Are Record Sales really up ?


Vinyl Me Please – November Subscription …

VinylMePlease November

VinylMePlease November Subscription delivery

My happy little bundle arrived today. Vinyl Me Please is a vinyl subscription service I researched a while back, although there are several different vinyl subscription options out there, this seemed the most cost-effective, nice bonuses and (for me) just the easiest to use – or even cancel. Finally, I took the leap and joined.

The thing that drew me to such a service wasn’t convenience or price – it was “control”, or rather “giving up control”. The thing that struck me about this subscription service was that I would really have little to no control over the music selections chosen for me. Obviously, there is an option to change your assigned LP, these are called SWAPS, but I liked the idea of not engaging that internal filter, the one that tells you “Yeh, that may be a good album, but I want to stick with something I would be more likely to enjoy…”

My first subscription offer for October was Beck – “Odelay (the second official studio album and fifth overall by American alternative rock artist Beck, originally released on June 18, 1996). But this was coloured vinyl. Bourbon coloured vinyl. With black marbling. Back in ’94 I was living in Vancouver, BC when I was first exposed to Beck’s “Loser” while watching Much Music in a damp basement apartment. I was living in the UK when “Odelay” was released, and although I heard “Devils Haircut” on BBC Radio 2 and I knew I’d like to hear more Beck … I never did. Anyway, I have it now on vinyl and I love it. Quirky and cool, but I’d certainly like to think that I appreciate it more now, with a wider musical appreciation gained over the years. But, who am I kidding –  I probably would’ve enjoyed it in my 20s too.

I discovered another bonus of membership to Vinyl Me Please, access to member-exclusive inventory in the VMP online store. To be honest, they had me at “member-exclusive inventory”.

Which leads to this months subscription: The featured album is The Books – “The Lemon Of Pink (first released in 2003) which judging from the description had me kinda freaked out. That internal filter was kicking in… But, I read the reviews and the album seemed pretty intriguing and certainly would reinforce the reason I joined – to expand my musical horizons! Nick Zammuto, cellist Paul de Jong, and vocalist Anne Doerner have made (from what’s described in the Vinyl Me Please, ‘Liner Notes’) an album containing “… the appearance of freak folk, musique concrète, electro-acoustic neo-classical, and cafe indie. But the songs shift in and out of form as if each measure of music was a replica made out of a million grains of sand.”

Hmm. I wouldn’t know yet.

Because I’ve already opened the 2 additional purchases I made at the VMP Exclusives Store (the “bonus” that I eluded to earlier).

Danny Brown – “Atrocity Exhibition” and The Chills – “Kaleidoscope World“.

First, Danny Brown. This is the (short) review that first propelled me to purchase this LP “Named after the second song on Joy Division’s Closer, Danny Brown’s 4th full-length project is the best post-punk album out this year. Danny has always rapped over the weirdest, best beats, and on this album, it sounds like he’s going off over a Pop Group compilation from 1981. It’s one of the year’s best rap albums, so don’t sleep.” … there’s a reference to Nine Inch Nails at some point too (well, the first track is titled “Downward Spiral”) so I was sold. I like what I’ve heard so far – even if I would categorise myself as more of an ‘old school’ Hip Hop fan, it’s difficult to not be entertained by the album. Cypress Hill-esque. Well, Danny Brown even features B-Real on the track (you guessed it) “Get High”.

Second, The Chills. I volunteered at the local University Student Radio station in my last year of High School, and these guys are a Dunedin band (deep in the South Island of New Zealand) that were obviously well supported by student radio and local music fans. I really loved “Pink Frost” – it’s been a favourite for years, but “Kaleidoscope World” was also popular and they even had some commercial success in New Zealand with “I Love My Leather Jacket”. Now, this compilation was released in 1986, when I probably should have bought it … but never did. Recently I saw this release advertised on the Flying Nun website, but the added shipping to Canada made this purchase seem rather exorbitant, so when I saw this featured on the VMP site, I took it as a sign. Anyway, this new release is packed with bonus material: “… the best of the magical early period recordings of The Chills and simply oozes excitement and possibility. Now re-issued on a deluxe 2xLP and 2xCD set, it will feature six bonus, b-sides, demos and live tracks plus an expanded gatefold cover with photos, and posters.

