dpas questions & answers
november 2003

The 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.

A : 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!

Q : What other stuff did you produce then?

A : 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 for really.

Q : How did you organise it all?

A : 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!

Q : You quickly became a millionare then?

A : 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.

Q : When did you branch out into selling records?

A : 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.

Q : What about back-issues?

A : 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!

Q : 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.

Q : How many titles do you have now?

A : Well, there are over 400 items on the catalogue when I last checked.

Q : What sort of problems does that create then?

A : 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 buying!

Q : 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.

Q : You're often having a pop at Amazon in the magazine - why's that?

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.

Q : 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!

Q : 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 pretty quickly.

Q : How does the new online catalogue differ from the previous one?

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.

2003 Darker Than Blue / Purple Records
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