The Iowa Music Store, local music finds global home10/3/2012
On Sept. 17, the good folks at Maximum Ames Records launched the new Iowa Music Store online. The brainchild of Caleb Swank, the Iowa Music Store is a place for Iowa bands to get their music and merch in the hands of the people who want it — 24 hours a day, rather than just at a show while their merch tables are active. The impetus: Local bands are more or less shoestring operations. While many of them have at least a basic website for promotional purposes, most are not in a position to handle the added dimension of online sales.
Monitoring inventory, credit card transaction fees and customer service are all things that can cut into a band’s practice time and cost them serious money if handled improperly. But without an online presence, local bands’ sales potentials are limited. That’s where the Iowa Music Store comes in.
“Most of the time, the only place to buy merch from one of your favorite bands is at a show,” said Swank. “But there are people who love Iowa music but don’t live in Iowa any more, or who can’t make it to shows because of work or family or whatever.”
Here’s how it works: A band contacts Maximum Ames and lets them know what they’d like to sell (T-shirts, CDs, posters, etc. — “anything they want,” said Swank). Once that’s done, the band boxes up its merch and sends it to Ames. From there, the Iowa Music Store takes care of the rest. They process transactions, package and ship merch and deal with customers, freeing up bands to do what they do best. While Iowa bands are out doing what they love, the Iowa Music Store sends them a check.
“To cover our operational costs, we take a very modest percentage,” explained Swank. “The rest is the band’s to keep.”
There’s no further obligation on the band’s part: The musicians don’t need to be signed to the Maximum Ames label, they don’t have to agree to sell merch through the store for a specific length of time and they aren’t obligated to sell things there exclusively.
“If a band wants to sell CDs through the store, and (also) sell them at shows for whatever price they want, that’s completely up to them,” Swank elaborated.
The Iowa Music Store is doing its level best, Swank said, to ensure that it’s just as approachable and easy to work with on the consumer side, as well. In addition to offering people the chance to support more than 50 Iowa bands no matter where they live, the Iowa Music Store has plans to partner with various central Iowa businesses to offer special deals. Already on tap: For a limited time, customers who order at least $30 in merchandise get a free, specially designed Raygun T-shirt. It’s a model that Swank hopes the Iowa Music Store can build from.
“It would be great to be able to partner with more businesses and see it grow,” he said.
Customers in Des Moines are doubly blessed by the Iowa Music Store’s efforts. Currently, orders from more than half of the city are served by bike delivery.
“We just decided that rather than using all the extra cardboard and money to ship to Des Moines, we could just put people’s orders in a messenger bag and deliver it to them by hand,” which all comes back to the basic idea behind Maximum Ames, in general, and the Iowa Music Store specifically.
“The goal of Maximum Ames is to help Iowa bands,” said Swank. “We’re all about cooperation and helping one another.” CV
Go to http://maximumamesrecords.com/iowa-music-store/ to look for your favorite Iowa bands, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on selling your merch.