To be honest, since these only arrived this afternoon, I’ve only had a few minutes to open the package, carefully review the LPs and have a quick listen to a few tracks. As mentioned, I haven’t even opened the seal on The Books album, yet. Perhaps tomorrow. But that’s what loving and collecting vinyl is all about, enjoying the discovery and making time to appreciate and connect with the vinyl.

Small investment from the Calgary Music Collectors Show

Calgary Music Collectors Show

Small investment from the Calgary Music Collectors Show

My small investment from the Oct. 2016 Calgary Music Collectors Show

Some recent additions to my growing vinyl record collection, obtained at the most recent Calgary Music Collectors Show … I have to say I was very restrained, for no other reason than I wanted to get vinyl that I was actually looking to add to my collection – not an album or EP that I randomly discovered and thought, “Oh yeah, I should have that” – which is generally what happens (which can actually be quite exciting).  I was surprised didn’t really find any LPs that were on my ‘Want List’. But, I also resisted the urge to buy ’cause it was there in the bin in front of me. Well, almost.

Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was an impulse. I seem to already have a large selection of their EPs – and this was a 10 inch single. C’mon! The seller was keen to move her collection, so they were all on sale (half the marked price) so, I bought this and 2 Cold Chisel albums; “East” and “Circus Animals”.  The other 4 purchases were from another private dealer. The great thing about private dealers is they ask a reasonable price and have pretty cool collections without many fillers (generally). I would assume they don’t have the overheads most stores/professional collectors have and they seem to price based on their initial purchase price and what they think the vinyl is actually worth to a fellow collector. As a comparison, I looked through several “commercial” collections, found something I was looking for (ie: Killing Joke’s first self-titled album) only to discover it was priced at $69.00! Again, I’m assuming they looked on Discogs to see what the international market was willing to pay. These aren’t the deals I was looking for!
So, anyway – this private seller was a friendly guy to chat with, had several LPs (that I already own) for sale, and in general had a great collection. Suddenly – there it was – the EP of “Genius Of Love” – Tom Tom Club! Then, Bob Mould’s recent release “Beauty & Ruin” – coloured vinyl, still sealed and just $15.00. These were good finds! I kept flipping and went back through a pile to grab a copy of The Housemartins album “London 0 – Hull 4” which I had on CD back in the day and still had some sentimental value to me.

However, then I made a rookie error – I bought Devo “Freedom Of Choice’ … AGAIN! (I should thank my mate Pat in New Zealand, for pointing that out). I’m pretty sure I thought I was buying “Are We Not Men?” or the “Oh no, it’s Devo” LP. If I had been thinking, I would have checked my App ‘Music Collector‘ which is my go-to double-check music memory, on my iPhone. So I have another double-up. It’s been on my mind of how to off-load these double-up LPs. I could try using Kijiji – or perhaps even open my own Discogs store? Something to look into. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the small selection I found and although I wish there had been more from my “Want List” it was still a good 2hrs digging and chatting with other vinyl collectors!


Book Review: “Ctrl Alt Delete” (Advance Proof) – Mitch Joel

Ctrl Alt Delete

Mitch Joel – “Ctrl Alt Delete” due for publication April 21st, 2013

As I began to read ‘Ctrl Alt Delete‘ I didn’t realise how significant the title really was – I’m a Mac guy after-all. Obviously after seeing Mitch Joel speak during a recent marketing presentation, I expected some paradigm challenging concepts, insightful observations, and a relaxed thoughtful delivery.

During both the first few pages and on completion of the book, I was struck with a sense of urgency – reminding me of how I felt when I first saw “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. To me, Mitch’s basic pitch was “Marketing via direct relationships (social media) is already happening now people – and it’s not going away!”. Ctrl Alt Delete is an easy to read Marketing “How to” book, embracing modern digital marketing and a personal motivator, reminding readers that they must continue to be entrepreneurs of their own careers. Some great take aways that stuck in my mind included; keeping a “digital first” mindset, that my “squiggly” career path was not a negative thing, and to embrace a new way of thinking/functioning in your work space. A compelling read that must affect the way you think and function in your current (or future) work space. It’s not too late!

