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Indie Label Appeases Hard-Core Record Collectors

Los Angeles – Los Angeles-based Collectors’ Choice Music is carving a very successful niche with the rerelease of some old albums that probably aren’t in your record collection.

Among 24 titles pouring forth this month from CCM – which issues its sets through its mail-order operation before taking them to stores – are the late producer Terry Melcher’s 1974 solo album, singer-songwriter Jamie Brockett’s 1969 cult favorite “Remember the Wind and the Rain,” four collections by ’70s L.A. pop tunesmith Andrew Gold, Sonny Bono’s 1967 solo record “Inner Views” and three entries by the ’80s cowpunk act Rank & File.

“The majors can’t be bothered with that (kind of material),” says CCM senior vp/general manager Gordon Anderson. “That means there’s a lot of catalog out there to be leveraged.”

At the major labels, the catalog business has come to resemble the strategy for new releases: Everyone is swinging for the big home run. The emphasis is on “deluxe editions” – topline, value-added reissues of classic titles – and, to a lesser degree than in previous years, high-end boxed sets. In many cases, coordinated TV-based marketing campaigns are formulated for new products by such major acts as Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Catalog divisions aren’t terribly interested in reissuing small runs of obscure albums – though Warner Music Group’s Rhino Handmade and Universal Music Group’s Hip-O Select both sell limited-edition sets via the Internet.

That prevailing philosophy gives an outfit like CCM plenty of room to move. “The repertoire isn’t easily accessed,” Anderson notes. “There are a lot of baby boomers out there who can’t find their music.”

CCM first takes its esoteric releases to consumers via its monthly mail-order catalog. (The firm, which was purchased from Playboy Enterprises by Chicago-based Infinity Resources in 2002, was established as a mail-order reissue operation in 1993; the in-house label was inaugurated in late 1994.) This month’s CCM mailer includes 752 domestic and foreign reissues in every imaginable genre, with CCM’s own titles serving as a lure.

After a period of mail-order exclusivity, CCM takes its wares to record stores. Last year, after a long association with Koch Entertainment Distribution, the company bought Orange, Calif.-based Hep Cat Distribution and is now self-distributed. “That’s a very important element of a successful reissue label,” Anderson notes.

CCM’s licensed titles sell in the 2,000- to 15,000-unit range. “We’re getting full retail (prices) on a significant part of that,” Anderson says. Thus, he adds, profit margins on a release can be as high as 70%.

Anderson’s reissues have found favor with a species of consumer that might be described as the “motorhead record collector.” He notes there’s sometimes a downside to dealing with this breed of music obsessive.

“We have thousands of customers, and they’re not shy about letting us know what we should put out,” he says. “Of course, you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt. I got 20 e-mails about an artist; I put out the record, and I sold 20 copies.”

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