Mechanics of the Barcode...?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jwschmidt, Oct 7, 2009.

  1. jwschmidt

    jwschmidt Guest

    Hi folks. I just started looking into getting a barcode for my first release. What everyone knows and will tell you is that you need a barcode if you want the cd to be "tracked" by soundscan, once you register it with them. What I can't find out is how, exactly, this tracking takes place.

    My only experience with barcodes is when I'm purchasing something. This always requires the cashier to scan the barcode with a laser and make it beep. Clearly, thats "recording" the purchase in the store's database. Since I will be doing most of the selling of this cd, how does one properly record each individual purchase in a way that takes note of the barcode? Do I need to buy my own laser scanner? That doesn't sound right.

    My understanding was that cd barcodes get scanned en masse when they are sent from the manufacturer to the distributor, care of the record label. How does it work for those of us who are not working with a distributor? And what about consignment? What system do you folks use to properly log your barcoded cd sales to record stores... and are the folks at the stores going to give your cd the laser treatment when they sell it as well? How does that recorded sale get back to you and then on to soundscan?
  2. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    If you did want your own scanner loook up barcode pens on the internet. They plug into a usb port and read barcodes and have software that tracks them.
    They can be used for cd co;;ections, personal inventory, etc.
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Congratulations on the first release! Now the real work begins. By all means, get barcoded - it will give you credibility and make it easier for subsequent retailers and distributors.

    I don't want to rain on your parade, but the barcode doesn't do you any good with the product you sell at your shows. Even if you carried around a cash-register that could scan UPC - they (Soundscan) would never believe you. For all they know you're scanning them and putting them back in the box. People have been cheating at that for years, so they will never believe someone with a vested interest.

    People with deep pockets would buy (at wholesale) 100,000 or more copies of their book or CD, and put it in a warehouse. Wow, look at that, their book is on the best-seller list, or their CD has gone gold in 2 weeks - number #1 with a bullet. Once the hype-machine is running full-throttle, they can sell the 100,000 pcs out of the warehouse and recover that money. This may just be my opinion, but as far as I can tell, all the "top forty" type charts are a load of crap.... but I digress....

    If you are selling CDs through legit retailers and distributors, you will get tracked into someone's database. Even then, I think Soundscan will only take a random sample of retailers of interest. I don't think they could possible tally every single CD sold through every possible retail that sells CDs, so they try to take a cross-section sample and extrapolate the results. (royalties from radio play definitely work that way). If you're selling consignment product from a countertop display at your hometown drug-store, it may get scanned by their cash register, but doubtful it will ever get tallied at Soundscan. Hometown record store... maybe - but record stores are going the way of the dodo bird. Chain record stores may take your product on consignment, but will want a bigger piece of the sale. And you need to have major-label backing to get into the megalo-marts. (don't forget online avenues, both disc sales and downloadable)

    If you sell 1000 units out of the trunk of your car and re-order, your disc manufacturer will notice. Do that a couple times and they may have contacts in the industry that will hear about it.

    Getting radio airplay is extremely difficult these days with so many stations being fed via satellite. But getting airplay will get you noticed, so do whatever you can to find regional commercial stations / college stations that still have a program-director or music-director. College radio is usually more receptive. Offer an interview and/or in-studio performance. Makes them feel important, and gets you on the air.

    Bottom line: I don't think an indie release should worry about chasing a major-label deal. With product you sell at the shows you keep 100% of the profit, vs. 1% - 5% (if you're lucky) with the elusive major label record-contract. If you've got a great sounding CD already, you don't want a recording contract - you should be looking for a distribution deal. Don't get overly concerned with a major label deal - it's usually a mirage that's not all it's cracked up to be. I think they've ruined more careers than they've made. They don't care about building a catalog anymore, they want one-hit-wonders.

    Try to make the most of what you've got, by selling product at your shows and making a name for yourself as a performer locally and regionally. If you've got something special going on, there will be a buzz, the industry will notice. And if they come knockin, leave the chain on the door at first. If they put some kind of offer on the table, find an attorney who specializes in entertainment law to be your new BFF.

    Keep doin what you're doin, most of the "overnight success" stories have spent 10 years laying the groundwork.
  4. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Nov 16, 2004
    Excellent comment.

    (The info on the major label industry smoke screen is great. Being signed to a major label is not what it used to be. If you get to the point where they want you, you can just continue along and do it yourself. With technological advances, and the current mindset of most fans, you will do better indie, most likely.)
  5. jwschmidt

    jwschmidt Guest

    Thanks a bunch, Dvdhawk, for that excellent reply. I'm definitely not looking for a major label deal. In fact, I posted the question because I realized that this is something I should just learn to deal with myself.

    The key nugget you threw out there seemed to be that Soundscan works by taking a "random sample of retailers of interest", so it sounds like I don't need to fret about meticulously watching every barcode scan.

    But soundscan aside, how is a barcode necessary for retail?
    If I manage to put some records on consignment at a local store, will they just automatically be able to utilize the barcode printed on the CD?

    And if I manage to get some kind of legit distribution, does the same principle apply? Will the distributor basically say, "oh yep, I see you got your barcode there, we can use that."?

    Final extra credit question. My understanding is that you can get a barcode either by paying discmakers (or some other company) a little extra, or by registering with the UCC for $700. In the case of the former, the barcode itself will indicate that it is a "discmakers" product, whereas the latter would give you a barcode that is specific to your company. Is this difference at all relevant to tracking sales, or something to be concerned about?
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    Places like Borders or Barnes & Noble or Hastings will generate their own bar code labels. They won't use anything pre-printed on the liner. Smaller stores might use them.
  7. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
  8. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    In that case, I wouldn't worry at all about 'meticulously watching every barcode scan.' I would, however, worry about being meticulous in keeping track of how much product went where: to distributors, or out on consignment. Organization and record keeping are not the strong-suit of most musicians, but you seem like you might be the rare breed of musician that can handle it.

    Don't move any product in or out of a store without a high ranking store employee signing for it, coming and going. If the store doesn't have a consignment agreement of their own already, make something that spells out exactly how many units they took on consignment, the mutually agreed upon selling price, and what percentage ( in dollars and cents ) they keep from units sold. It also needs to specify that you retain ownership of any unsold product and the duration of the agreement. When the agreement is up, you both can renew, or you have a limited time pick up any unsold merchandise. If you don't show up within the timeframe specified, they can dispose of your product anyway they see fit. If you give them an in-store promo copy, make note of that too - so there's no confusion about whether their store copy came out of inventory. Then make the rounds to these stores regularly, so you can keep them stocked and settle your account from time to time. [ don't cram your countertop display to capacity - make it look like someone else already took one ]

    BONUS QUESTION: I don't think it matters where you get the barcode from, just register your number (for free) with Soundscan.

    The barcode isn't necessary for retailers. It will make it easier for some retailers and will be of no use to others. Even if you decide to plunk down the money for your own barcode, be prepared for some retailers to stick their own UPC label on your product - either over your UPC, over your otherwise brilliant cover art, or over your picture! (it's like they got monkeys running the pricegun) I've also seen them incorporate a magnetic anti-theft strip into the sticker. Two birds, one stone. Any product missing when you come back to settle up is presumed sold, so they don't want your discs walking out the door.

    If you accidentally sell enough copies of an indie release that could have made the charts, you'll be too busy counting your money to care about whether or not anybody was tracking it. In which case, I hope you have your tax affairs in order.

    Congratulations again, and good luck!!

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