“We’re still learning” is not a Social Media Strategy.

As you may have already noticed, Social Media is quickly becoming a Customer Service-centric medium. While this may not have been the primary intention for bringing a business into Social Media, it has almost become the default for customers to provide feedback for a great product/service from a business.

However, with the good there must also be … the bad.

It appears the popularity and the hyper-aware environment of Social Media, has also created a public arena where grievances can be voiced, shared, re-shared and possibly even parodied/blogged.

This is obviously subject to some use and abuse. I will admit, I have unintentionally benefited from voicing my displeasure with product/services from national companies.

Let me reiterate – it was never my intention to “work the system” and publicly demand immediate service, or wrangle free parts. While I’ll admit the first (a bank) was out of sheer desperation and palatable frustration, the second (a faucet company) was simply a general inquiry to locate spare parts.

So, great Social Media Customer Service is abundant on-line and all is well with the universe! In fact, you would expect that with this caliber of customer appreciation from banks, to faucet companies that a Restaurant would be hyper-aware of the need for exemplary Social Media monitoring, reaction and … well, basic tact.

And yet … I had to watch in horror on Twitter, as I witnessed the equivalent of a shouting match in the middle of a restaurant (but on-line) between a customer & and restaurant owner. After the fact, I was also directed to a similar attempt at Social Media “engagement” between a restaurant and a customer – on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

To me, the obvious response is to acknowledge the issue (or at least clarify it first), if this issue cannot be immediately resolved, to ask for a phone number – better still, provide yours – and talk directly with the customer, out of a public digital domain.

In the Twitter example I have, this finally occurred about 6 interactions into the twitter face-off. That’s far too late! In the Facebook interaction below, the business seemed more intent on publicly disproving (almost bullying) the customer into submission with their “positive” concept of what they expected Social Media would be used for.

You cannot own Social Media. That’s the point – you use it to engage with your current/future customers.

While I can appreciate that in both both examples the representative of the restaurant is defending the “brand” – however, after hearing how they dealt with the comments, I was honestly left with a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended). Now my image of both the “brands” has been tarnished – by their own actions – with an obvious lack of Customer Service or even a basic understanding of Social Media.

I have a nagging suspicion that at the completion of their respective on-line conversations, both restaurants are under the impression that they where successful with their Social Media engagement. I completely disagree. In my opinion they failed. Badly. Then left a train wreck in public view.

I felt compelled to send (well, Tweet) both restaurant twitter accounts this link: “4 Reasons Why Customers Turn to Social Media for Service & Support” – however the reply back from one (and only one) was:

thanks Darrin. Great read 🙂 we are still learning

That’s nice. But if your company creates a Social Media presence – you first need to create a Social Media Strategy. What are you there for? What will your “voice” be? Who manages the accounts? What are your goals? Is there any ROI beyond branding and Customer Service? How will you create/manage promotions?

“We’re still learning” is not a Social Media Strategy.

Here are both the Social Media ‘interactions’ in their entirety, because (obviously) they are both still in a public domain. Out of respect names have been redacted.


Facebook Fail

Facebook Fail

Twitter Fail

Twitter Fail

“ … so your nephew got you on the Facebook, now what?”

with added “Twitter, more than feeding your cat”

Let me start by assuming you have registered a Facebook (Fan) Page for your business/have created a business Twitter account, … now comes the question: How can I effectively operate and maintain this Social Media presence?

Social media has become an integral part of how customers interact with companies and brands, notably Facebook & Twitter – making these mediums an increasingly important communications channel. Most enterprises use social media for customer acquisition, retention and loyalty.

Primarily, any use of social media should be to promote your product/service, with the goal being to complete a current or future sale (conversion).

Added benefits of Social Media include being able to;

  • keep your “brand” visible
  • providing customers with product/service updates
  • promote pre-notification of sales/promotions
  • notify of any unexpected operational changes
  • provide exclusive content/offers
  • publish general brand Public Relations (PR)
  • answering of Customers Service enquiries.

