Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Earache's MOSH number catalogue system.

Question: since earache does it im wondering, do you know where the numbering of the labels catalouge came from? i mean earache has its mosh numbers, factory has its FAC numbers and rise above and mute have their own numbering systems. Ive noticed its mainly indies that do it and not majors. For me its the difference between a label putting value on its back catalouge as opposed to seeing it as a product for sale. From:

Answer: Well, I'm glad you see it like that. I agree, its often a marker of how a TRUE indie label identifies their releases.Indie labels that formed in the 80's/ 90's and were of a punky type of mindset, had a habit of giving their releases a name and a number. The pre-fix of the catalogue number was just a quirk of the founder, and gave the releases a human element. Factory Records in the early days had the most amazing numbering system, they gave everything a FAC number, from the Hacienda Club they ran FAC 51, to the bloody office cat FAC 191- it was probably to thwart and confuse the mad collectors of the label, as well as have a bit of fun. Even founder Anthony H. Wilson's coffin at his funeral in 2009 had the final FAC number attached, FAC 501.

The reason labels did it, is that it was simply easier to remember them that way. This was before computerised lists and databases were widely used.True Indies could never afford computer systems or the salaries of the tech guys to run them, but the Major labels insisted that everything comply to their complicated, computerised numbering system. Back then, you could always tell a fake Indie label that had a hidden affiliation with a major label, because their releases would be called 76547-92 or some such complicated number.It would belie their Indie credentials as bogus, in an instant.

As I started Earache, I was planning in calling my releases ACHE 1, ACHE 2, ACHE 3 etc but a label called Manic Ears in Bristol pipped me to it, and since we went through the same distributor, I had to quickly think of a new identifying mark. I remember I was on the phone announcing ACHE 1 to the distributor, when the guy told me "You can't call it that, its already taken", I had literally 2 seconds to decide another catalog number so I blurted out the word "MOSH" down the phone. "OK, that'll work" was the reply, and so MOSH 1 was born. Luckily the word MOSH is still pretty cool,and we are now close to releasing MOSH 400, so it worked out OK.

Roadrunner records was in the early days an Indie, founded by ex-Polygram (Dutch Major) Industry marketing executive, Cees Wessels.As I recall, The RR numbering system started at 100000 and worked down from that 99999, 99998, 99997 etc. Nowadays Roadrunner is part of Warners, so I can't tell what their numbering system is anymore.

The emergence of iTunes and the other legal download platforms in recent years has transformed the music industry, and forced everyone to adopt computerised numbering, at least internally for royalty purposes. Any labels that could'nt cope with this change fell by the wayside. Apple accounts sales by reference to iTune's own Apple ID tag for each individual track. So, in this digital age, old fashioned, quirky catalogue numbers or even UPC/barcodes are pretty much inappropriate. Barcodes can only identify an album, yet itunes needs to identify each individual song on the album. To give you a sense of the scale of data now flooding into labels- Earache alone receives over a million pieces of sales data per month from the 13 iTunes stores, and this deluge of data can drown the unwary, non-database-savvy label. To cope with this, a lot of true Indies do nowadays come under the digital umbrella of a Major, who have the infrastructure and experience to cope with the sales of millions of catalog items at once.

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