Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 10 (1931-07)

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288 The Phonograph Monthly Review at fifteen cents, instead of going into classical records, not competing with the radio , even at prices between 50c and $1.25? 4. Better merchandising methods must be devised. The forty per cent spread between wholesale and retail record prices noted above, is not a sign that the local dealer is rolling in ill-gotten gains. Far from it, as the number of failures, reductions of stock, and distress sales in the past four or five years indicate. It is a sign that record, distribution is wastefully organised, with excessive overhead and low turnover. Various solutions suggest themselves: outlet stores run by the manufacturers; allowing the dealer a return-privilege on unsold records; least radical of all, the maintenance of really adequate warehouses at strategic points. As matters stand at present, and as they have long stood, the ultimate record purchaser often has a harder time getting a record he wants than getting a passport or a liquor-manufacturing permit. The dealer, save in a few very large cities, does not carry full stocks, because of slow turnover, and because he has no return privilege on the ephemeral popular trash which the companies insist on producing in spite of their own complaints about radio “plug- ging.” If the wholesaler or warehouse responded quickly to special orders, the dealer might still be able to keep his customers’ good will. But this is far from the case. The wholesalers are slow and careless, and often do not themselves carry a full stock. I have heard this complaint from several dealers in two widely-separated centres. Indeed, I once got a foreign record through my retailer in half the time required to get a domestic release, ordered at the same time through the regular channels. Such circumstances do not encourage record buying. The customers interest evaporates before the purchase can be completed. To sum up: Propaganda for the phonograph and for classical records must be renewed and redoubled by the producing companies. Prices must come down —this in itself, even without advertising, will speed up turnover. And merchandising methods must be reformed, to enable the local dealer to give better service to his customers. Washington, D. C. Paul Lewinson Some Problems and a Program Editor, Phonograph Monthly Review: No doubt your editorial and Mr. Allen’s letter on phonographic ills will, or ought to bring down an avalanche of correspondence, much of which will be deserving of a place in the forum your maga- zine provides. On the chance that some of my comments to follow may also be germane to the issue, and that you may wish to print them though they will swing through a wide orbit, with side trips requiring courage (to print), I shall run this off and shall not even bother to have it typed. What follows will be based upon the general business ex- perience I have accumulated during twenty years, upon my close contact with business worth hundreds of millions, upon my present status as a specialist in certain phases of public utility accounting, upon my additional present status as honorary auditor of a South American mining concern, and, specific- ally, upon my pursuit (aside from my income produc- ing activities) of the unprofitable but fascinating record importing hobby which has come in two years, or less, to be known around the world as IRA; namely, International Records Agency. I intend to touch in this letter upon every one of the points of weakness in the record business in America which my relatively long experience in things phonographic (antedating IRA) has brought to my notice. You will recall that about a year or so ago I wrote a letter to P. M. R. on the strength of which “Observer” gave me a good dressing down. I conceded subsequently that I had spoken inop- portunely, but, after all, I had brought the horse into the parlor, and even if it was “bad psychology,” it was, (I pat myself on the back—not joyfully), clear understanding of a bad state of affairs, and on top of that, good prophecy. Well, we were de- termined to try metaphysics to overcome an organic disability—with the usual result. We should have faced the facts. Let us face them now. Perhaps it is not too late to jolt an apathetic public— especially the record-buying fraternity—into a new wave of enthusiastic appreciation and acceptance of recorded music. It is scarcely necessary for me to amplify Mr. Allen’s observations on the difficulty of procuring records. I have often sent orders to the jobbers which could not be filled or out of which I received only one record! I have often wondered whether the powers that control radio are not engaged in effectuating the extermination of the record by adroitly dispersing the market for it. The direct and indirect profits from radio diffusion and equip- ment sales must be staggering, and they are com- paratively more easy to educe than from the manu- facture and sale of records. Who can question the observation, recently printed in “Disques,” that what America reads it believes, and what it believes it buys? If it does not buy records, it is because its beliefs concerning them are erroneous and pre- judiced. If the beliefs are erroneous and pre- judiced, they are so because America has had no chance to read the truth. I lay this lack of “educa- tion” at the doors of the manufacturers of records and record reproducing apparatus. One of the most successful men in the British gramophone world con- firms this view. Why don’t they recognize that the time to swim is when you’re in over your ears? Why don’t they produce apparatus, not merely as cheaply as possible, but as excellently as possible? Why is there no automatic radio-phonograph on the market with an oil-damped pick-up—an instrument that would confound those who think that the acme of excellence is to be found only in radio? Is it impossible? It absolutely is not. The industry it- self is remiss, you see. Have we any reason to hope for better days? Not much, unless we make not only our wishes heard but their sincerity felt by giving the companies who manufacture records and apparatus, the people who sell them, and the publishers who discuss them, our generous support in a financial way. Money talks, and its voice is stentorian. Want to dance? Pay the piper!