As if there wasn’t enough Coronavirus-related bad news for the industry to face, on Tuesday (March 17), we also learned that Amazon had temporarily paused B2B ordering for products not considered “household staples, medical supplies, or other high demand products” from vendors and sellers in the US and Europe.
This exact phrasing was sent direct to record labels and distributors by Amazon in these territories, indicating that that the online giant would not be making new trade orders of CD, vinyl and merch into its warehouses until this “temporary pause” ends – a date which won’t arrive until at least April 5.
Having heard the news from Amazon on Tuesday, one senior industry source told MBW: “It really is one punch in the face after another.”
Things, though, aren’t working out quite as bleakly for the record business as first feared.
At least not, MBW has learned, in the UK, where we’re told that “Amazon are still ordering from music suppliers” – and not just honouring previously agreed orders, but also replenishing stock for new orders.
That’s according to Drew Hill, Managing Director of Proper Music Group, which distributes for nearly 1,000 independent labels, represents around 10% of the UK physical recorded music market and handles over 1 million titles at any time.
Proper handles logistics in the UK for companies such as Epitaph, Ingrooves, Redeye, Concord, The Orchard, Believe, Absolute and AWAL.
As such, the firm has recently managed the physical releases for artists including BTS, Lauv and Nick Cave.
“Amazon UK is still very much business as usual,” Hill told MBW today, adding: “We’re still receiving orders from Amazon; we’re talking to our contacts [there] two or three times a day.
“We’ve received orders today – replenishment orders – for delivery next week, which is what you would usually expect on a Thursday – that’s thousands of lines of product from our catalog; not just a handful of special cases.
“Things aren’t as bad as that email may have alluded to.”
The email Hill refers to was sent by Amazon to labels and distributors on both sides of the Atlantic this week. It read: “We are closely monitoring the developments of COVID-19 and its impact on our customers, selling partners, and employees.
“We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock, and deliver these products to customers.
“For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation.”
According to Hill, for Amazon UK, “high demand items” includes a wide selection of physical music.
“I can understand people misinterpreted that to mean sanitiser and toilet paper and food,” said Hill. “But in my conversations with Amazon [UK], they [still] feel that music, DVDs and games are high demand items.
“These are things that thousands of their customers are ordering and trying to get hold of. [Amazon] want to keep the supply chain moving.”
“Amazon’s email is quite clear that there is going to some disruption in supply chain and quite rightly they are going to start prioritising some thing over others, but I think music finds itself further up the pecking order than maybe people thought it would.”
Drew Hill, Proper
Some of the key releases that Proper is shifting this week include versions 1-4 of Map Of The Soul 7 by BTS; Freya Ridings’ self titled album, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen; Adam Lambert’s Velvet; LAUV’s How I’m Feeling; Moses Boyd’s Dark Matter; Gerry Cinnamon’s Erratic Cinematic; Five Finger Death Punch’s F8; JME’s Grime MC and Courtney Barnett’s MTV Unplugged – Live In Melbourne.
Continued Hill: “I can only speak from my own experience but I do represent a large chunk of UK based labels outside of the three majors and I’ve got a warehouse of people down in Dartford busily picking and packing things for UPS to pick up today to send to Amazon for delivery tomorrow that will start [making] their way to customers as soon as possible.
“Amazon’s email is quite clear that there is going to some disruption in supply chain and quite rightly they are going to start prioritising some things over others, but I think music finds itself further up the pecking order than maybe people thought it would.”
Hill is an elected Director on the board of the UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association and serves as a Director of the UK’s Official Charts Company.Music Business Worldwide