Facebook allows you to post updates directly to your Fan’s timeline (pages of people who “liked” you) so you really have an obligation to provide details/content that they can appreciate or better still “like” or “share”.
Therefore your goal on Facebook should be provide “sharable” content, or what are commonally known as “Social Objects”. Simply put, you want people to share/like/re-tweet your posts/updates. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be “sales” releated or on topic…

There’s a reason it’s called Social Media, not Sales Media.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but: people don’t want to be friends with brands. For the privilege of including your updates in your fans Facebook/Twitter timeline, you are given access to their data.

Apart from their email address, there’s also a huge amount of general user data provided in your Facebook Insights tab. As long as your updates remain relevant to your followers they will continue to provide the added benefit of “Liking” you on Facebook or “Following” you on Twitter.

When you become irrelevant or uninteresting, they may un-friend/un-follow/un-like. This is nothing personal, it’s just Social Media. It may be a business transaction, but remember any salesmen asks questions and starts a conversation – first. Then the “engaging” conversation should continue. If it doesn’t, then someone has to end it, right?


What’s the trick? Often you will hear the 80/20 rule being used. The premise being for every 80% sales pitch you make, you should include 20% off-brand conversation. I would suggest you switch that to 20/80 rule. 20% of your updates to include product/service information, the rest to provide information (links, re-tweets, re-posts) to content that is related to your brand – or even completely unrelated (think pictures of animals or cool gadgets). Similar to radio, tease what’s coming up, entertain your ‘listeners, provide sharable objects (fun facts, trivia, etc) and give stuff away (physical or intellectual).

May 4, as you may or may not know, is National Star Wars Day.
This year (2010) the occasion was also marked by the folks at BlackBerry, who updated their corporate Twitter account to read: “May the 4th Be With You.”
What does BlackBerry have to do with Star Wars? Not much, other than selling an app that turns your Torch or Tour into a faux light sabre. But that didn’t stop the tweet from being one of the company’s most effective – a phenomenon Brian Wallace, VP-global digital at BlackBerry parent Research In Motion, had to try to explain to colleagues.”I remember getting emails from my peers asking me why we would post such a thing and was this why we created our Twitter channel,” he wrote in an email interview:

“My response was that this post reached over 150,000 people, 98% of the posts were positive, most tweets made a positive association with our brand, and it drove a 15% increase in our followers. Now what’s the value of all that to our company? For the cost of $0.00 we have increased positive brand sentiment, generated a measurable earned-media value and now have 20,000+ more people who I can share product-related information to. Not a bad ROI.”

Mathew Creamer, Advertising Age, Nov. 29, 2010

What should you post to your Facebook/Twitter feeds?

Social Objects (Things people talk about/share), Your products/services, related industry news, Customer Service replies, positive comments about your brand, specials, and even … competitions.

Here’s some examples of possible Tweets, if you own/manage a clothes shop.

“See The Grammy’s last night? What about Charlize Theron’s dress? We have a very similar style in-stock! Come in to have a look, today.”

“RT: @Instyle See @JessicaBiel and Colin Farrell at the Los Angeles premiere of @TotalRecall”

“We had a huge shipment arrive today … but what’s inside these boxes?”

“Hi @customer, we’d be more than happy to help with your purchase, drop-in – we’re open until 9pm tonight.”

“Thanks for sharing! RT: @customer Bought some awesome Summer pants today @yourbusiness!”

WHO should create posts to your Facebook/Twitter feeds?

Preferably a person of some maturity, who jhas a stake in your business. Although this is a social medium, it is a representation of a business – your business. You want this to be as professional as any document used to represent your company. This needs to be the “voice” of your company – think Readers Digest. Coversational, yet always professional.

What are your Social Media Goals?

Our High School motto was: ”nihil boni sine labore” (nothing achieved without hard work) … and so begins the road with Social Media.

What may begin as a simple extension of your brand marketing, may soon develop into a Public Relations channel, or a Customer Service medium, all the time engaging in an on-going interaction (or conversation) with your potential market. SM connections may well become loyal customers, current customers may become brand advocates, and (hopefully) people who have yet to engage with you, will interact – leading to multiple conversions (purchases) and an on-going customer relationship. What’s your strategy?

