Local Time

WHOLESALE HEAVEN: If Dan Thompson has his way, the company he helped found last fall will grow in significant increments over the next few weeks and months, with local musicians the next, big beneficiaries.

Blue Sky Distribution is working on an 800 number, a Web site and an expansion of the company's base, from St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., into the Springfields, Kansas City and beyond. Local- and regional-music releases are the sole object of their efforts, with a good early return.

"The first big project was the Mark McGwire thing from KMOX," he says. "We do have the jazz stuff. And Vargas Swing. The Bel-Airs. Henry Townsend's the next one we're working. That's on Blueberry Hill. A young band called Slapdash. And the Ballistics' Sound Bytes CD. That's a really good project that we're starting to get into stores. We're also working a pope CD for his visit.

"Joe Schwab at Euclid (Records) has been a big help, Lew Prince at Vintage (Vinyl), Randy Davis at Streetside -- they all see the value in what we're trying to do. Retail people have accepted us. That's been very encouraging."

In all, Blue Sky is working about 70 stores at this point, with plans to widen. This allows them to take bands' CDs into stores on a regular basis, even if it's just one or two. The benefit to the company is that Blue Sky gets to deal in volume with regular buyers. "In one visit, the store can get 30, 40, 50 pieces," Thompson says.

The value to bands is that they don't have to worry about consignment forms, keeping orders stocked or dealing with one or two units in stores all across the metro area. "Bands get discouraged," he says. "Bands break up. The bands should be worried about writing good songs, about playing. And our best tool is a band that's playing a lot. When we send our truck around, we'll keep that band in stock.

"Once you build a pipeline, you need to keep things moving through."
That also extends to the regional aspect that Blue Sky is trying to develop.
Says Thompson, "That'll help some of the bigger bands here, when they go out of town. You always take a hit the first few times you go into a town, but now they'll have product in the stores. That'll work the other way, too: A band from Kansas City coming to St. Louis will have CDs here (when they arrive)."

Thompson notes that the variety of bands is wide. Blue Sky is working with the rejuvenated Blueberry Hill label, on the Townsend release and on an upcoming release by Fairchild. The company has hooked up with well-regarded Springfield, Mo., producer Lou Whitney, who's releasing the Skeletons' back catalog and new acts on his own label. And they're seeking to work with long-standing local acts like New World Spirits, Fragile Porcelain Mice, Celery and Michael Schaerer.

"We'd like to get all those acts but in some cases don't even know how to get ahold of them," Thompson says. "Some people have never worked with distributors, and they just don't get it. We're trying to be that one place that stocks all these bands."

Right now, Blue Sky is a four-man operation -- Thompson, John Frese, Tom Young and Dan Seddens -- all of whom, Thompson says, "have collected, have worked in record stores. I've worked for MCA and other major distributors. We've been doing this a long time."

If you're interested in stocking your release with the help of Blue Sky, call 909-4966 for more information.

-- Thomas Crone

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