Indie Label Suppliers and Services

A Knowledge Pool

We believe strongly in sharing information, and in supporting other folks who are trying to make cool music available, whether those people are artists or other labels.

This list represents my subjective experiences in dealing with a few of the suppliers who provide services to indie labels. I would very much like to see this list represent the opinions and experiences of a wide range of indie labels and individual artists. Please contribute your experiences, good or bad, and help your fellow music publishers find the better suppliers, by sending e-mail to suppliers@racerrecords.com.


CD Duplicators

Most of Racer's CDs were duplicated at

Olde West
3130 20th St, Ste 308
San Francisco, CA 94110
415-647-7100

I had terrific experiences with Olde West, but unfortunately, they're no longer doing business. My hat goes off to them, though, for years of excellent service.

Another company I worked with is:

WMG
8472 Brookville Rd
Indianapolis, IN  46239
317-353-1113

WMG was the second CD duplicator I used, and my experience with them was pretty good. They did duplication on Big Umbrella's Guru, Wonderboy's Abbey Road to Ruin, and Amy X Neuburg & Men's Utechma. They gave me a good price and were responsive to my phone calls (although they didn't have an answering machine, and if I called after 5 pm, I couldn't leave a message - a real hassle given the time difference between California and Indiana). The reason I switched away from using WMG is that it took so long for CDs to be shipped all the way back to California, and it costs more. I switched to a manufacturing plant in California.

I'll have more to say about the other manufacturers I've used in the near future. Please contribute your experiences by writing to suppliers@racerrecords.com.


Booklet Printers

I did a lot of work with a printer in LA:

Graphland
676 W Wilson, Unit G
Glendale, CA 91203
818-545-8655

During the time my rep, Jim Tittle, worked there, I was very happy with them. At the time, I wrote, "They're fast, they have terrific prices, they're really nice (ask for Jim Tittle), and they're reliable. I would say their quality is not the very very best there is; but it costs three times as much to get the very very best. Graphland's quality is really very good, and certainly excellent value for the money. (Keith Ewing, the exacting designer of all three Big Umbrella packages, was very happy with Graphland's work, and I've always been happy with the booklets I've gotten.) I feel very comfortable recommending Graphland to anyone else looking for CD booklets."

However, Jim moved on to another printer, Color Image, and I moved with him. I was repeatedly unhappy with Color Image, and don't recommend them to others. (Jim moved on again soon after that, too.)

I don't currently have a booklet manufacturer recommendation.


Shipping Boxes

When you're shipping CDs out to customers, radio stations, and the press, you need to have a good package to mail stuff in.

I have always tried to avoid using bubble-pack mailers, because they're so horribly unrecyclable.

Recently, I found a CD shipping box that seems really good. It's made by:

Mail Safe
Nationwide: 800-848-6552
West Coast: 800-898-6245
International: 312-523-6000
The box I've ordered is called the CD Compact Case, and I think the catalog number is MST4 (not to be confused with MST3K, he he he). It's a very thin box, and I had real reservations about making the switch, but so far the few CDs I've mailed in these boxes appear to have arrived in good condition, and a college music director I talked to today said he really liked getting CDs in these boxes. The boxes are made from recycled materials.

When I need a thicker box, or need to mail more than one CD at a time, I use shippers from:

Tharco
2222 Grant Avenue
San Lorenzo, CA  94580-1892
510-276-8600
They have a number of boxes made out of corrugated cardboard that are very sturdy. They've recently added a line of highly recycled containers.

I used to use their corrugated folding boxes for single-CD packages, but it was much more work to fold and seal them than the new Mail Safe boxes, and they're a little heavier than the Mail Safe boxes, which added to my postage costs.


Telephone

I have recently decided to drop my long distance company:

LDDS/Worldcom
800-275-6070
I'm switching instead to LCI, which has slightly better rates.

They will provide my incoming 800 number service and my long distance. In addition to having really good (low) rates, they charge by the tenth of a minute - which means if you make short phone calls, you aren't charged for a full minute.

I also use my local phone company's voice mail. The Pacific Bell Message Center is far from perfect, but it does provide me with 100 message slots in three separate extensions: I use one for regular messages, one for sampler requests, and one for orders. The great thing is that it can handle several messages at once - so if the Racer phone number is given out on the radio, or in a newspaper article, there's no problem if 20 people call at the same time. It worked much better for me than a regular answering machine, and better than an answering service, which I used for a while.


