How not to run a webshop - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #154

I wanted to come to you to talk about the new Mount Moriah album, which involves something to do with the Horseback record I liked last year, was released recently and all the preliminary track release stuff looked real good. I was going to talk about it, but I don’t have the album. The album is available from the Merge Records label website and it’s that I’m going to end up ranting about, because in this age where the asset-stripping of HMV has led to a wide-open gulf for digital retailers to cement their place in the market, so many labels are totally fucking the whole thing up. The album is reasonably priced, at $8.99 American, which is cool. But to buy it, you can’t just input paypal details to make the transaction simple and secure for all parties, ho no, you have to register an account with Merge Records, which includes inputting credit card details, and my address. You aren’t posting things to me, you don’t need me address. That is official. So I am here to say, Merge Records, you’ve lost $8.99 of my money, because you couldn’t organise a bum-rape in a barracks.

I wanted to give you my money, I had $8.99 in my account with your name on it. The promotion had been good, the band looked real sweet and the promo events were smart. The cover looked great, and I’d squared away this money when I saw the reasonable price and was ready to hand over the dosh and get my MP3s. But you had to cock it up. Now you’re poorer and I won’t be writing an article about this record, that looked like it was really good. Instead I’m typing this telling all my three readers about how much of a last-minute dick move you pulled that NOBODY should buy your record because you don’t know dick about selling things. To Mount Moriah, you’d have got some small promotion out of this, for what it’s worth, but now you’re getting jack. Let that be a lesson. I’m being unfair really, to Merge Records, they’re not the only label who couldn’t sell lifeboats to the passengers on the Titanic, but it’s the single piece of straw in this particular mountain that finally irked my back enough to throw the whole lot off and scream ‘what the fuck guys!?’ from my criminally short soapbox. There are a bunch of you, from small to huge, doing this shit wrong, and you're cheating yourselves out of profits you can't afford to lose. There are tiny labels and individual part-time bands doing this shit right. You have no excuse.

I’ve always advocated buying from as close to the artist as possible. The label is a good second-choice. These people work hard and they deserve your money for their product. But if the label hasn’t released the record in your country, invades your privacy, tries to take your credit card details instead of just using paypal or makes it impossible to get the MP3s, or however else they obstruct your enjoyment of something, I can never hold anything against someone who chooses to pirate your work instead. Amazon, the now-cut-down HMV and other retailers cheat labels out of huge amounts of money, so here’s what you do. If 50% of your revenue is sliced off before you get it, make the prices on your label webshop half what they are on Amazon. Amazon provides a great, simple, streamlined service, even if they are evil. They’re a trusted brand who won’t nick credit card details given to them. You have to match them.

Let me clue you in, labels, because you’re so keen about crying whenever your favourite hate figure, pirates, pop up. Capitalism is a competition, and when your competitor is providing something for the price of ‘free’ you either provide it better, or provide it easier, provide better customer service or contrive to trick everyone into why they should pay for it. That’s how bottled water continues to exist, perpetually fucking logic in the arse. If the pirates are so evil and provide me MP3s at the price of free, you provide me MP3s of a higher quality, or failing that, don’t infect my pc with a virus, or make sure your band gets good press and tours frequently and basically give the fans what they want. What you do not do is make it harder, more invasive, longer, and more annoying to get MP3s than from a pirate, because when that’s the case, ALSO charging us for the privilege of being annoyed is enough to break even the most ardent misplaced moralism. Give me as many payment options as possible. Make user-friendly interfaces. Make sure your files are tagged and good quality. Link me to other things I might like (in short, use Bandcamp). Don’t ask for any details you don’t need. If you’re not posting something to me, you don’t need my address, you never need my phone number. Don’t make me go through three pages of sign-up for an account on your label’s webshop, especially if membership of said webshop is something I’ll use once to get my MP3s and then never the twain shall meet. There is $8.99 in my account that isn’t going to you. How many more people are equally as fucked off? You would do well to view the pirates as competition, and the illegal downloaders as lost customers, rather than thieves.

Written under duress by Steven.

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