Songwriters Back Story #8 – A heads up to my fellow artists

We all know it’s true. Bluegrass fans are some of the best people in the world, and they really look out for the artists and their music. Where would we be without the support of our unofficial “street team”? An example of one of these vital team members would be Paul from Pinehurst, NC. Paul contacted my manager Mary Sack last week to report his suspicions of an Amazon order he placed for two of my albums, Pennsylvania Coal and Thunderbird. The CDs arrived in Paul’s mailbox in old plastic jewel cases with poorly printed front covers and plain white type printed on the inserts. Strangely enough, they also had barcodes printed on the inside j-card and “CD Baby” written beside that. Although they were two separate albums, the front covers were identical photos (from Thunderbird), only with different song titles listed on the inside. Paul went the extra step to take photos and send those to us. My first reaction was, “PIRATES!” These CDs looked poorly bootlegged, and I was sure that the sound quality would be even worse. See for yourself in the photos from Paul below.

It was a pretty upsetting event, considering that this was not the way I wanted the music to be presented. I can’t imagine any artist would. After I calmed down, I called CD Baby. Mary made a few calls as well. Long story short, we discovered that somehow, back when I signed up for CD Baby, I checked all the boxes – because, you know, I wanted to make sure the music would get to as many people as possible. Somewhere in the fine print, I missed the part about “if we run out of physical copies, Amazon will rip some and send out to purchaser” or something along those lines. All that time, I wondered why it had been over a year since Amazon had re-ordered these two albums. I was getting paid for digital sales, but had NOT been paid for physical sales in a good while. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Good thing Paul was.

In addition to writing an email to CD Baby, I got a rep on the phone and asked him to “opt me out” of the “disc on demand burn copies.” I also let him know that I thought CD Baby ought to notify their subscribers that they too may have over-checked the boxes at sign up. When you are an indie artist, or even signed to a label (as my last album, These Hills, which is currently signed to Mountain Fever Records), you are wearing so many hats, and the minutia can slip past you pretty easily. Some transparency from CD Baby on these small details wouldn’t be a bad idea. So I’m writing to let my fellow artists and labels know about this. Below is the email I received from CD Baby confirming my “opt out” of the “disc on demand” feature. You all may want to check your CD Baby/Amazon subscriptions as well, because after all, so much is out of our control in this crazy music business, but we should be able to choose on how our music is being presented.

As for my hero, that knight in shining armor, Paul, I personally sent him FREE CDs with my signature along with a note of my sincere gratitude.

Hello Irene,

Greetings of the day. Hope you are doing well.

I do understand that your fans are receiving incorrectly burned “Amazon Services” physical CDs rather than the official CD’s provided by you.

I would like to inform you that orders for inventory are automatically generated based on current and anticipated customer demand and inventory storage availability. Amazon’s ordering and inventory management systems are dynamic and predictive. Many factors are considered, including inventory management, lead time, forecasting and publicity events.

Please note that we do not place manual orders. Orders are placed by our system based on demand for your respective title(s).

However, I would also like to inform you that the product is set up correctly for ordering and I have made the necessary changes and you will be receiving orders for these 2 titles (Pennsylvania Coal & Thunderbird) in the next few ordering cycles based on current and forecasted customer demand.

I hope I was able to assist you with your query. It has been a pleasure helping you.

Thank you for being a valuable amazon vendor. Do take care and have a wonderful day ahead!

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About the Author

Irene Kelley

Irene Kelley’s signature mix of Bluegrass, Country and Americana appeals to music lovers across all genres. A native of Latrobe, PA, Irene Kelley discovered her flair for songwriting as a teenager and soon found her way to Nashville, TN where her songs were quickly noticed and recorded by Carl Jackson, Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White. While recording an album for MCA and independently releasing 3 more critically acclaimed records and touring worldwide. Her new bluegrass album, These Hills was released on Mountain Fever Records in May of 2016 to critical acclaim. Irene raised two daughters and scored cuts with Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, Loretta Lynn, Pat Green, Brother Phelps, Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Darrell Scott, The Whites, the Osborne Brothers and others.