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more about the new website

On the subject of a new website:

I’ve had this BigCartel page for almost a decade, if you can believe it….and a fuckin big thumbs up to you if you can, because I sure can’t! Has it seriously been that long???

When I made a BigCartel webstore in 2011, I was already knee deep in doing distro stuff, just not online. I was beginning to build up my touring distro, and I figured there was no way I could compete with the larger mailorder operations that dominated the DIY punk marketplace, I didn’t even want to try. I figured my niche ought to be in-person sales from all my touring. Online, I just wanted somewhere that all my own releases could be more easily available for direct purchase.

Prior to this point, I didn’t really do any direct mailorder. I just traded and wholesale’d everything away. That was working well at first, but by 2011, I was starting to build a bit more of a catalog, and the hype surrounding Lotus Fucker/Chaos Destroy/Wankys records was starting to cool off as I moved on to other projects and noise punk stopped being a trend. I wouldn’t make a BandCamp page for SPHC for several more years, and I wouldn’t have records for sale on it until 2014, until Cory (Halo of Flies Records) basically told me I was stupid for not LOL, I was like “fuck, am I stupid???? Maybe I am…” and added everything I had to that platform too.

Anyway, BigCartel served me well throughout the 2010’s. I never had a big catalog of stuff for sale, just the odds and ends of my friend group, people I wanted to support, records I wanted to promote. Almost all of my business was in-person sales on tour, at fests, whether it was me or another driver I was splitting the revenues with. This, for me, is the best business model, because it actually involves human interaction, talking to people, building a community, which has traditionally been the best part about punk for me. After a certain point, I stopped even knowing what to do with myself at gigs beyond sitting behind a merch table and casually talking records with people leafing through my table of endless random crap, always priced to move. For many years, I had no competition, to my total astonishment I was the only person really doing it like this anymore, and seeing as my distro was built entirely from trading, I could always keep the prices at a reasonable level. I really didn’t have any need or desire to have a larger online presence.

But as we enter the 2020’s, this business model just isn’t so compatible with my lifestyle anymore. My professional career limits my ability to tour endlessly, I have many other travel priorities that take precedence over “the 15th time I’ve done a DIY punk tour of the east coast USA” or whatever, most of my friends that drove tours for me have gone in other directions in their lives, and especially with my move halfway across the country, I’m so far out of my element that I’m basically not in the game of booking shows and tours and such anymore.

Last year, seeing this writing on the wall of my life, I took a chance and tried something new. I max’d out the number of items I could put on my old BigCartel, started putting my distro online, and started taking mailorder more seriously. I broke away from my ‘only trades’ style, gave serious thought as to what I can add to the marketplace of DIY punk mailorder in the USA, and tried to update regularly with new stock. In the end, this was the biggest and best year yet for SPHC, and I owe a big hug and/or warm handshake to the many many people that continue to buy records off me and helped make this small expansion a success. It energized me and gave me the confidence I needed to keep moving forward, it made me believe that this was the best move for me right now. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

If I’m feeling like “online mailorder” is the right move forward for me, in my eyes the inevitable conclusion is that I need to leave this BigCartel page behind.

The biggest problem is that BigCartel caps me off at 300 unique items. As anybody who’s run a distro can tell you, that’s not very much. You can just take a casual glance at the new website and see that I have WAY more than 300 unique items lying around. And this is the real story of running a touring distro for 10 years. For better or for worse, you’re inevitably left with 1, 2, maybe 3 straggling copies of TONS of releases as you constantly cycle through what stock you’re taking on the road with you. It may not be pretty, but I’ve added all these straggling copies into the new webstore in the hopes that there may be some interest in them. This situation is the biggest impetus behind needing a new website.

The second biggest problem is BigCartel’s clunky postal calculations. All my regular customers know that I am constantly doling out “shipping overcharge refunds” with practically every order. It’s an inevitable situation because the linear way that BigCartel calculates shipping charges is not the same as how USPS charges (on a graph, that’d look more like an awkward power function). I don’t blame BigCartel for this, because their shipping calculations are intuitive, but unfortunately USPS’ pricing is a convoluted mess so it’s just never going to sync correctly. This was acceptable when I had a tiny webstore with a lot of single record orders within the USA, but when I’m getting orders daily in all sorts of sizes to all sorts of locations…it’s not tenable anymore.

The third biggest problem is that embedding things in BigCartel is kinda difficult and awkward. I knew going forward, I wanted to have source music embedded with every item, so people could forage and survey and check out new things, just listen and listen and find stuff they like. I wanted to have like, an upgraded version of how my touring distro was…which, if you ever saw that, I never had anything in any order or organization whatsoever, it was simply a couple boxes of totally random records and tapes ranging from the latest trendy American releases to old and forgotten 90’s Brazilian noisecore, from Japanese pop-punk and Indonesian crust to demo tapes of local Baltimore bands…I wanted to make a feeling like “you never know what you’ll find! That record you needed, your next favorite band, that new release you missed out on, it could be lurking right behind this record!”. I don’t think you can make that kind of feeling online but I hope the new website can be equally exciting and cool. I think the adventure now isn’t necessarily what you find, but what you hear. I dunno if that makes sense to anybody else hahaha.

So, in the end, I have to say goodbye to my lovely BigCartel page that has somehow come to adorn multiple record jackets as the official SPHC website…and move on to a more powerful platform, better suited to a larger operation.

Bye BigCartel! Thanks for everything!