I got in touch with an old contact back in Cardiff who runs an independent record label ( http://www.my-kung-fu.com/
) and asked him to clue me in concerning distribution.
Maybe nothing that most folk weren't already aware of, but no doubt a good man to know. here are the salient points of his reply,
'My definition of "distribution" covers anything that takes the record from your label into a shop/retail. Be open...
selling them yourselves at gigs
selling them yourselves online
selling them to UK shops directly, for them to sell
using a UK distribution company
... and you can substitute "foreign" for "UK" in those 2
using a digital distribution company (for iTunes/eMusic etc.)
If it's a one-off release in a run of 500, I would think you don't have to use a distribution company. You can easily sell them through the other channels. Shops like Rough Trade and Piccadilly take things directly from labels, you don't NEED a distribution company for that. If you wanted to get into Virgin and HMV you'd need a distribution company, but I'm guessing that's not your plan?
A distribution company will take 20-25% from the dealer price. Dealer price is the price at which they sell it to shops. It's usually around 60% of the price the punter pays. Welcome to the economics of physical retail. In other words, bricks and mortar shops take 40%ish of the punter price for staff, overheads, storage, profit. That's why online shops can often WIN on price. And selling directly to punters wins over BOTH!
Distribution also spreads your records around. Inevitably there will be returned stock they couldn't shift... And it won't be in pristine condition when it comes back. That always happens.
If you approach a distribution company they will ask you what your release schedule is for the next 6-12 months. They'll also want to see press coverage and tours booked. In other words for it to be worth their time, they want to sign up labels who are planning to release albums with a decent amount of sales. Typically they'll tie you in exclusively for 18 - 24 months initially. You may not be viewing it in this fashion, it depends on your plan for the label.
I think DIY is the way forward for such a project. We're talking about ART here. 500 units is scarce. Sorry if the distribution info sounds negative, but I don't think they will do justice to a one-off 10".
List of independent shops (courtesy of Vital Distribution!)... Some of these might be worth approaching directly. You can set the "dealer price" - what they pay you (I'd make it £3ish). They have final say on what the punter pays. But you can advise them.
As for jocks, if you want radio play then go for it. Send it to people who you think will like it. Some radio may prefer a CDR version if they're not geared for vinyl.
Always send an info sheet including release date, background info, gig dates (where you can) and a website they can read out - preferably one that links to a purchase button. You can sign up for Paypal or Worldpay very easily and handle payments that way.
Without having heard it, here are some rough ideas - people that do folk / electronica / interesting stuff:
Radio 1 - Rob Da Bank, Huw Stephens
XFM - Nick Luscombe
The Wire mag
Plan B mag
I would love to hear it! If you send me 2, I can give one to Huw Stephens.'
So, later today I'm mailing a copy along to him if there are no objections in the interim.