This is my (probably very flawed) logic on majors pressing stock copies figures. You can tell I've thought about this waaaay too much down the years
I thought about the UK ( I worked in a chart shop for a while btw) The rep's wouldn't want to take an order if it was for less than 6 copies, 3 or less and they'd sulk and stamp their feet, and almost always the discount breaks were done on quantity, climbing percentages and the order size grew, depending on product. One in Six meant you'd receive multiples of 7 copies but only be charged for multiples of 6, so an order for 35 meant you'd be invoiced for 30, with probably 50% returns on unsold stock for example. The unsold returns was always a mystery to me, until many years later when I was working in a sister industry, videos. I was taken into one of many warehouses and on pallets were massive overstocks. I picked up one item, Private Benjamin, a semi successful Goldie Hawn movie. The seller represented a bankruptcy stock seller. " How many will you take of that" He said, " Take them all, I'll do you a great deal". I couldn't believe how many copies of this one movie they had, row upon row, hundreds of thousands, of just this one title. I assumed it was some mega cock up, but then he showed me another title with similar quantity. Why anybody thought they'd manufacture 900,000 copies of a semi successfull movie and the UK public would all want to buy one for 9.99, bonkers.
All this dead money, crazy. How many of our precious 45's sat around for a decade in similar warehouses before going to landfill or other disposal methods?
At the time the common belief was that there were approx 200 cities and larger towns in the UK (with 50,000 or more population) My home town was near 4 times that in 1970's, or 1/300th of the total population of urban areas. I can remember the record departments in stores such as Co-op, Boots, WH Smiths, Beatties, Woolworths (two stores with record counters) and they took a large slice of the sales pie being town centre based. Then the independent shops, I can remember 6 dept stores, then probably 6 stand alone shops, but pretty sure there were more ( I only knew the city centre and the north & west half of the city well then) I'm not counting outlets that were located in other stores where you could order records, like the larger newsagents/general stores etc. So if we multiply the minimal 12 shops by 300 we'd get 3600 outlets in the country, so if you placed just 3 copies in each the minimum you'd need to press would be 10,800. (You can see in the USA if it was only a local release they'd only press up 1000 for the one city, but I thought we were talking about serious major labels, and I'm trying to extrapolate the USA from what I'm surmising about Britain? Was there ever local city wide pressing done in the UK, other than stock which club bands would order for themselves to sell at working men's club gigs) So continuing, If we then assume that the USA had 5 times the population of Britain, you'd be talking 54, 000 of one title in order to place just 3 copies at each store nationwide, so if you are a major label and you've got 3 releases this week by your stars then you're going to press initially 30000-50000 per 45 so you can get enough stock into the shops to grab initial sales and chart maybe? but you've also got your lesser artists and the deals would be " take 500 of Neil Sedaka's guaranteed new hit, 300 Diana Ross, 10 copies of each of these other 4 and we can give you this many free copies of Tom Jones" - you have to imagine fishermans arms here, where the gap changes size depending on who they are talking to. Now we are talking serious cash flow if they're pressing 100,000-200,000 records in one week, even on a 30 day credit account you can stretch it up to 9 weeks of deliveries before paying for the first months sales, and I'm guessing the large wholesale distributors probably got 90 day accounts . Even allowing for bi coastal pressing plants the shipping costs, labour, packaging, invoicing, it's gotta be scary, so the companies are trapped, press and distribute too few on their main artists and they won't hit and you're in trouble, press too many and the shops will reduce their orders on that artists next new single because they'll remember sending back loads of unsold stock. Add into these frightening costs that horrendous creation, the album. Imagine having to fund the cash flow for a new album by say, Led Zeppelin. It might sell 20 million in the US alone, but take 6-12 months to sell that many, and 18 months to recoup the costs. So I do think the lesser artists like Bobby Bell had a very minimal pressing. A token gesture in the hope that the bigger shops might take a punt every week on a 45 purely whether they liked the sound and order 10, but in total across the nation these sales wouldn't amount to 500-1000, or even half that. Surely RCA's thinking would have been ' we spend a small amount on each new artist figuring that one out of a hundred might be the next Beatles, and 10 might be artists who sell enough to create enough profit to carry the entire set up, so any income from any of these small fry artists is pure bonus, and losses on promotion will be tax written off???
