In Stock?

In Stock?: Super Tuesday Release Party

Sixteen albums released on September 14, 2010 i i

hide captionSixteen CDs released on September 14, 2010 (Top row, from left) Hurley by Weezer; Passion, Pain & Pleasure by Trey Songz; The Guitar Song by Jamey Johnson; Mirage by Armin Van Buuren. (Second row) Majesty Shredding by Superchunk; You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples; Grinderman 2 by Grinderman; Band of Joy by Robert Plant. (Third row) Penny Sparkle by Blonde Redhead; Fields by Junip; False Priest by Of Montreal; Pop Negro by El Guincho. (Bottom row) Business Casual by Chromeo; Album of the Year by Black Milk; Lisbon by The Walkmen; Flamingo by Brandon Flowers

Sixteen albums released on September 14, 2010

Sixteen CDs released on September 14, 2010 (Top row, from left) Hurley by Weezer; Passion, Pain & Pleasure by Trey Songz; The Guitar Song by Jamey Johnson; Mirage by Armin Van Buuren. (Second row) Majesty Shredding by Superchunk; You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples; Grinderman 2 by Grinderman; Band of Joy by Robert Plant. (Third row) Penny Sparkle by Blonde Redhead; Fields by Junip; False Priest by Of Montreal; Pop Negro by El Guincho. (Bottom row) Business Casual by Chromeo; Album of the Year by Black Milk; Lisbon by The Walkmen; Flamingo by Brandon Flowers

Even at great record stores, you can't always find the albums you want. Sometimes the store has a particular specialty, sometimes the local audience doesn't support a genre, sometimes the price of an album doesn't justify the shelf space. Each Tuesday, we call record stores to see which brand new CDs they're carrying in stock.

This week, as you might be able to tell from the enormous image atop the page, is a particularly big week for new releases, so I called just one record store, but that one store — the Hollywood branch of Amoeba Music — just happens to be the biggest independent record store in the world. That's according to Brad Schelden, the store's indie record buyer (you can read his contributions to Amoeba's blog here). I asked him which of the week's releases Amoeba had in stock, and which ones he expected to move out the door the fastest.

Amoeba's huge, and pretty much the last big record store in Los Angeles, so I wasn't too surprised when Schelden told me they had copies of all 16 albums in stock and on the floor today. ("We're a pretty well-oiled machine.") So he one-upped my request and told me how many copies of each record the store had in stock. Within a range, anyway. "We don't want to give away all our secrets," he said.

Amoeba ordered at least 90 — and as many as 240 — copies of the records in this first group:

Brandon Flowers - Flamingo (Island)
Robert Plant - Band of Joy (Rounder)
Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle (4AD)
Grinderman - Grinderman 2 (Anti)
Weezer - Hurley (Epitaph)
Chromeo - Business Casual (Atlantic)
The Walkmen - Lisbon (Fat Possum)
Of Montreal - False Priest (Polyvinyl)

Between 30 and 90 copies of the records in this second group:

Junip - Fields (Mute)
Superchunk - Majesty Shredding (Merge)
Black Milk - Album of the Year (Fat Beats)
Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone (Anti)
El Guincho - Pop Negro (XL)
Armin Van Buuren - Mirage (Ultra)
Trey Songz - Passion, Pain & Pleasure (Atlantic)

And fewer than 30:

Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song (Mercury)

Since the shuttering of the Tower Records and Virgin Megastore locations in Los Angeles, more shoppers have come to Amoeba looking for mainstream records, Schelden says, but "the typical shopper is still in their 30s or 40s and wants physical copies of their music." There's also a new wave of "younger kids in high school or [their] early 20s that are really excited about buying vinyl."

Still, buying for such a large store is an art more than a science. It involves "statistics and guess work," Schelden says, plus an ability to restock quickly when something unexpectedly sells out.

Schelden says the store's employees make informal side bets on which of the week's new releases are going to move out the door most quickly. Last week, it was no contest.

"Interpol was huge," he says, "but it was the only indie release. We sold hundreds and hundreds of copies. The next biggest were probably Robyn and Sara Bareilles. A little more mainstream."

Promotion of a nearby concert by Interpol helped get fans into the store. Schelden says about 200 customers came in last Tuesday to get the record and tickets to the show.

As for this week, Schelden put his bet on Blonde Redhead's eighth album, Penny Sparkle. They're "one of those bands," he says. Bands like "Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire ... when a new record comes out it's just a huge seller for us. Their fans love us. Or our fans love them."

So far, he's losing. Brandon Flowers solo debut, Flamingo, is leading the pack. But Penny Sparkle is close behind, along with Weezer's Hurley and Grinderman 2, from Nick Cave's Grinderman.

But not all fans come in on the day an album is released. Schelden says the customers likely to come to the store for Robert Plant's Band of Joy will probably wait for the weekend.

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