Deep Purple Appreciation Society On Line Store relaunch is
but the latest stage of a long standing adjunct to the appreciation
society's activities. We reasoned that it might be worth throwing
some questions at the DPAS's very own Simon Robinson to get
his take on what's been going on.
Q : The DPAS has come a long way since those early information
sheets you used to sell way back.
: Indeed. I was in the attic the other day, rummaging for
something or other, and found the box files where I keep -
or try and keep - examples of just about everything we've
ever produced. Right back to some postcard size prints of
the early Rainbow line-ups twenty seven years ago - we gave
them out free to all members, and charged 10p for extra copies.
As soon as we'd done one card, Ritchie had thrown everyone
out of his band and we had to do another!
: What other stuff did you produce then?
: One of the first things were nice glossy b/w prints of various
members of Deep Purple, Rainbow etc. We'd have 500 run off
at a printers in London called Walkerprints, and hope to get
our money back. We did a t-shirt early on when it was still
the Ritchie Blackmore Appreciation Society - I still sometimes
see people with this at gigs, though they've had to cut the
design off and sew it to a new shirt! Mind you, I did find
a few when I was sorting out recently - and they look as good
as new, amazing for something 25 years old. We did some posters,
simple discographies, a few badges, anything people asked
: How did you organise it all?
: It was fairly basic I have to admit; we did some basic A4
order sheets and people sent these in with their postal orders.
It was almost all postal orders, I suppose because a lot of
members didn't have bank accounts. If it was small amounts
people sent in coins taped to a sheet of paper. Me and Ann
just set aside a couple of hours a week to pack the goods
up and then trek down to the post office. The first poster
we did, I think it was an A3 print of Blackmore smashing a
strat, we didn't have any poster tubes, so we rolled them
all up in newspaper to keep them from bending in the post
- took hours!
: You quickly became a millionare then?
: Of course! To be honest the idea was to try and help the
club finances out; any profit made on posters and such could
go back into improving the magazine, and that helped it grow
from the small photocopied fanzine into a much larger magazine.
: When did you branch out into selling records?
: I'm not entirely sure. I think it was probably in the early
eighties. I recall buying copies of a foreign picture sleeve
via an importer and selling those through the club, and from
then on we did stock more vinyl, but generally it was just
rarities - colour vinyl and the like. When record companies
began doing all the limited edition stuff like picture discs
we were able to pre-order stock and so if people couldn't
always get it in the shops, we could sometimes help. One or
two of those pic discs only got pressed in 500 to 1,000 runs
so they were very hard to find.
: What about back-issues?
: I really never imagined these would be so popular, but now
I find myself using my own file copies for research, so I
can see why fans should want them. Because we have used so
many different printers over the years, and due to the cost,
print runs used to vary wildly. We'd always do more than we
needed because that way we kept the unit cost down, and so
held subscription costs lower. The hope was you could find
people to buy the extra copies later on. It's taken us a long
time, but we do now have almost a full run of back-issues
available - some are reprints of course. It's hard to believe
but I do recall ditching a load of older issues once when
we were moving house; we had so many spares of a few issues
that I just couldn't imagine ever selling them all, so they
went into a recycling skip. Now of course I regret it - especially
when I see some dealers charging ten quid or more a time!
: When did the DPAS begin to build up the CD catalogue?
A : It was around the time I got involved with my first CD
label RPM. People were always calling and saying it was hard
to find certain RPM titles in shops, so we began to sell them
by mail-order. Not everyone realises it but of the price a
CD sells at in a shop, the label - especially smaller indie
labels - only ever sees around 55% or so - the rest is taken
by the distributor and the stores. So if you do sell direct,
you can give people a discount, cover the postage cost, and
still earn a bit more to plough back into the label. As the
label grew, we started a club for collectors of the series,
and eventually we got credit card facilities in. As we got
better at that, I was able to use the experience to develop
the DPAS CD list. At one or two points we'd got very behind
with orders and were pissing people off, so I wanted to try
and do things as well as we could. Then when I left RPM at
the end of the nineties, we had the time to try and increase
the number of Deep Purple titles we stocked.
: How many titles do you have now?
A : Well, there are over 400 items on the catalogue when I
: What sort of problems does that create then?
