As part of these “production and distribution” deals, Touch and Go would front labels the money to press new records, then make quarterly payments to each of them that represented any profit the records were making balanced against those expenses. Rusk declined to comment for this piece, so it’s hard to be sure why he decided to scrap this system, but the brutal financial climate, coupled with rise of downloading and file sharing–which has seen record stores drop like flies and sales of music plummet–must be a big part of the reason. (In his official statement he mentions “the current state of the economy.”) His company has long been praised for its efficiency and refusal to chase growth for its own sake, so it’s hard to imagine it would make such a traumatic change unless it were necessary for its survival.
The biggest labels, such as KRS and Drag City, are already taking care of business with other distributors. They will probably follow the lead of Merge, who had used Touch and Go for several years, but has gone directly through ADA for the past few years. ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) is “the largest distributor of physical and digital independent music in America,” and is part of Warner Music Group.
If you care about independent music you may have already heard about Touch and Go ending its distribution services for other indie labels such as Drag City, Emperor Jones, Estrus, Jade Tree, Suicide Squeeze, and many others. These are tough times for independent musicians and the labels that put out their music. It’s important to support these people, and you can consider your duty to step up and pay for independent music. Buy some records, people!
Glorious Noise talked briefly to Kill Rock Stars‘ Maggie Vail via email about what’s next for KRS.
GLONO: Are there other manufacturers who can give you good rates?
KRS: Yes, before we started working with Touch and Go in 2002 we had previously always manufactured our own stuff and that was fine. That said, we may get another p&d [pressing and distribution] or m&d [manufacturing and distribution] deal. We don’t know yet.
Coming on the heels of the indie label revolt against eMusic, Touch and Go has announced the opening of its own digital shop where fans can purchase individual tracks and full albums available as DRM-free 256kbps MP3 files as well as some “CD quality 16 bit and above CD quality 24 bit WAV files” for certain titles.