– Set achievable goal(s)
– Regularly measure your progress
– Review & adapt as necessary


  • You may set a goal of increasing Fans (likes) to extend your brand awareness on-line.
  • Facebook has a built-in analytics monitor (Insights) which monitors your followers, and measures “Likes”,
  • “Reach”, “Talking About This”, and even “Check In” statistics.
  • Regular monitoring will allow you an insight into how your (on-line) market reacts to your updates/offers and
  • how you can best taylor your web-based promotions to generate engagement; shares, likes, & purchases.

If you’d like to know more about building your SM presence, and how integration with your print campaigns and E-mail Marketing can provide measurable benefits for your sales, you should connect with … a Social Media Expert?

Radio with Pictures … plus text, links, video, and interaction.

This was the Television programme I grew up watching (late nights on Sunday) in New Zealand – yes, we had television in the 80’s. I was always struck by the clever name, well, I was in my teens. Then I worked in radio for 10 years and learnt some pretty basic ways to interact with the “passive” audience, and how to make them want to interact with you. Social media really is Radio with Pictures … plus text, links, video, and one-to-one interaction … let me explain.

  • Be interesting/entertaining. Does any Radio Station/Music TV Channel have constant ads? No – they play music between the ads for a reason.
  • Provide fresh content, point to coming features/events and make sure it’s appealing – to someone. Share links, video or graphics!
  • Keep it short – word economy. This isn’t a University lecture. Stay on track.
  • Keep answering the phones – well, on-line that converts to replying to tweets/direct messages.
  • Give stuff away – online, this can be information (article links), or even links to free pdf/mp3 downloads, etc.
  • Keep it local – or national at least. Although this doesn’t always apply on-line, but if you share a local event, that will certainly add value to your social media impact.

This may seem pretty basic (dare I say groundbreaking) to you. But, seriously, this seems so obvious and second nature to me that I am continually astounded that others in the (Social Media) industry don’t understand how to interact. Or, at least how to illicit a response from your followers. Or what prompts your followers/fans need to actually interact. Or “Follow”. Or “Like”.

#Hastags … Social Media makes Television one of the many screens of engagement – why not Print?

Hashtag on American Idol
Notice the Hashtag on American Idol?

I admit it, I watch American Idol. It’s hard to avoid, often a train wreck, often provides some great TV, and … my wife has it set to record on our DVR. I would like to be able to say I hate every minute,  but I openly admit, it often prompts me to yell, hide my eyes, admire, resent, laugh, verbally abuse, shame or celebrate it’s many moments of made for reality television, erm, television.

<— But, this is what caught my eye. A Hashtag! #idol. I work for a company that is a news provider. The Chronicle Herald. We have a history in this market that spans over 150 years, as one of the last independent newspaper publishers in Canada. Obviously as most print publications work to transform from Newspaper providers into News Providers, we are making steps to create an on-line presence on many digital platforms. We strive to continue to display the Trust, Integrity, and Balance that a company with this much history is expected to provide. Specifically, I have a huge interest in Social Media, and as my current role dictates, I need to identify and communicate emerging developments and trends in this realm.

Back to Hashtags. These aren’t new. But the cross-media use of them is pretty new. You may have read blogs regarding the “4 (0r 5 depending on the author) Screens Of Social Media”. The premise being we use multiple screens to engage; Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, or Smart Phone. And obviously, Television.

My suggestion (although, not earth-shattering) is that hashtags should also be included in … print. Not in a QR Code kind of of use, but more in a Trending Topic way.

Example: Reading a news paper (or tablet, smart phone, etc.) news or Opinion article and you’d like to know what people are saying (ok, typing) about this topic. Boom – the author/publisher includes a Hashtag, and you have a new resource to investigate! A Hastag with an article would presumably give you access to an enormous pool of opinion and possibly useful, information – via Twitter.

If advertisers or brands can use these for products or other social objects (eg: television programs, dishwashing liquid, or Life Insurance) why not news stories? Opinion pieces? Or even … print ads?

There are potential pitfalls with utilizing hastags, however. Did you see what happened to McDonalds marketing disaster? Can you imagine if #idol was associated with a huge anti-Idol backlash? It can happen, and probably already has – but in this connected social media world we currently inhabit, what are the options?

I say let’s use hastags in print, to add value, diversity and open input to news stories – rather than avoiding them, in fear of the possible pitfalls.