One of our newer bands on the label, Grace Gale, has been perpetually touring since the release of their album. Each subsequent tour gets better and better. But to be honest, given the amount of traffic I see to their media pages, and the amount of merchandise they are selling at shows- getting their records into stores is still quite a bitch.
I could take some potshots at our distributor, but I won't. Mainly becuase I think the situation has to do with the subtle shifts in the marketplace over the last few years.
Formerly my bread and butter, it seems that a great deal of "indie" type stores don't pay as much attention to punk, hardcore, or metal anymore. Sure, there's still Vintage Vinyl and Generation Records, but there's also more like Waterloo. The bulk of their customer base has shifted from the "kids" to an older demographic, who prefer Matador over Trustkill.
As an indie label that has a history of punk and hardcore, I've come to the horrible revelation that mall stores like Hot Topic, TWEC, and Best Buy are more important to sales than my beloved indie retailers.
It makes total sense really: punk, like Hip Hop (or hair metal) in the previous decades, is a more commercially viable form of music, and expanded from it's niche. The kids begin to understand the worth of the artists based on their real or artificially created "bigness." Major chains started bringing in the bigger sellers and the trickle-down titles from labels like Epitaph and Victory. Those labels start really supporting the major chains, and the fans started abandoning the underground. Kids who are fans become conditioned that they can get the music at the local mall, so they don't go out of their way to go to the indies. The customers that remain, are part of the High Fidelity set (like me) that have a romantic connection to that way of life.
My idealogical side cringes at this. Punk is not as easy as buying it at a mall, it's something you work for becuase it's your life, and is certainly not something you do to be popular. Moreover, I feel punk is about supporting the DIY community of retail who supported you.
Alas, I'm a realist. Digital distribution is only about 10% of music sales for a label and you can't sustain a business on those kind of numbers. While I'll support the indies till the day I drop, to continue making records for bands like Grace Gale, Blackout! needs to put records where the kids buy their music, not where I wish they would buy their music. This means that to achieve what we need to do, the label needs to overcome another barrier to entry: having the means to pay thousands of dollars in price and positioning programs to just get the records in the door.
(Would love the cats from Suburban Home and any other label folks to chime in on this.)