record stores, who are responsible for pushing the same product out, in addition to being the tastemakers to their community. How can a record store survive when the main product they profit from continues its slide into obscurity?
That question was answered last year, when Think Indie, the storefront of CIMS (Coalition of Independent Stores) launched its digital retailer to compete with heavy hitters like iTunes and Amazon. As part of the launch, 48 independent record stores were invited to be a part of this new community, devoted to empowering these stores the ability to share in the profits by offering digital downloads to their customers.
I had the pleasure of talking with Tony Davis of Think Indie, who had this to say about the service:
“The basic idea behind Think Indie Digital was to get indie record stores the ability to sell downloads. A majority of the stores already sell online physical goods. We needed a online store that could sell, deliver, and maintain a digital catalog.That includes getting delivery of tracks from all the major aggregators, indie labels (all genres), and the major labels. We looked at solutions for a full year before finding our partner. We hired a company called Tekked who handles Dance tracks digital, Domino Records Digital, Turntable Labs digital, and Other Music Digital.
Their solution is tailored to how record store people would promote and store music. We already had a national site that allowed consumers to find a local record store. We added a new arm where you could buy digital tracks in the name of our some partner stores. The digital site is at digital.thinkindie.com.
At this point we have 48 partner stores, and are are working on adding more soon. Each store has a digital home page, and is a “golden affiliate” to Think Indie. This means they get paid for every sale they send into the site and also retain the customer. That way customers can support their local record store even when they are shopping for downloads. We try and focus on the same products that local indie record stores would focus on. New and developing artists, deep catalog, indie artists with less focus on commercial titles. In the future, we want to start empowering stores for individual partners. That way some stores could run their own digital and physical stores in a manner that works for their customer base directly.”
Back in January, SonicScoop.com ran an interview with Tony where he discusses the project in more detail.
The main incentive for these independent stores is becoming a “Golden Affiliate” – stores get percentage of profits from digital sales for the lifetime of customer. This means as each store builds its online customer base, and the more these customers purchase from the digital store, the more an indie shop can supplement their income through digital sales. The store gets to continue acting as a gateway for new music without losing their customers to iTunes or other digital retailers.
Many could argue that these stores could theoretically become affiliates of both iTunes, Amazon, or any other retailer. Think Indie affiliates enjoy a starting percentage of 8% of sales from the digital store, compared with 5% of iTunes, a substantial difference. The percentage continues to grow (up to %12) the more sales that are generated, and again, because the “golden affiliates” get profits for the lifetime of the customer upon signup, the more of a chance they can hit higher percentages the more their user base purchases make.
Customers of the Think Indie digital store get DRM Free 320 kb mps MP3 files; incentives to use the store include free downloads and exclusive tracks and albums only available at the digital store, including some well known acts like My Morning Jacket and The Gaslight Anthem.
The beauty behind the Think Indie digital storefront is the ability for the staff (and the network of affiliates) to act as “tastemakers” in the digital music landscape; as the web has opened up the world to so much new music, people still need those in-the-know to expose us to new tunes, with many of the Think Indie artists hand picked by the staff; affiliates also get some influence as to who gets featured, giving the opportunity for local and regional acts to not only secure distribution, but get some attention paid to them as well.
Utilizing embeddable playlists, banners, and RSS feeds, indie retailers can integrate a ton of content into their websites, much like Rainbow Books and Music, serving the college town of Newark, DE, has done. What used to be a small website promoting the store is now a full-on online music destination, where visitors can stream the shop’s hand-picked playlist of Think Indie releases, grab free downloads, and more. Rainbow hopes that as the digital market continues to grow, more and more will turn to their local music shop to check out what’s new, and Think Indie has given them them the opportunity to play in the sandbox with everyone else.
If you would like to support your own local record shop, stay tuned to Think Indie, as the store will be adding new retailers and continuing to grow as a service over the next few months. Think Indie – Save America!