Aaaah, we need some more like you and the other 'veterans', Robin! We'd love to accommodate all the long-time KJs and release more new material every Automatic Release. But that doesn’t work for us in today’s marketplace as well as it did in the past. I think the days of recording any song just because it’s a good song and can fit on some generic 70s & 80s disc, Vol. 123 are gone. We have to be more judicious in our choices, costs and releases.
For multiple reasons. Piracy would be predominant. It just eats up margin like pacman. Folks can complain about prices and MediaCloQ all they want, but we’re just the tip of the iceberg. The ability to copy discs and the fact that people are doing it instead of buying discs, is going to completely alter the entire music business in a very negative way – from the major record companies down to us and more.
It’s already happening. There is less new music being produced and released by the majors, because there are less profits to subsidize the money-losers. The first ones to go are the too rich contracts of superstars who don’t produce (Mariah Carey). The next are the edgy artists that require years and multiple albums to build a profitable career.
In the karaoke industry, there is also increased competition, some of which is good quality, some of which is dregs-quality, and all of which is lower priced than before. Factor in that the karaoke marketplace has matured as evidenced in the sheer number of songs already produced. The songs that the broad base of people really want to sing (or are willing to sing) have been done by multiple manufacturers in multiple packages of varying quality and different price points. Ironically, as the market expands, the manufacturing costs are not likely to drop, but the wholesale and retail prices will drop. Not to mention the economy in general. Also, for the three years I’ve been at SC, our Dealers have been telling us we release too many discs.
On top of that, more opportunities for financial growth exist in the home consumer market than in the KJ market. The KJ market has reached a volume that is likely to change by only fractions of a percentage point in the next few years. To produce products for this market is very expensive, and the products are immediately devalued by rampant piracy.
The home consumer market will hopefully grow in double digits for a few years. The costs to produce these products are dramatically lower due to the fact that most of the music for this market has already been produced and amortized, or is produced ongoing to serve the KJ market. The 13,000 songs in our library represent a goldmine that has to be worked and cultivated to a brand new and growing customer base. Look at the re-release of ET. There’s a whole new generation to be exposed (like my 3-year old daughter who cried and laughed today and has a new favorite movie). The same concept applies as the karaoke marketplace expands. Of course, this, in turn, feeds the audience that go out to sing and provide a livelihood for KJs.
How many more essential songs exist that we haven’t already done? I suppose the market will determine that. I know there are some great songs out there that we haven’t produced, but I'm talking about songs that will be done in shows on a nightly basis across the country, Pak-type songs. The fact is, there just aren't too many of those that we've missed (at least that we’re allowed to do). But in order to get to those songs, you have to produce the hundreds of come-and-go current hits we release on the paltry "few Power Picks and an occasional retro Spotlight".
For instance, for every Get This Party Started, Hanging By A Moment, How You Remind Me, Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning), I Hope You Dance, Breathe, Hey Baby, U Got It Bad, etc. (maybe Oh My will be one), you’ve also got to produce the rest of the temporary chart hits that fade like 3-day old roses. On the other hand, those discs sell because people want to sing what they’re hearing today.
We’re not going to ignore our proven bread-and-butter, but we’re going to be more prudent in our choices for new Spotlight releases. We haven’t forgotten anyone, believe me – but the market and the rules have changed. We look for openings and niches now.
Because I am forced to live in the future as it were, sometimes our about-to-be-released discs seem old to me even before they are released. So I’m already aware that in the next 60 days there are Spotlight releases of new SC material for the 90s, 60s & 70s, two R&B discs (M&F), Headbangers, and Volume 2 of The Grass Is Blue. And Stars of mostly new music from Creed and Hard Rock Hits. That’s a pretty wide span. Especially when you add in All Made Up and Bubba from this year.
But there is also a big market for those “huge disappointment” greatest hits discs of compilations of music genres and artists. And we’d be plain dumb to ignore the customers – and the sales figures - who want to buy our catalog compilations. (Like Shut Up and Dance, Madonna, Queen, Billy Joel, Alabama, Can’t Stop The Hip-Hop, Vol. 3. Or Alison Krauss, U2, Cyndi Lauper, Jerry Reed and Carole King.)
It’s a balancing act that requires adaptation to the market. Our library is our biggest asset, and piracy is our biggest drawback. Together, they point us in a direction. Change or die – one of the original laws of nature. So we’ll keep dancing as fast as we can. Hope that helps.