with Patrick Monaghan of Carrot Top Distribution
Those of you who know me from my work in the music industry know I constantly recommend Carrot Top as a distributor. In my experience they are the most professionally acting one in the world. So though Patrick doesn’t run a store, I thought he’d have some interesting information for us all.
QRD – Why did you start running the distro? Was it just a natural extension of your label?
Patrick – Sort of. I started distributing other small labels as a collective under the CTR name around 1994 so that we would all have a better chance of getting paid by combining our irregular release schedules into a larger, more formidable alliance. That just grew into CTD in 1996.
QRD – How does Carrot Top differ from other distros (besides the fact that they pay labels without a hassle)?
Patrick – We do our best to focus on service, both with customers & vendors. We still try to carry the smaller titles from microlabels where we can. We work really closely with the amazing group of Chicago indie labels of whom we are blessed to be in the middle of.
QRD – What’s a mistake you’ve made with running distribution that you’d warn others against?
Patrick – Watch your non-returnables & receivables! Trust must be earned.
QRD – What do you think indie record labels could do to best help you, themselves, & indie stores?
Patrick – Keep trying to find the best ways to market their stuff. It’s a weird marketplace right now. Get their bands on the road & doing shows & in-stores! Do small co-op ads with stores, listening stations, banner ads, etc. That’s all pretty much the same as it’s always been.
QRD – What type of research do you do to decide what labels & stores to work with?
Patrick – We’ll work with any customer who wants to buy from us as long as we can work out the proper credit terms to keep us protected. With labels, it’s a combination of art & science. Knowing the marketplace & then guessing with your gut where you have no past history.
QRD – What do you think most leads to a particular record being a good seller?
Patrick – Pffft. If I knew that, the distributor & label would both be selling a lot more records.
QRD – How do you feel about so many stores closing & how does it affect you if at all?
Patrick – Well, it sucks, but in the last year especially there have been new ones opening. With the chains getting out of music, there’s definitely room in most markets for a well-diversified indie store. It is sad to see so many classic stores giving up though.
QRD – With portable MP3 players & iTunes, is the concept of the album (in any form) dying?
Patrick – I doubt it. I’m sure stuff is & will continue to be sold unbundled, but at least on the indie side, albums have been embraced as works of art, not bundles of singles & filler. Don’t see that ending any time soon. I suspect we’ll just see more digital singles released to promote albums.
QRD – Do you see yourself going into some kind of digital distribution service?
Patrick – Yes, though it had been a long road to figure out how to do it well & economically. I think we’re about there.
QRD – How has the downloading scene impacted your sales - do you find that people buy less CDs now because they can download them for less or do you or do you think illegal downloads are more of a culprit or something else?
Patrick – P2P has taken away a huge chunk of the music market. I think now we only sell to the tastemaker kids under 30 & the over 30s. The tastemaker kids still influence their friends, but now the friends just go download for free. CDs seem to mostly be selling to the older groups. There’s still a market there, it’s just shrunk, & like everyone else, we have to keep carefully broadening ourselves on all fronts.
QRD – How do you decide who to hire as an employee & when you need one?
Patrick – Probably just like everybody
else does. When we have too much work to do & a place to add
a person who can not only pick up slack, but add value to our company &
what we offer; then we start trying to find somebody. Every once
in a while we find the person first & have to find the work for them.
QRD – If you weren’t in the music business, what would you do?
Patrick – Sit in a hammock on an island or mountain with my wife, animals, & my pile of books & LPs.
QRD – How did your schooling & previous work experience prepare (or not prepare) you for your business?
Patrick – I got an honors liberal arts degree with concentrations in French & Psych. It prepared me to think critically & interact fairly well with others in an interpersonal level, but I’ve been playing catch up on the business side ever since I graduated & I’m still learning.
QRD – Have you ever refused to sell something purely because you disliked the music, even if it was popular & would sell?
Patrick – Not from an artistic standpoint.
I think we’ve turned down racist works in the past, & we do our best
to stay out of the fan club business. If somebody makes an artistically
awful album but our customers want it, we’ll carry it & sell it to
them. Our artistic judgments happen more with the small bands &
labels & even then we’re still looking for music that we think our
stores will like.
QRD – What makes you feel like you had a good day at work?
Patrick – Seeing the results of all of
the planning & thinking we’ve been doing over the last year start to
play out. We had our best quarter in 2 years this year & it’s
exciting to see how that’s going to continue.
QRD – Anything else?
Patrick – I love the people who are working
here right now, & I’ve been able to say the same thing 98% of the days
that we’ve been open the last 12 years. I still enjoy coming to work.