Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
Follow the efforts of a creative, crazed entrepreneur.

Looking at A Different Drum’s 2009 Goals

Back in January of this year, I wrote an outline in a weekly email update to the customers of A Different Drum about some of the things that I thought were good goals for the year.   First of all, I was happy to still be in business in the beginning of 2009 since so many music labels have been dying a slow death.   Well, A Different Drum is certainly sputtering and struggling, but is still here despite the challenges.  One of the biggest tortures so far this year is that I simply have not been able to release CD’s as quickly as the bands are finishing them.  It is hard to tell the artists over and over again,  “well, I hope to put this out next month,” and then the next month, “not yet, but hopefully next month.”   The fact is, credit no longer exists.  There are old debts and old bills to pay, but less revenue to make those payments, and that also means more waiting when it comes to new releases.

Yet A Different Drum is still here.   I’m too darn stubborn to give it up and say, “I fought the good fight, and now I surrender.”

In today’s blog, I’m going to look at some of the goals outlined in that January email and see how things have changed or how the business is progressing toward (or away from) those goals.

RESURRECTING THE CD MAXI-SINGLE

This is a goal I mentioned almost out of selfish reasons, since the maxi-single was always my first love, above albums, back in the days of my youth.  I always loved the 12-inch singles with the extended versions, bonus tracks, etc.  I probably owned twenty 12-inch maxi-singles for every album in my record collection.  When A Different Drum was young, I thought it was fun to put out a couple of CD singles for every album.   But, due to the drop in sales, and the fact that DJ’s were not using those singles in the clubs as we’d hoped, I had decided to give up on them.  That decision only lasted a couple of years.  Though it might have saved some money during those years, I felt like the label had a void where the singles used to be.   It has become obvious that the only people buying CD’s at all these days are collectors, and collectors like singles too, generally speaking.   So, making a few inexpensive, simple CD maxi-singles that have some extra remixes and bonus tracks seems to make sense.   They don’t make money, but they do build a sense of collectivity and help boost a band’s reputation in the market.  So, I figure if I can at least make back enough to pay the cost of making small runs of singles, I’d try it again.

How is that panning out?  We’ll ADD has put out some singles.  In fact, I just got another pair in stock this week.  Are people ordering them?  Well, not as much as albums.  In fact, it is probably a  stretch to say that they’ve broken even.  Yet, they aren’t just sitting here, and I’ve also been tossing singles in as bonus free-bee’s with shipments to people who order regularly.   It has become a kind of extra reward to paying customers.   Buy a couple of cool albums, you might score a cool single too!

I have committed to put out about four more singles in 2009.   I’ll reevaluate at that point.  My advice, if you enjoy the singles, is to buy them to support the cause.   They retail on A Different Drum’s site for $3 or $4, and close to that on Amazon.com.   I’ve also been listing special 2-for-1-price deals where you can get a pair of singles for only $5.

MORE T-SHIRTS AND FUN MERCHANDISE

So far in 2009 I’ve brought in two new t-shirts for A Different Drum– a new “synthpop addict” shirt and a new long-sleeve black logo shirt.  Those have been received well, and I’ve had to print up a few more of the addict shirt to fill demand.    The last couple of debut album releases (Disreflect and Midnight Resistance) have come with a limited edition t-shirt (only 30 made).   I still have some of those shirts left, so those were received with mixed enthusiasm.  But apparently there is a little market for t-shirts that have to do with A Different Drum or synthpop in general, so I will make a couple more of those designs as the year progresses.   In the realm of “fun merchandise”, I’m still not sure what else people would find appealing, but I’m always open to ideas.

COLLECTIBLE VINYL AND USB DRIVES

Well, here is one place where I’ve backed off.   Last year we released the “Sanctuary” maxi-single with a 12-inch and CD.   Though it has sold, those sales have not matched the previous “Suffer” CD maxi-single.  I think the higher price and vinyl (even though it comes with a CD) scared a few people away.   Then this year we’ve released the limited edition Rename “The Hack” 7-inch vinyl.   They are numbered and autographed, but it has not sold well.   Yes, it is collectible, but it is not something that people in this market seem to want to collect.   So, due to the large expense of making vinyl, I’m backing off.  I can’t afford it.

I had thought that a USB flash drive with lossless digital music files including rarities, etc. would be a nice way to make something cool for those who like the digital format.     I may still do something like that on a small scale this year, but I don’t think it’s a good general format anymore, since most digital customers seem content to buy their downloads as MP3’s in the major digital stores.

REAL FAN GALLERY WEBSITE

I had planned and even purchased the domain, RealFanGallery.com in hopes of creating a place where the serious fans of synthpop could gather.   It would be a place to celebrate those who still buy music, rather than stealing it, and who want to interact with one another and with the artists.   It could be a place where labels or bands could offer bonus extras to those real fans who really support the scene.   After a couple of beta versions of the site, it started to look like it would be a big challenge to keep it up and to make it do all the things I wanted it to do.  The expense started to go up, and I didn’t feel like the appeal was going up.   So, I ditched that website plan, but may explore other ways to set up a social network community using existing services.   Frankly, there are a lot of places where healthy communities of synthpop and electro pop fans gather.   TheSixtyOne.com has a thriving community called “Electro Freaks”, and there is a lot of interaction going on within Facebook and Myspace.   So, though I think the idea of having social networks where true fans can stay connected, I think those needs are being filled if people are simply notified of the opportunities out there.

PLACES TO GET TOGETHER

I also mentioned in my goals article that it would be nice to find ways to get together (physically, more than just online) to celebrate our shared love for the music.   I’ve talked extensively in my blog about the challenges of putting together a successful convention or festival event.   So, I won’t repeat myself.   It is still difficult and still prohibitively expensive.   Still, I look for any opportunity to “get together” with other fans and friends.  I enjoyed driving to Minneapolis a couple of months ago for the Information Society, Faith Assembly, Moulin Noir show and met some friends there.  I hope other opportunities will arise, even on a small scale, where we can get together and feel the comradeship that is so satisfying in today’s world.

OTHER NEW IDEAS

I’m always racking my brain for other good ideas that make our music scene more interesting, more engaging, and more rewarding, not to mention more profitable so that A Different Drum can stay alive.    The new “Real Songs for Real People” project by RENAME is one of those new ideas that I am excited about.   Since I play a small role directly with Marcus of Rename now, I am proud of the sense of adventure and creativity that Marcus has employed to put together something unique for the fans.   I think it is very cool that people can essentially help to fund an album by taking a direct part and becoming a “character” in the songs– essentially buying their own, personal theme song on a synthpop album.  If any of you find that an interesting idea, I hope that you would support it.  If not through a song sponsorship, then as a “follower” where you pre-purchase the album and all the working demos for an entire year.   You can see more information on Rename’s homepage on how to sign up.

I hope that other cool ideas get a chance to shine, showing that this scene is alive and well, despite the challanges.  I hope that the people who back up their love of the music with a small purchase now and then (either physical or digital) can be rewarded ten times over, knowing that they are contributing– they are the life blood of the scene.

Thanks for your support of A Different Drum.   This business is a big part of my life, and it means a lot to me.

-Todd

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One Response to “Looking at A Different Drum’s 2009 Goals”

  1. The USB Flashdrive idea intrigued me when you mentioned back when you intially laid out the goals, and I still would be interested in it. It all depends on the content, really.


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