Nostalgia Hits Right Note for Music Cataloger

Sales may be falling at major record labels, but Collectors' Choice Music has found a seemingly bulletproof demographic: baby boomers nostalgic over the music of their youth.

“We're such a niche business that we're a little bit immune to the macroeconomic swings,” said Gordon Anderson, vice president/general manager of Collectors' Choice Music, a division of Infinity Resources Inc., Itasca, IL.

The February edition of the monthly catalog, sent to 400,000 recipients, is on target to exceed a 3 percent response rate.

“Being over the magic 3 percent mark in terms of response rate makes us pretty happy,” said Anderson, who is based in the company's Los Angeles office.

The average order has been $55, similar to the amount last February and in line with this year's expectations. Seventy percent of buyers are male, and the median age is the early 50s. The average household income is lower-middle to middle class.

“There's an unusually high percentage of childless households,” he said. “They could be empty nesters, or gay or fall into any number of categories.”

There are no plans to pursue a younger audience.

“Any time we've tried to sell child-oriented music, it's bombed resoundingly,” Anderson said. “Any time we've run music for kids, that's been the worst single category we've had. We steer clear of contemporary music. We can't compete with the retail stores, and even they can't compete with themselves. We are not interested in the pricing you would need to get any of that business. We offer hard-to-find musical selections.”

Though nostalgia is a selling point, CDs are the format of choice over vinyl.

“We offer virtually no vinyl,” he said. “I've tried it, but it's tough to compete with vinyl because a lot of people are taking their vinyl to used-record stores. For us, the big question when I see a title is if it hasn't been out on CD before, it has a good shot at doing well.”

One-quarter of those receiving the 60-page February catalog were prospects with names drawn from other music catalogers.

Top sellers for February include “Swingin' Soft Drink Spots of the '60s ($19.95 for two CDs, and described as “Not in Stores”); the exclusive “New Christy Minstrel Twofers”; and a three-CD Spike Jones collection ($29.95).

The $18 average price of items is up slightly from a year ago.

Anderson said Internet sales are generating 15 percent to 20 percent of the book's sales with telephone orders accounting for just over half and mailed-in order forms about one-third. Faxed orders are minimal.

The photo of rockabilly star Johnny Burnette on the cover ties into an offer on page 2 for a nine-CD collection.

“It's a nice big ticket at $179.95, and it's doing fine,” he said. “We have a devoted audience for it.”

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