Thursday, August 25, 2005

My love-hate relationship with Amazon

I've been putting my CD titles on Amazon since 2000, back when I was a baby CD artist. I was so very excited and amazed to be able to offer my music to the world! Amazon leveled the playing field, I thought. An independent artist like me could be listed right there with Cher, Green Day, and even Weird Al Yankovich!

But as I've progressed, from a baby with a single CD to a toddler label with a few titles to a full-grown label with 12 titles, I've felt the playing field is not that level at all. For example, even though my recordings have been extremely well-received and reviewed in national publication such as School Library Journal ,Booklist, and Dirty Linen, I am only allowed to post a 20-word quote from the review. Twenty. Words.

You may notice that publications from major labels have beautifully-written full reviews posted. When I inquired about having my reviews from major publications posted, I was told that Amazon purchases only select reviews from the publishers of the magazines. When I asked about being one of the people selected, I was given the runaround response; the first response was reiterated.

Oh. The playing field isn't exactly level.

More recently, I asked about having 30-second samples of my music posted..the way, well, yes, Cher and Green Day have theirs posted. Rather than having my only option for buyers to hear my music is to give them a free, complete download of the pieces. (Complete. Free. Download.)

Here are the main parts to our conversation:

I wrote:
Please advise as to how to download pieces that i would like to have as samples, not as free downloads.
Your text states that is not possible, yet many of the CDs listed offer samples...

And they answered:

We are currently not able to list 30-second sound samples on the
detail pages of Advantage music items.However, you are welcome to
upload MP3s of your music to Amazon.com's Digital Music Network.
MP3s uploaded to Amazon.com's Digital Music Network need to be
complete songs, not samples. The tracks you submit are entirely at
your discretion. Please know that titles appearing on the web site
with sound clips are not Advantage titles but are supplied by our
distributor.


I wrote back:
What does that mean, your distributor? Are we not all in this fairly? You block some artists....when samples could be made so easily? Is there someone to contact about this?
I don't want to make waves...just want to sell my titles.

Their response was:
We understand your desire to provide our mutual customers with the
ability to listen to samples of your music before making a purchasing
decision. Unfortunately, at this time the only way to accomplish this
is to upload the entire track as an mp3 file. We do not allow
uploading of clips at this time for our Advantage members. If this
ability is added in the future, we will be sure to announce it to our
members.

The third time, I asked
Is there someone there who I can communicate with about having this
changed? I have an award-winning lullaby CD ("Oyasumi - Goodnight") that has been in the top sellers for two years.....and mutiple award-winning
Children's recordings....Thank you.

And the response was:
We understand your desire.....etc. etc.
Please understand that we will not respond to further inquiries on
this matter. Thank you for your understanding.

OH. NOT LEVEL AT ALL.

Am I crazy to feel frustrated? I realize these are real people I'm writing to, but they have no power to do anything. Everywhere I look, I see the BIG being advocated, the small being overlooked. I am so disappointed in Amazon. Are they really thinking about their customers? Or are they thinking about promoting certain labels? Why can't someone discover my music and stories through 30-second samples? We all know it's not hard to do.

I won't even go into the "out of stock" problem, where Amazon orders many titles one by one, and when someon buys it, the text changes from "only one left in stock" to "Usually ships within 1 to 2 months". Even though I ship orders immediately with delivery confirmation so I know they have reached Amazon within a week, Amazon tells me "it can take 7-10 business days to process shipments once they have been received in our fulfillment center." Again....what about the customer? Who wants to buy a CD that supposidly will take 1 to 2 months to receive?

Well, I guess I went into it a bit after all.

In the meantime, the playing field has been leveled a bit because of everyone's access to Paypal, which I've happily added to my own website. (Which doesn't have quite the traffic as Amazon...) I've also worked with other people such as the folks at CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) who are true supporters of both musicians and the customer. These are real people who have actually called me on the phone to explain a website question. And musicians receive more money per CD, even if they sell them for less than at The Other Place. This better serves both the customer and the musician. And when they are about to run out of stock, they send an email out asking for more CDs, so the future customers will not have to wait. They offer a myriad of additional services for musicians as well - all at very reasonable prices. And not surprisingly, they are growing.

I assume I speak on behalf of many musicians here. . I am so excited to share what I've created --- and I have invested so much in my music. I can only hope that our voices grow stronger and stronger! The consumer, it seems, should be aware of the situation, and maybe even Amazon will hear us, and consider making some changes. In the meantime, the playing field is being leveled by others.

Comments:
Hi Liz,

Sorry to say it, but this is a very typical experience with Amazon.com....

ellen
 
I agree with you, and sadly, many other have noted the same. This is typical of business' attemt to ignore anything that doesn't fit some demographic of marketability. It also is an insult to the intelligence of the public.
 
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