猫 シ Corp. and I decided to dive into the least favorite side of running a label – the shipping and production nightmare. It's a miracle if an indie label releasing physical copies hasn't faced shipping or production issues at some point. When everything comes tumbling down, it feels horrible at the time but luckily you have wild stories to share afterwards. That is exactly what this week's blog is all about, so dive into what kind of horrors 猫 シ Corp. and I have had to deal with!
猫 シ Corp.: “When I was shipping out Palm Mall records back in 2018, I already had the idea of starting my own label and I decided I could practice with this release. Palm Mall was released by Geometric Lullaby and they would distribute most of them from the US and I would distribute 300 records in the EU. Boy oh boy, what a journey that was! I had ordered vinyl shipping boxes and fillers to our house. Our whole garage and spare room were completely filled with cardboard! Because I wanted to start my own label and handle things in a professional way, I had already registered a business account with PostNL and used their shipping software to create labels. Now, it takes a lot to make me cry, but F me that software did - what a complete mess of programming! You couldn’t import any addresses and could only add 20 max per batch. However, if one of those 20 addresses had an error, it wouldn’t accept it. Neither would the software let you know which address was incorrect. So you had to manually delete an address and check if that was the faulty one. No that wasn’t the faulty one? Then re-add this address and delete the next one. Neither that one? Okay, add it again to the list and delete the next. I think this had cost me like half of the hours because not only was it bad programming, the software was also super slow and clunky. I seriously never understood how a big national company like PostNL could make such garbage. Anyhow, after finally printing all the labels the packing started; 300 vinyl boxes stacked to the ceiling in our house! That also told me that it was impossible for me to store and ship from home. Funny thing is the post office where I had to drop them was shocked to receive so many bags of packages haha! It was quite amusing when people asked me what I shipped and I told them it’s vinyl records. “Oh? Do people still listen to those?”
Tony: “To revisit my own private hell, we have to go back to December 2020 when the waterfront dining - In Fall vinyl record was released. I shipped all vinyl orders untracked during that time because it was very affordable and the shipping time was only around 2-3 weeks to most parts of the world. When the In Fall records were shipped out, I saw that quite many people from Europe received their orders very fast. I thought everything was working but how wrong I was. I accidentally saw a thread on Reddit where US customers were asking if anyone had received their In Fall record. This was probably 1.5 months after the records were shipped out. Around the same time my customers started emailing me about their orders. I received dozens of emails from US customers. This was the first and only time when I thought about quitting. I was so stressed and helpless because I shipped the records untracked. Somehow I managed to keep myself together and made a list of all the customers who emailed me about their order and I asked them to hit me up in case they received their orders. Luckily almost everyone who contacted me also let me know when their In Fall record arrived. I used this info to let other customers who hadn't received their order yet know that for example one guy from Virginia just got their record, so you'll most likely receive yours any day now. Turned out that the delay was caused by the insane holiday season shipping traffic but I wasn't aware of this until around March 2021.”
A typical vinyl record run is usually something between 200-500 copies and it's worth thousands of dollars/euros. It's also very expensive to ship these records from the pressing plant to the other side of the world. Our favorite Cat has a little story related to this.
猫 シ Corp.: “When we shipped a pallet filled with vinyl records from the pressing plant in The Netherlands to our warehouse in America and the pallet had gone missing for over a week. I have never felt such stress in my life! Turned out that the pallet was waiting in the customs depot and they quickly cleared it for me – unfortunately it did cost a pretty penny and that wouldn’t be the only time it happened – it also happened on one other occasion where our broker couldn’t get a hold of the customs and postal offices. Importing and exporting is seriously my least favorite thing about running a label!”
Wanna hear more about lost orders? Tony was waiting for an important physical release to arrive in Finland but little did he know that he would face the mother of all delivery failures.
Tony: “One very recent physical release was shipped from the production plant in time and everything was going as planned. The parcel was delivered from another EU country to Finland and it took two days for the shipment to arrive. I wasn't home when a major courier company tried to deliver the parcel. One 30 second phone call would have saved the mental pain and time lost to solve the episode that followed next but they never called me. They sent me a text message asking if I would like to redirect the shipment to a parcel locker very close to my office and I decided to redirect the parcel there. The parcel was delivered to the locker quite fast but just when I was about to go claim the parcel I got another text message saying that the parcel has been shipped back to the sender. I probably spent at least 8 hours calling, emailing and chatting with various companies to get the shipment and trying to figure out what happened to my parcel. Turned out that two parcels were cross-labeled; in other words I got someone else's parcel and the other person got my parcel. I didn't manage to claim the other person's parcel before it was already directed to the correct customer. However, the other person claimed my parcel and the courier company tried to get the parcel back from them. For some reason, the person managed to send my parcel to a completely different courier service and it took another week to finally get the parcel delivered to my office. In total, it took three weeks to get the parcel to my office.”
When you finally receive the physical copies for the upcoming release, you might be surprised when opening the parcel to do the quality check.
猫 シ Corp.: “I have to tell you: Hiraeth Records is cursed! From the start I think every release had some sort of production error, either our mistake or mistake made by the production company. The most annoying thing is when things aren’t turning out the way you want them to be or how you told the manufacturer you want it. Without naming & shaming I will just say that some manufacturers have really screwed up colors and the final product turned out completely different, or the colors were not as expected. Guess that’s why they have the fine print right?”
Tony: “I still remember when I received the access_hologram - 避難 cassettes from the pressing plant and opened the first box. The side A on-body printing looked awesome but my god when I flipped the cassette around to see the B side. I was so disappointed and surprised at the same time that I started laughing. The pressing plant had used the B side on-body print design correctly but they had accidentally added the B side artwork AGAIN on top of the design and scaled it down to the top right corner of the B side cassette face. It was a hypermeta print on an on-body print. It looked so silly when the mini version of the on-body version was casually hanging on the top right corner. The entire run was completely ruined but praised be the pressing plant because they sent me replacement copies in like one week.”
We now hope that all you awesome people out there supporting our labels have a better understanding of what can possibly go wrong during the production, shipping and everything in between.
猫 シ Corp.: “I hope people understand how much work labels and indie artists have with shipping out items and how powerless and helpless we feel after a package has been dropped off at the post office. Nothing hurts us more than seeing a package ripped to shreds and somebody receiving a broken record. But what can we do? It’s not our fault, we try to pack as safely and affordably as possible. Was it the mailman? Was it the sorting center? We do not know, we will never know but oh does it hurt! We’re putting all our money, time, and effort in releasing your music. A happy customer equals a happy label!”