“I wrote this around the time of the end of Merck in the interest of explaining a little bit about Merck and the state of electronic music/IDM that you all may not have known before. I hope that you all can understand better the industry side of why we have decided to end the label, and what is going on behind the scenes with a lot of record labels. There are still a fair amount of personal reasons on top of these that have caused us to decide to move on to something else, but at the end of the day you run a record label to sell music, so thats #1 priority.
Merck Records does make money, I’ve paid out over $40,000 in cash to artists since the label started, as well as providing artists with hundreds of copies of releases to sell and give away.
We released 12 cds and 12 vinyls for each calender year 2003 and 2004, the same as much bigger labels than us were doing. For 2005 we decided to slow it down to roughly half that and do 6 cds and 10 vinyls to make things a little easier on us. We did roughly the same for 2006, our final year.
Before 2004 most all of our releases were pressed in quantities of 1000 and most are still in print. In 2004 we started to get better distribution and began pressing 2000 of most new cds and ALL of those cds are still in print (though we have sold more than 1000 of some of them).
Based on those figures you can understand that the income from running a small record label is not large enough to support personal housing, food, etc., much less a label office and staff expenses. On top of that I drive a crappy car and have crappy insurance, so if i break my leg, somebody’s album isn’t coming out.
Around %50 of our releases were sold in Japan, so the size of the scene you think the U.S./Europe has, divide that in half, the US is only buying 100-250 copies of our cds at most, same for Europe. The rest are going to Japan. The Japanese have the highest per square foot real estate costs, but yet they are the ones buying the most physical copies of music releases (vinyl on top of that!). So the big secret you all don’t know, is that without Japan, a lot of the indie labels you know and love, would be a lot worse off or not exist. So thank Japan for helping keep a lot of the music you love, coming out. There’s a reason every Warp album comes out in Japan 3 weeks before the rest of the world and has a bonus track on it.
In recent times, the European music market, that was the birthplace and incubator of a lot of electronic music, has taken a decent sized downturn and a lot of distributors are focusing more on pushing a lot of copies of one release or focusing only on more profitable genres, instead of actually doing the job of a distributor, which is to supply a lot of copies of a lot of releases.
MP3′s have definitely had a good and bad effect on the label, of course they help to spread our music around to people who haven’t heard it before. The problem comes when people use it as a substitute for a real copy of the cd or a legitimate mp3 purchase. As Machinedrum said in a recent interview and as I’ve experienced personally multiple times, we meet many people who swear Merck is one of their favorite labels and they love all our stuff, then when asked what cds/vinyls they own, they either own NOTHING or only a couple releases. Thats not support, and although we appreciate their enthusiasm, they are not the kind of fans that breed a healthy scene.”