I have decided to end the FSM CD label with our 250th album (coming in spring 2012). FSMCD Vol. 14, No. 14 (Not With My Wife, You Don’t! Vol. 2) is album #240, which means there are ten to go. Look for some big Silver Age thrills and surprises in those last ten CDs!
This column is what you’d call “breaking the news” so I want to do this briefly, and reassure you of two things:
1) The FSM website is not going anywhere—I intended to keep it, and the message board, as a “legacy” product, paid for by sales of the FSM inventory.
2) I am not going anywhere either! I love film music, I love working with it and preserving classic scores on CD, and I will keep an active hand in producing and co-producing titles for the various specialty labels. (Hey, I need to eat!)
So why do this? I have grown tired of “feeding the dragon”: coming up with 20 albums a year (at least), from conception through licensing, production, design, QC’ing (quality control), and the interminable paperwork…contracts, purchase orders, and especially royalty reports.
As our catalog has grown, so has the back-end administration: repressing titles, tracking down boxes of old booklets, filling out quarterly sales reports to the licensors. It was a chore 12 years ago—nowadays, I loathe it.
A few months ago, as I was managing the catalog, I counted up our albums to date (including the Retrograde titles and box sets) and saw that we would hit #250 in around nine months (now, six months). It seemed like a good place to stop.
There is one overriding reason I feel comfortable in closing the label: the state of recorded film music has never been better. People used to circulate “gag” new release lists on April Fool’s Day, containing “Holy Grail titles”—Alien, Back to the Future, expanded James Bond scores, Star Trek movies, etc. The joke was we’d never see these in a million years. Nowadays, we have most of them in our collections!
I flip through my iTunes and play The Omega Man, Predator, Days of Heaven, The Black Hole, Bullitt…it’s insane. These things were fantasies for us to have—or at best, we’d trade noisy cassettes through the mail. Nowadays, they all exist on my computer—probably yours too. Hot damn.
(I keep the physical packages on CD racks—and towers, and shelves, etc.—for easy retrieval. Film score CD documentation and packaging has never been more elaborate. I like to think I had a hand in that development as well.)
So life is good, and life goes on. In the coming months, we’ll reminisce about some of the behind-the-scenes adventures of making the FSM catalog. We’ll announce plans to delete many titles, while keeping others available for, hopefully, years to come. (What’s the point of releasing Days of Heaven if it doesn’t stay available?) You’ll see my name on CDs from the other labels (those who have looked closely have already noticed). And we’ll roll out the last ten albums—including some must-buy Holy Grails.
There will be time for extended thank-yous to the many people who have helped us—especially you, the listeners. But to start, I need to thank one person in particular: Craig Spaulding at Screen Archives Entertainment, our distributor since 2004. Some time that year (it’s a blur), I decided I had had enough of mail-order fulfillment and called Craig: “Hey, will you take this stuff?” He said yes—pretty much this quickly—I sent him the entire inventory on pallets and that was that.
(When we had the inventory on pallets waiting for the truck—on the curb at La Cienega Ave. and Washington Blvd.—a blind neighborhood gentleman walked down the sidewalk, cane in hand, heading right for them. Awkward!)
The last seven years, Craig and his colleagues have handled all of FSM’s fulfillment and, more than that, have bankrolled all my crazy projects…no questions asked. Seriously! Like this:
Me: “Hey, we’re doing five CDs of David Raksin scores no one has ever heard except Manderley on the FSM board.”
Craig: “Great, when’s it done?”
Me: “I don’t know, maybe two years, but I need you to send a thousand dollars to some guys tomorrow to transfer acetates that might or might not have anything we need.”
Craig: “Sure! What’s the address?”
That’s pretty much the process. Can you imagine? I produce what I want to produce, and they pay for everything. No business plan! And that’s we sold 550 copies of The Wreck of the Mary Deare by George Duning…which I love.
I am not necessarily an easy person to work with—on the one hand, I am maniacally detail-oriented and smart, if I do say so myself. However, I am demanding and expect people to read my mind, then complain when they do not. So Craig and his team have the patience of Job, and it is because we believe in “The Mission”—no, not the Morricone score, or the Williams Amazing Stories score, but the mission of making film music available. All of it.
SAE has offered such a dream arrangement that I have had to think long and hard about walking away from it—but the time has come. For one thing, something strange and a little sad has happened in the last two to three years (since the ’08 recession): ’80s and ’90s scores are the only sure sellers, Silver Age scores sell like Golden Age scores used to, and Golden Age scores barely sell at all.
I no longer trust that I can pick an Elmer Bernstein score out of a hat and sell enough copies to make back Craig’s money—let alone an obscure George Duning one—so I’ll step aside and let other parties take those risks, and do what I can behind-the-scenes to help them out. (After 15 years of doing this, I know where all the bodies are buried...cue maniacal laughter.)
But that’s a topic for next time. For now, digest the news, ask questions on the board, and look forward to the next six months of going out in style. Thanks!
P.S. Do you have our CD of Wait Until Dark by Henry Mancini? You should, it’s one of my personal favorites. Check it out!