(incidentally, I know Popsike isn't a perfect measure, but over 15 years of it recording Ebay sales there's 52 WDJ's of Bobby Bell, and 1 copy on stock. In that same period there's 7 Magnetics on Ra Sel for instance. Everybody would call the Magnetics a rare 45, but how many would recognise Bobby Bells stocker in that same class of rarity? I've collected RCA's for many years and some rarely come up for sale, say less than 10 times in the time Ive been chasing them, and we'll never know how many of those 10 were the same copies changing hands multiple times? I don't want to hurt my label collecting by saying which I think are the rarest, plus I'm not the expert. I paid waay too much for some. Stone Crushers for example, 52 copies on Popsike today, but when I bought mine I'd not seen 3 copies ever. Oh, that's an example of the era when RCA wasn't issuing WDJ's, so only stock label copies exist, same as when Capitol stopped doing promos - or so we believe !?!?)
Sorry I was off on a tangent then. The first time I went to the states I tore out the yellow pages in each city, thinking I'd write to them all later. Often there'd be two or three pages in each phone book, more in some. These were only record shops and not outlets like Woolworths, so there must have been a huge amount of independent shops in all the urban areas. What the criteria was in order to deal direct with the record companies in the US might be very different, the UK labels seemed to like a mixture of direct accounts with larger shops and mini chains and via distributors. Personally I found once I got an account with Warner Brothers I was all of a sudden offered accounts with all sizes of companies, many of whom wouldn't even return my calls weeks before. If they thought you could shift the stock then I think you were more manipulable if they dealt direct with you possibly -tangent again
( a word on chart shops. I saw a lot of winking going on. Rep's would leave a pile of promos on the counter on their way out. They'd nod and wink and say things like " Donny Horsesmond is going to chart high this week, what do you reckon". My boss would laugh, wink and generally act as though he was going to do the reps a big naughty favour, but I honestly believe he never ever put through one single sale that wasn't genuine. He'd tell me " it's what the rep's think that matters. They think I'm helping them with false figures and they give me all sorts, but I don't and never ever would. It's just not worth it to lose my chart shop status". Frequently he'd have these market sellers from far away areas come to the shop and take away tens of thousands of singles for pennies on the pound. If he hadn't that shop would have sunk with overstocks of free stock he'd been given or so heavily discounted it might have well been free. Maybe this shop was the exception to the rule, but maybe not)
Now obviously not every store orders every title, but there's stores that would order vast amounts. The shop I'm talking about had at it's height 200+ regular DJ's who did the bulk of their shopping at this one shop. An item that was getting hot from advance plays in the clubs the week before release was guaranteed to sell to every one of those DJ's before the public bought a single copy. When the orders arrived we'd spend ages putting a copy of every potential hottie into a shop bag with the DJ's name on it. These bags were done in order of importance. so if the first order arrived with 100 copies (50 from the record company, 50 from the wholesaler maybe, depending on how much you had left on your credit limit with each company) then they'd go into the top 80-90 DJ's bags, and 10-20 would be kept for the public. As the reorders came in thick and fast on some hot items, 5 deliveries some days, we'd be putting more aside into bags but needed to keep more out for the public. Top up orders attracted much smaller discounts but the boss knew that over ordering was dead money, so orders would be mixed through the companies and wholesalers like Terry Bloods. The DJ's, at least the better ones, operated on trust. They knew what was in their bags each week was what they needed, plus a few that might get requested and the odd punt. They simply ask, " how much this week" and take their bags away. Occasionally they'd bring the odd thing back when we'd given it to them twice, but often any mistakes were used as prizes at Discos. They were generally people who held down other jobs so didn't have the time to wait around record shops for hours to hear this weeks new releases, plus of course the imports. 250 copies of "There's No Stopping Us Now" and 2 days later another 200 sticks in my mind, all sold in a week. Couldn't get any more before it got dropped for being overplayed, even pop soul discos could be fickle The rep's would despair when they saw a steady stream of kids coming in asking for the next big import.
The rep's would offer other incentives, for example giving promo copies based on order size. Of course these promo copies went into the DJ's bags and they paid full whack for the contents of their bags each week, but then the boss would knock some off, or throw them another promo or two of some other tune the reps had asked us to try to get some interest in. Some larger companies were very tight, but some were lax and gave away huge quantities. A collector market already existed and we had regular customers who'd come in just to buy the latest promos. They didn't care if it was a Tamla Motown promo or Shakin Stevens. Pretty soon these promos started to sell for a lot more than the stock copies, and once they started with special sleeves, weird shapes and colours then the prices went up and up. Some rep's would bring what they said was their own copies of some promos for the shop to sell for them, and a little bag was put aside for their money from these sales. Wheels within wheels.
Blimey I've rambled on a bit there, but maybe this snapshot might one day help people understand it's not all black and white, although that's how I prefer my stockers and promos
feel free to totally destroy my maths theories btw it's just supposition for the fun of it