Starting your own Record Label part 3

The Artist's guide to
starting a business to sell your CDs.

 

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THE ARTIST'S GUIDE TO STARTING AN INDEPENDENT RECORD LABEL
PART 3

TRACKING SALES, INVENTORY AND ORDERS

In previous posts we've looked at some of the steps needed to set up your own label. While the idea of having your own label might seem romantic, the truth is that it's a business and like all business you need to keep track of your product, sales, promos, purchase orders, invoices and business contacts.

The best way of doing this is to have a database. Now I realize that databases aren't sexy or hip or have the allure of a new piece of gear for your studio, but in the long run could have an equal, if not greater, impact on the success of your label.

There are a lot of databases to choose from. I've used a few and the one I've found the easiest and fastest to use is a less known one called Panorama by a company called Provue. Turns out Provue's been creating software for a very long time. In fact the only other company that has been designing software to run on Apple computers longer than Provue is Microsoft! You read that right, Microsoft.

Now one of Panorama's best features is that their databases run in RAM. That means that searching through even the largest database only takes a second. Sometimes when I do a search in one of my Panorama databases it happens so fast it's a blur. So this is a very powerful feature.

However for me the best feature is Panorama's ease of use. I'm constantly designing new databases for different situations, modifying existing ones as my needs change and transferring data between databases, text files and other applications. With Panorama this is very easy. For example when I'm working on a song and want to keep track of "selects" from my takes I quickly build a new database using the criteria for that song. (Selects are the takes or part of a take that you want to use and can be buried inside a larger take, thus hard to go back and find). Or if I'm working on a mix and want to keep track of the different versions that I can refer to months, or years, later Panorama is great for that.

Small fast databases are fine but the one I use the most is quite large and stores information about all my orders, PO's from distributors, web orders, promos, invoices, and anything else that I need to keep track of my business.

main-data-entry-400.jpg

Here is a small screen capture of the main page for this database. The top left contains information about the date, the contact info about the person or company that ordered product, their classification (direct customer, distributor, retailer, radio, etc.), and a permanent number that is assigned to that transaction. Next to that is a large area for typing notes to myself about the order.

Below that is an item list of the products ordered, their unit cost and subtotals, any tax and shipping and then the grand total. From this I can generate receipts, invoices, packing lists, mailing labels anything I might need to print out and send either with an order, in the mail or most common as a PDF.

To the right of the item list is a section that displays the same product info without any pricing information that is more formal than the item list. Whereas the item list can vary in terms of where a product is located this section has permanent spaces for each product sold or given out as a promo. This is allows me to quickly analyze inventory.

The bottom half contains information about payment, whether or not an order was mailed and when. There is also a tickler function that reminds me to follow up if I need to.

to-be-mailed-400.jpg

This next screen shot (sorry about the small size) is a form that allows me to see each order grouped horizontally across. I use it as an over view to quickly see a bunch of orders at a time. I also use this to manipulate and search product and demos. I group orders by week, month, quarter and year. I can compare products to each other, or track changes in orders over time. Even better I can instantly just view the totals of any grouping while hiding the details.

I can even take my groups and display them as a graph. Here's a graph of one of my recordings by quarter.

graph-sml.jpg

All of these forms were custom designed by me and are constantly changing as my needs change, I release new product or just want to look at the data a different way. I'm not a computer programmer and I don't have a graphic background but working in Panorama is easy, fast and except for real detailed tasks, very intuitive. Oh, for all you PC users, Panorama works on PCs too!

The bottom line is that for me Panorama is as necessary a tool for running a label as my recording software, my instruments, my effect boxes, synths and microphones.

Check out Provue's website. They have several online tutorials and you can download a fully functioning demo version too.

© 2009 Cedar Mesa Music.



Please support these articles with your purchases

Native American flute music by Scott August
Sacred Dreams
Native American flute music by Scott August
Ancient Light
Lost Canyons
DISTANT SPIRITS
Nominee Native American
Music Award



SACRED DREAMS
Winner! Native American
Music Award



NEW FIRE
Nominee
Native American
Music Award

Winner!
Indian Summer Music Award
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