Today’s Wall Street Journal examines the distribution strategy behind the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album, which will be available digitally on Tuesday, and in stores Jan. 30th:
The [band's] debut disc nevertheless went on to sell more than 122,000 copies in the U.S, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a relatively large number for a new indie-rock band. They never considered joining a label for their new album, according to their manager, opting instead to contract out label functions such as publicity and lining up CD production and distribution themselves…
It remains to be seen whether Clap Your Hands Say Yeah can build lasting success. But Mr. Ounsworth’s unusual path to the music store may represent an ominous sign for the industry, as CD sales continue to fall and the power of labels continues to dwindle. In the traditional music-industry model, bands earn advances from a label that they repay over time with their share of sales, which can be lower than 15% of revenues. But Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is instead spending its own money — more than $35,000 to finance the production of some 50,000 CDs, for example — to cut the music company out of the loop. The band then pays a much smaller percentage of its revenue to a distribution company that handles both digital and retail outlets. (Sales from the band’s own Web site are exempt.)
That’s all well and good, but the band’s on-our-own approach seems to be lacking something: Marketing. If you’re a diehard CYHSY fan, chances are pretty good you know this record was coming out next week. But aside from a handful of freely distributed mp3s and the usual live-show notices, we haven’t seen the usual advertising/publicity push that would accompany a band that just sold 122,000 copies of its debut record (the band’s publicity site has a picture of the album cover, but hardly mentions it by name). Maybe they’re relying on word-of-mouth, but it’s hard to see how keeping this quiet can get these guys past their already established fanbase.