The Free Record Shop: Music retailer as online sales performance venue?
ANTWERP -- A Benelux music retail chain has come up with an innovative solution to declining music retail sales: The Free Record Shop's formula to combat dropping CD revenue is to offer two tickets to an in-store music performance with each pre-order CD-sale.
With over 80 stores in Belgium and Luxembourg, The Free Record Shop's (FRS) business concept has been tested with a combination of live showcases, autograph sessions and album release events by both domestic artists (N8N Ambach, Tom Dice, A Brand, Sandrine) and foreign talent (Dutch DJ Armin Van Buuren, Live's Ed Kowalczyk and chanteuse Kat Deluna), which, according to FRS, has resulted in increased CD sales (FRS declined to give exact numbers for this story.)
"The idea was to give additional value to the physical product with pre-saleorders," says Kim Ratajczak, senior product coordinator with Free Record Shop (FRS). "People who pre-order the new album get an invitation for the Free Record Shop Live concert or showcase."
The Free Record Shop Live concerts are staged both at the 600-capacity Coca Cola hospitality centre in Antwerp (notice the branded stage name) as well as in other venues in other Free Record Store shops
"At present we're looking at some 20 to 40 events per year and the industry has jumped on our train as well," says Ratajczak. "This month, we are welcoming five artists including School is Cool (Keremos) and Sony Music signing Kato for their album roll-outs. The production expenses are partially sponsored by the partner-locations, and we note an increasing interest from venues to host FRS Live events," he continues.
Sony Music signing Kato will have her album roll-out at the Free Record Shop.
Ratajczak says that with FRS organizing the live concerts for more than a year now, the numbers are impressive. "We see that the Free Record Shop market share in the week of release accounting for between 30-45% of the total album sales," he says. "This indicates that Free Record Shop Live is more than a concert venue: the whole thing is sales-based with a clear focus on the artist. In addition, we get access to a credible audience by introducing niche artists in the Free Record Shop Live project."
"Playing live for Free Record shop was great experience," says Franky Desmet-Vandamme, of metal band Channel Zero. "We couldn't wait to perform our new material before an audience of die-hard fans, and the event meant a true boost for our new "Feed Em with a Brick" album (CNR)."
Rocking the In-Store: Belgian metal band Channel Zero says the Free Record Shop was a "great experience" and brought out an audience of "die-hard fans."
Tom De Meijer, general manager with CNR Records Belgium is similarly excited by the approach. "I'm convinced that there will always be an audience that wants to listen to a complete album and enjoys buying a CD in the store itself - and that's exactly what Free Record Shop is doing here, and we're more than willing to support this."
At press time, Free Record Shop Benelux is investigating the possibility of introducing the concept to The Netherlands, where the chain operates some 190 stores.