The record distribution mess: Saddle Creek, 4AD and others leave ADA for Redeye Distribution…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:45 pm January 7, 2020

Redeye is now the distributor for Saddle Creek Records.

by Tim McMahan,

A couple weeks ago I read a rather lengthy and alarming story in Pitchfork where they talked about a company called Direct Shot and how it’s screwing up the distribution channels for record labels. It’s a long read, but it basically details how Direct Shot has dropped the ball getting vinyl and other orders to outlets.

Among the largest labels impacted by Direct Shot is Warner Music Group, who switched distributors to Direct Shot last April.

This switch also extended to the indie labels that work with Warner’s Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), which has Sub Pop, 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL, Domino, and Saddle Creek listed as partners on its website. “ said the article.

Well, that switch really messed up a lot of labels’ ability to fulfill orders because of Direct Shot’s struggles with getting their part of the job — the distribution part — done efficiently.

I emailed Saddle Creek Records’ head honcho Robb Nansel at the time and asked if Saddle Creek was being impacted by the Direct Shot fiasco.

“It has impacted everyone, yes,” Nansel said, always a man of few words.

Welp, yesterday Saddle Creek was among a handful of indie labels that announced they have left ADA. The labels include 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, Young Turks, Domino and XL. Their new distributor: North Carolina’s Redeye Distribution.

Over the years, I remember Redeye being a tiny player in the indie distribution game. Way back in March 2006 Mt. Fuji Records (the label operated by former Omahan Mike Jaworski and that included among its foster Little Brazil) signed a deal with Redeye, who at the time was working with the likes of  Yep Rock, Gern Blandsten, Flameshovel, Parasol and GSL.

Redeye was one of the small distro houses that made it possible for the little guys to get their records in stores across the country. So it’s kind of cool to see them playing a role in trying to fix the enormous distribution problems facing the music industry.

From the MusicBusiness Worldwide article about the deal:

Redeye feels like the right place for us to be,” said Saddle Creek’s Robb Nansel. “With a staff that is clearly made up of music fans and creators, we are excited to be a part of the independent community at Redeye and we look forward to growing together in the future.

No doubt the Direct Shot distribution headache has impacted record stores as well, including our very own Homer’s. Just ask Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt.

“It’s been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in my 40 years at music retail,” Fratt said. “With the move of a half dozen major indies to Redeye, they become a major player going forward.”

The move to Redeye may solve Saddle Creek’s and those other indies’ distro problems, but when it comes to the industry as a whole, there’s still a whole lot of work that needs to be done…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The final SXSW recap (in The Reader); Saddle Creek consortium re-ups with ADA; Alex McManus does Hitchcock, Conchance insurance tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:56 pm March 20, 2014
Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

The final word on this year’s South By Southwest conference/festival in this week’s issue of The Reader. It includes summaries of my favorite performances from Coachwhips, Protomartyr, Future Islands, Twinsmith, Eros and the Eschaton, Destruction Unit, Eagulls, Mark Kozelek and more. Check it out in the printed edition, which also includes a ton o’ pics by yours truly. You can also read it online at right here.

The Reader‘s coverage also includes Chris Aponick’s take on SXSW’s sights, sounds and smells (Over the course of the week, I smelled dope smoke more often than cigarette smoke. Have they legalized it in Austin already?). Chris spent a lot of time at Beerland (as he always does), and also gives his perspective on Trust, Perfume Genius, Coachwhips, Charli XCX, Perfect Pussy, Burger Records and more. It’s online here.

Over the past few days I’ve been reading a lot of SXSW dissing, mostly by people who have never been there. Fine. I get that you don’t need to take a bite out of a shit sandwich to know it tastes bad (probably). And anyone who tells you SXSW is anything more than an industry boondoggle is feeding you some of the above. That said, if you go to SXSW simply to listen to music, you’d have to try pretty hard not to have fun.

As for performers/bands, well, my heart goes out to them. It’s expensive and it’s a hassle — there’s nothing like seeing a very tired-looking band hump gear through the 6th Street chaos. And then wonder if the cost/hassle was worth it. Most bands I’ve interviewed who have gone to SXSW told me nothing ever came of their performance. I think if you’re only playing once during the festival, you’ll be overlooked. The bands that make the biggest mark — that get noticed — play at least eight times during the week. Fans/journalists/industry gimps are bound to notice your name when it shows up over and over on the SXSW master schedule — and then wonder “Who the hell are these guys?” But if you’re in a brand new band, the chances of getting multiple showcases/sets during SXSW are slim and none.

Dan Scheuerman of Deleted Scenes posted an honest perspective at Hear Nebraska that’s worth your attention (read it here). His summary, “..only a statistically insignificant percentage of bands who play SXSW get discovered, and for the rest, it’s just a good excuse to hang out and enjoy a little bit of springtime before anyone else.” No doubt.

Now that should be the last word on SXSW 2014…

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Super-indie consortium Independent Distribution Cooperative (IDC), which consists of Saddle Creek Records, Merge, Beggers, Domino and Secretly Canadian, resigned a physical distribution deal with Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), according to this article.

ADA is an arm of Warner Music Group. According to the article, “As part of the deal, ADA will continue to provide physical distribution services to major brick-and-mortar chain accounts for the consortium of labels and their distributed labels too. ADA will also sell select indie accounts on a non-exclusive basis, meaning that the labels can also sell directly to indie accounts too.

The rather convoluted article also mentions that IDC has negotiated for digital distribution, but isn’t clear what that means for the labels. The take-away for me is that these indies continue to work together to keep their product stocked in your local record stores. Wonder what they could accomplish if all five labels merged into one major label?

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Film Streams’ Hitchcock 9 Silents in Concert Repertory Series continues tonight. It features the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock brought to life sonically by live musicians. Tonight it’s the 1927 film The Ring featuring live music by Alex McManus (The Bruces), Aaron Markley and Daniel Ocanto. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here. If you haven’t been to one of these, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Also tonight, Conchance and Rock Paper Dynamite perform at the Rock Enroll showcase at The Slowdown. The free event will provide information about how to get health insurance coverage as the March 31 deadline looms. Music starts at 9.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.