Publications

The only trade magazine I currently subscribe to is:
CMJ
11 Middle Neck Road, Suite 400
Great Neck, NY 11021-2301
800-CMJ-WKLY
516-466-6000
email: cmj@cmjmusic.com

The CMJ weekly magazine lists all the college radio stations that report to them, and has reviews and stuff too. All I personally ever look at is the charts and the full listing of playlists. Their annual directory, in and of itself, is pretty valuable. I've started looking at their online service. I originally had very mixed feelings about it, but I've started to think I might actually use some of the online searches. They charge for each search on their Web site; depending on how much of that info you need, it may be worth it for you.

The other commonly used trade magazines are:

Radio and Records
10100 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310-553-4330
email: rnrla@aol.com

and:

Billboard
1515 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
212-764-7300
I have bought individual issues of both of these magazines, but I've never subscribed. They seem more useful for the more-established, bigger labels.


UPC

For goodness' sake, get yourself a UPC. In my experience, retailers really like to have UPCs on the CDs they buy. You can reach the Uniform Code Council at:
Uniform Code Council
8163 Old Yankee Road, Suite J
Dayton, OH 45458
513-435-3870

At the time I signed up, it cost about $300 to join. Once you've done that, you have a unique company code, and you can merrily apply UPCs to your CDs and cassettes.

The specifications for UPCs are pretty strict. One way to produce them is to buy a specialized UPC typeface. I did that, and it worked well for one project but failed to print on another, leaving me a little wary of using it. A more reliable method of getting UPCs, in my experience, is to use a company that produces EPS files. The folks I use are:

Accugraphix
16541 Gothard St., Suite 109
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
714-847-6674

You call them up and give them the UPC number you need, and they send you out an EPS file you can insert into your desktop-publishing artwork. (You ARE using desktop publishing, aren't you?) Due to my own poor planning, I usually call them at the last minute, and want the file right away. Getting it from them right away can be a bit of a hassle, so try to remember to do this early on in the game.


Computers

Macintosh

I could not begin to do my job without my computer.

I have done work for Apple as a consultant, but even before I ever visited their offices, I was a total Mac snob. I think Macs are easier to use, friendlier, and more fun than any other computer I've ever used. All kinds of info about Apple is online.

ClarisWorks

There are a handful of software applications that I use regularly in running Racer. Two of them are made by Claris - ClarisWorks and HyperCard. One of my greatest joys is to be using a program and think to myself, "Hmmm ... I wonder if it does THIS", try it - and find out it works, just the way I thought it would. Both ClarisWorks and HyperCard have provided me with this particular joy on many occasions. I use ClarisWorks extensively, for creating faxes (including my weekly radio fax), doing spreadsheets (including my year-end inventory and cost of goods sold), and doing basic page layout (including the one-sheets I send to distributors). It's so so well designed and integrated, it's a joy to use. I think everyone should own it.

Panorama

The program I use most - even more than ClarisWorks - is a little database program called Panorama, available from:

ProVUE Development 
18411 Gothard, Unit A
Huntington Beach, CA  92648
714-841-7779

(The phone number may be wrong; they didn't include it in their latest manual.)

Panorama doesn't feel as friendly or intuitive to a lot of people as FileMaker Pro, Claris's database, but no other Mac database meets my needs the way Panorama does. It's not a relational database, but it does a pretty good job of faking it. It's extremely fast (being all RAM-based), and it's wonderfully customizable - you can even record scripts using the built-in macro language, and then edit the macros to suit your needs exactly. It's the sort of thing a hacker's more likely to love than a novice (especially the way I use it), but I've never seen its combination of features in any other Mac program.

GeoQuery

GeoQuery is a really spiffy mapping program. I don't use it a lot, but it's always extremely useful when I do use it. It takes data from a database and maps it so you can see what's going on. I've used it to map sampler recipients across the USA (showing which states got the most, and also where the requests tended to cluster), and more exciting, I've used it to locate Tower records stores that were in the vicinity of radio stations where Racer artists were getting airplay. GeoQuery is available from:

GeoQuery Corp.
PO Box 206
Naperville, IL 60566-0206
708-357-0535

Please, please contribute to this list. I'd really like to see a variety of opinions here on a variety of suppliers and services. Knowledge is power; shared knowledge makes all of us stronger. Please help make this more useful to everyone by sending your experiences to suppliers@racerrecords.com.