Thursday, November 28, 2013
Where's the vinyl?
The term "Street Date," doesn't refer to prostitution. Well, at least it doesn't when used in reference to when an album is supposed to reach stores for sale to the public. In this era of downloading the excitement that used to accompany the street date of an anticipated album is all but nil. The standard now is, "Yeah I've had that in my iTunes for a couple of months, but I'll probably grab it on vinyl when it comes out... because it's SO GOOD!"
Don't worry this isn't a piece trying to dissuade you from sneaking a peek at releases prior to release. You can ruin Xmas all you want... it's up to you. No, the thing I wanted to talk about is the increasingly unreliability of the "Street Date" itself... especially when it comes to vinyl.
There have been several big "event releases" over the last couple of years that we have been told will be available on a certain date only to end up only getting our hands on the records weeks, and sometimes months, later. The most recent example is the long awaited reissues of the three Boards of Canada studio albums. Long out of print and sought after by collectors, news of their repressing was very happy news to fans. A "Street Date" of October 21st was announced.
At this writing the date has been pushed back multiple times... now with a December 17th date projected. So what happens? We in an informal talk with a Canadian major label sales rep that I had earlier this past summer, the gentleman laid out the machinery involved in getting a vinyl release to a store on "Street Dates" in Canada. The majority of pressing of each release is done in the US or in Europe. When a release is scheduled the American or European manufacturer and/or American or European parent company solicits from the Canadian label an estimate on how many copies will be needed. Reps from the Canadian companies then get their estimates from distributors in Canada who should have a rough idea given the stores they deal with and their past buying trends. All that part makes sense, right?
However! In some cases releases might suddenly exceed the projected demands in Europe and America. And at that point the plants are instructed to ship enough to fill the increased demand to the labels/distributors in America and Europe. And who gets to wait until whatever is leftover trickles through? Or in cases where pressings are completely exhausted by demand before any reach their shore? Canada, that's who.
So in the end you might consider "Street Date" a liberal "guess" of roughly when a record will be hitting the shelves. And 80-90% of the time it's accurate. But if something doesn't make it in on time please remember the machinery at work is bigger that our poor little retail outlet.