Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Amazon Is Unfair To Independent Musicians

To Whom It May Concern:
An Independent Musicians Rant

Sony Holland's new CD 'Sanssouci' is available at CD Baby, iTunes and yes... Amazon.
Dear Amazon, I have purchased a lot of products from your site so I thought it would be great to have you sell my CDs. Unfortunately, it just isn’t working out so well. I wish I could break up with you but I am compelled to sell CDs on your site. Because you are so well-known most people assume that you are fair and reputable. They order from you no matter how hard I try to steer them to CD Baby, which is much better suited to independent musicians like myself. If I don’t “play ball” with you the only CDs of mine people will find on your site will either be used or illicit. I’m sure there are thousands (likely tens of thousands) of independent musicians who feel the same way as I do. We may not sell a lot of CDs individually, but collectively we do. However, you certainly won’t pick up the phone to address these concerns. As if the music business isn’t hard enough I am stuck in a one-sided relationship with you. So Amazon, I don’t expect you to change but I hope that at least some of my friends and fans will now understand why they should make their CD purchases at CD Baby instead. I can charge them less at CD Baby and still earn more.

1) You only pay me 50% of the sale price. Even the stingiest retailer gives me more than you do. I make even less at Amazon than I get from iTunes for selling an mp3. After all of the time, effort and money I put into recording and manufacturing a CD those are not good terms.

2) To make matters worse, that doesn’t even include the cost of mailing a CD to you. So I have to subtract another $1.00 for a padded mailer and $1.50 for postage from what I make.

3) My postage costs are unnecessarily high because it is your policy to keep an inadequate stock of CDs. I usually have to send them to you as ordered, 1 or 2 at a time. That gets very time consuming and requires extra packaging as well.

4) This one really kills me! My fans come to your site looking to buy one of my CDs. Yet you allow people who sell ‘used’ CDs of my music to compete directly with me for the sale and on the same web page! The majority of people don’t stop to think that I don’t make a penny when they purchase a used CD…and, believe me, I need the money. You should have a separate section to sell used items, like the bargain bin at a bookstore.

5) Some of these ‘used’ CDs were promo CDs that were sent to radio stations or critics who then turn them into cash. It's frustrating to compete for a sale with something I gave away. You could easily discourage this but you don’t.

6) I have put a lot of time, energy and money into updating my back catalog. Each time I’ve sold out of my original run of discs, I’ve upgraded the product before re-manufacturing it. In some cases I have re-sung the vocals, remixed the tracks and improved the packaging. Still, you display used versions of the old CDs on the same page as my updated product. Visitors to your site have no way of knowing the difference between the two versions and there is little I can do to warn them.

7) You allow some of your approved Amazon sellers to hawk my “out of print” CDs for rip-off prices. It’s upsetting when someone asks me why I’m selling an old CD for $25 - $100. They aren’t aware that I’m not the one selling it, that I won’t make a penny on it and furthermore I wanted it to go out of print because I’ve improved the quality of my product and repackaged it.

8) Another illicit thing your approved retailers do is to offer my CD to your customers for a few cents less than list price. When someone takes the bait, they order the CD through a distributor at a discount and then complete the transaction. You may say, “too bad kid, that’s just the way free market capitalism works”! But CD Baby doesn’t do this. I wish you would protect the artist instead of the middle-men, but you don't care who profits as long as you get your cut.

9) Some of the CDs that are sold on your site are of suspicious origin. I’m not sure how a “seller” can offer new Sony Holland CDs that don’t originate from me since I am the only manufacturer. Plus, who are these people that say they have my CD "in-stock" and definitely did not get it from me or a distributor. Something isn’t Kosher.

10) The entire way you interact with independent musicians is cold, impersonal and entirely one-sided. It is like dealing with a Soviet era bureaucracy when I have a question or a problem. Even your new “Artist Page” is set up very poorly. The artist can’t control what shows up front and center. Guess what shows up most prominently? Used versions of my outdated CDs! That is EXACTLY what I don’t want people to come across first.

I know this is a small gripe in a world full of real troubles but sometimes a woman just has to say what's on her mind!

Sony Holland


  1. Being an author who sells my books at Amazon I can certainly sympathize. The royalties are ridiculous and what really infuriates me is that they allow people to advertise your CD or in my case, one of my books at an exorbitant price and if a customer orders from them, what these "criminals" basically do is order the CD at your price and have it drop-shipped to the customer and they receive a huge profit. I did not know any of this until one of my books was published. I hadn't even sold a copy and saw on the Amazon page that someone was selling it used for over $250.00 which completely shocked me. I did some research and found out that there are people who regularly do this and Amazon allows them to facilitate this practice.

    Amazon has the name recognition so people will automatically go for something they know. Personally when I am going to buy a CD I always check with CD Baby first. I bought your CD's and your mp3's with CD Baby. They are fast, efficient and very friendly, It's a breeze to order from them.

    One other thing I'd like to mention then I'll stop ranting is that with authors, Amazon does not release any info about the customers so we have no way of knowing who bought our books and as a result cannot even thank them. Not a good business practice.

    The bottom line as you know is they just don't care. They should allow the artist to have complete control over pages, contents etc... but they don't.

    I'm glad you got all of that off your chest. The public needs to know how they operate.

  2. Wow, Sony, that's rough! I always try to find my CDs/MP3s on CD baby first but I do like a few more mainstream bands and they are not possible to find there. Which means I end up on sometimes, which is a shame, and I may try to find somewhere else to shop now that I know the full story of their practices!

  3. Thanks, I'm glad you look at CD Baby first. One difference is that CD Baby exists to help "independent" artists sell CDs. By that I mean musicians who have recorded and released music on their own. Amazon may have different terms with the big record companies, I really don't know...