: I think there are two main problems. One is deletions. In
the old days labels would actually send out lists of deletions,
and so you could stock up. These days this doesn't happen,
and the first you know of a deletion is when you call to order
a title and the sales people tell you it's gone! As it's still
in the catalogue, you then have to disappoint people. I know
people think it's sales hype when we say don't delay buying
titles you want, but we have no end of calls from people who
miss out. Take Jon Lord's last solo album - deleted in less
than three years without a word. The other problem is actually
getting stock from some of the bigger labels. One or two demand
large deposits - £2,000 or more - before they will let you
order a single disc. As a result you have to go to other distributors
- but they also have trouble getting all the titles you want,
so it creates a real headache. Polydor really screwed up the
Rainbow remastered series like this; the first batch of stock
went out to shops so smaller mail-order companies couldn't
get any; then they didn't repress for several months, and
then a whole load of old stock of the pre-remastered versions
appeared on the market so peole didn't know what they were
: What about people who say they can find stuff cheaper elsewhere
- at other web sites and places?
A : We
decided ages ago not to try and go all out on price. The DPAS
online service is only a modest set-up, and quite a specialised
niche market, so we simply don't have the buying power of
the bigger shops or mail-order dealers. Shops like HMV demand
and get huge discounts. I love to tell the story of a label
that tried to get Woolworths to stock one of their new singles,
and Woolworths agreed - provided the label supply it for nothing.
So you can imagine it's hard to match that! Even so we're
pretty competitive on most items. You can always find something
cheaper if you spend enough time looking, but it does amuse
us sometimes when people call up checking prices, and then
say it's 30p cheaper elsewhere - forgetting that they've spent
more than that ringing round to find out! Also we do include
post and packing, and this is a major cost these days. Again
some folk were quoting better prices on that big EMI box set,
and were then clobbered by big postage costs on top which
took them way over what we were asking.
: You're often having a pop at Amazon in the magazine - why's
A : Probably
just my dislike of large corporate companies run for the benefit
of shareholders! It's the same at Stagecoach running all our
buses. They steam in, drive smaller operators to the wall
with cheap prices, and then start hiking prices up and dropping
less profitable routes. Amazon has just had millions pumped
into it year after year, run at a loss, and drives smaller
book and record shops out of business.
: Some people have been grumbling in chat rooms about the
"Perks & Tit" release taking ages to reach them.
A : We
did mess up on that. When a new title is due in Ann and Alison
process all the orders up front. They then get sorted into
date order, so the oldest order goes out first. On this occasion
Ann had done some of the paperwork, but was then poorly for
a couple of days. The CD came in a day or two early, and Alison
asked me if it was OK to start shipping them. Not realising
the paperwork wasn't all done I said fine. The next week Ann
realised what had happened but by then it was too late. A
couple of people did call to ask why their mate had placed
his order four weeks ago and got the disc, when they'd ordered
it six months ago and were still waiting. Ouch! Happily most
people accepted our apology, and it was only a couple of days
in most cases. Lesson learnt!
: Any customers who drive you crazy?
A : Just
the ones who insist on calling up on their mobiles, whilst
driving round London eating their lunch. We usually ask them
to park up and finish their dinner and then call back! Another
favourite are the people who calling up asking if we have
"that new record in" - without saying which new record. Oh,
and the folk who have a complaint but insist on airing it
on a chat room instead of calling us! Mostly though, because
people can call or e-mail, and generally we know and love
the band's catalogue, we can usually sort most queries out
: How does the new online catalogue differ from the previous
A : In
two ways. Firstly just about every item now has a sleeve illustration,
detailed description, tracks listings and even reviews (with
an option to mail us a review if people want). There are a
number of specialist search options and other details, and
a new order form. It's also even more secure than the last
one. I don't have a big problem with online shopping - to
me provided you use reputable companies it's much less risky
than giving your credit card number out over the phone - but
for those who are a little unsure, this should give them more
confidence. Secondly there are a lot of behind the scenes
changes which are there to give us more options in the future.
For the first time we will be able to offer collectors items,
rare records and one off memorabilia, and the plan is to slowly
add these kind of goodies. It will also make generating our
printed catalogues easier in the future. There are a number
of other developments on the go too, so hopefully this will
continue to be a good service for all fans.