The Music Business Association’s fifth Nashville Music Biz conference, 61st year in all, hosted a second day of panels on Monday, May 6. As part of the discussion, a panel was held on the evolution of in-store promotion for record stores, now in the age of streaming.
“We as indie record stores are part of a group of record stores all fighting to get customers in our stores,” said Grimey’s New and Preloved Music’s Anna Lundy. “For a record store to exist, you have to create records you also sell in record stores. I’ve found it very interesting a lot of people want to partner with us [for concert ticket giveaways and meet and greets] when they have not a single piece of physical merchandise available for stores.”
However, artists have the ability to promote concerts and music not only with local radio stations, but record stores. There are also in-store only tours. To that point, Lundy says artists, and even her record store customers, will ask if the in-store events could be pushed out on socials and live-streamed.
“The record store [is not a streaming concert experience, and we’re] not always capable of staffing someone to live-stream the performance, but that’s what a tour manager could do, or a label person,” encouraged Lundy. “We’re happy to share that to help celebrate those new songs in the record store with their fans—there’s really no draw back besides staffing.”
For Lundy, it’s all about personalization to infuse excitement in her market.
“Even if it’s not an artist that comes to the record store, they can still create content,” explains Lundy. “That goes a long way.
“This week Esperanza Spalding has a new record out. In advance of that, she didn’t go to 20 record stores, she probably just sat in a room with notes and recorded very simple selfie videos, calling out different stores in different markets [to] have a unique piece that all the stores are excited about sharing because it calls out their store/market. That’s something that could be put together with very little budget and not a lot of planning and can be disseminated widely for a big reach and a feel-good moment for the record store.”
“If you give us cut and paste verbiage, we’re not going to use it,” advised Lundy of Grimey’s best practices. “As a social media user, I’m not looking to see the same picture and words over and over. I would like to see the personality of the store. We’re going to copy your artist’s Instagram account, but we’re not going to use the album art because if you do a hashtag search for that artist, all you’ll see is the same picture over and over with literally the same words—I don’t think that is very engaging or shares the unique nature of indie stores.”
The panel—which also included Ingrooves Music Group’s Ani Basdekian, Omnian Music Group’s Dave Martin and moderator and Mute Records’ Emmaline McCourt—discussed if your artist may feel uncomfortable about small venues, maybe to come up with another marketing plan. However, one suggestion Lundy offered was the recent success of John Prine and Ben Folds’ Q&A.
“We offered our customers the opportunity to come in the store and literally drop a question in a box,” explained Lundy of the events. “It’s a really fun way to mix up a regular signing. Sometimes signings can be really awkward, and that’s a way to make it more an event than someone just sitting in a corner. We did the same thing for Ben Folds where anyone who purchased the record from the store could drop off a question and then come to the Q&A to maybe hear him answer your question.”
Lundy emphasized the value in a record store recommendation is greater than a playlist add on a streaming service.
“At Grimey’s, everyone is a music fan,” concluded Lundy. “Sometimes an in-store performance will turn you around with the energy they bring. And people do ask for recommendations and want to know what the person behind the counter is listening to.
“If you have an artist out touring, hook up the record store in that market because when you convert a record store employee, they have the capacity to convert everyone they come in contact with—customers come to our store because they’re looking for more music.”
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