Tone Distributing’s Henry Stone Is The Nation’s Smartest Record Sales Man


Anyone who has been in and around the record business for any length of time has heard of Henry Stone … To some the name of Henry Stone strikes fear
for he is a fierce competitor ill the market place … to others his name means admiration for he is . more often than not. a winner as far as record sales and survival are concerned … to the people wh!I work with him his name means all of those -things and more. Henry Stone started in the record business from the standpoint of A&R. .. sorne 20 years ago he went into · the distributing business…throughout the 20 years he also has had several hit records on his labels, as well as successful production ventures with other labels … Most recently Henry says he sold 2 million records with a record on one of his own labels … by Timmy Thomas called ” Why Can’t , We Live Together” …Today Henry is overseeing production of records and running his Tone Distributing in ‘Miami … and without a doubt, spending.all of his time “selling records” …few in the country · would dispute the fact that Henry is one of the best … we rapped …

BOB: You are getting more into , manufacturing records yourself than you have been …

HENRY: Yeah, my distributing is becoming secondary because of the nature of the business.

BOB: Can you explain that to me?

HENRY: After all the work that I did with the Atlantics and the Warner Brothers, the ABCs and MGMs in building their labels as one of their distributors
they changed over. .. doing what they saw fit to do business wise. All your work , as a distributor goes down to nothing. l’ve always been involved in production
and writing and producing all through my years as a distributor. In the last year or so l decided to make man1, factunrgi and producing my heavy end of the business. We came up with three million sellers in one year without even having …Funky Nassau, Clean Up Woman and Babysitter. We have four records on the
chart now.

BOB: What about albums? Are you selling them?

HENRY: Sure ; .the business is changing quite a bit there ….. R&B albums are selling … the proof is there when Bobby Womack can sell a million albums and
other ‘ people like Roberta Flack , Isaac Hayes can sell a million albums … You have to have the right material to sell that many however. .

BOB: · Do you see a shift from the single over to the album?

HENRY: It ‘ s a combination. As long as you have juke boxes and kids you’re going to have single business. The right single are selling as many million as they should be selling . Of course, you’ve got a lot of hype records out there that aren’t selling … but you get a good solid hit record you can sell it.

BOB: Henry, a record like Timmy do you sell it right from. the start. Can you give me the basics on it?

HENRY: You know I’m pretty fortunate by having my own distribution. The record business is like any other business, you’ve got to be realistic. I mean we all love to have million selling records, it’s great to have a million seller, but if you really want to be realistic, you just sell them.

BOB: You are usually pointed at as a person who had an awful lot to do with transhipping … is that true?

HENRY: Well, I’d say yes because I used to get the feel on a record and order 39,000 records … and pick up an extra IO or 15%. And by the way I’ll tell you something Bob .. .in all my years I never got stuck with one of those deal records, Never! The only records I ever got stuck with were the ones where the manufacturer called me up and said, “hey man , we’ve got a great record …take 1,300 … and another 1,300 .” But every time I got on the phone and
ordered 30,000 .. .50,000 … a feel record …that was a hit record.

BOB: Now, where did you market these?

HENRY: Wherever the feel came out of…the south- or the north … or here …You know when I get a feel · on a hit record I go to work on it. If I have 3 or 4 markets that I’m familiar with that are calling me on this record and I get this record played in my market I’m going to sell some records.

BOB: Now , you sell these records to one.. stops, jukeboxes, rack jobbers.

HENRY: I never did do much business with rack jobbers…l never believed much in rack jobbers. Rack jobbers take a product after it ‘s a big hit…after we do our work, you know? All they do is put that record out. I would not send my product to a rack … all they’ll do is send it back. See I believe in record sales … not records shipped. I’ve got years when our returns were as much as 50% because of rack jobbers. The manufacturers wanted the records out on the racks and they weren’t supposed to be there…because they weren’t hit records, they were hype records.

BOB: What about independent distributors Henry … are they going to continue?

HENRY: · I think they’re going to continue and I think they’re going to come back stronger. I have Bell for example …they’ve got number one, two, and three
in the country. l have Motown that has another 4 or 5 hit records. Brunswick that has two. Right now there’s a tremendous need for independent distributors
out there, because these other companies are getting so big they’re going to wind up chasing themselves. Companies like Brunswick and 20th Century
Fox are going to have more and more hit records … these lines are starting to build up with independent distributors.

BOB: There . are three basic things that have been complaints against independent distributors … one is …

HENRY: I’ll give you the first one … the first one is money, right?

BOB: Right , manufacturers not getting paid …

HENRY: All right, now let me tell you something. I’ve been in business for 25 years. I had a situation where some guy called me up about a year ago and
the first thing he asked me was “Are you going to pay me?” So I said, “Okay, I’m not even going to get mad at you, but I’m going to tell you one thing …
forget about how long I’ve been in the distributing business .. .l’m in a small market basically. I’m a Heilicher and I’m no Schwartz … and I’m not in Chicago. I
did a hundred million dollars worth of record sales and owed less than a million dollars … Where did the other money go to? It all went to the manufacturers, right?” Not getting paid by distributors was a myth that was built up by loser record companies … A&M got paid … Bell got paid … The winners in the business are still here. Those manufacturers went out of business because they shipped a lot of product. They weren’t supposed to be in business.

BOB: Do distributors have trouble collecting from their accounts?

HENRY: They do to a degree, but we manage to get our money because we have the organization . It’s like any other · business. It doesn’t just flow in. You’ve got
to have your collection people. and you’ve got to be careful who you do business with.

BOB: What about the charge of carrying so many lines that a manufacturer couldn’t get his record in the shops or you didn’t get the adequate promotion that you needed from your independent distributor?

HENRY: Well, that’s another fallacy …I mean you have to have product to do business. Some manufacturers got cold, you know. Just sitting there with five
cold lines as a distributor you can go right out of business. It’s up to the manufacturer. Just like right now, the only thing I want my distributors to do is
market my product…I’ll basically do all my own promotion in the beginning … if they can help … fine.

BOB: By market the product you mean get it in the stores?

HENRY: Get it out…We know at this point that we control our own promotion. I know when a station goes on a record I back my distributors with the
product. It’s up to me to find out what stations are on my record and get it in there.

BOB: You mentioned a while ago that there are a lot of hype records out there … what do you mean by that?

HENRY: You know every company … I mean some companies have more money than others .. .l’m also in the one stop business you know … where they’re shipping 5,000 of a Raspberries record say, you know? … and it ain’t making it … all “I have 5,000 ·’ records I’m just going to send back while the company is claiming they’ve shipped a million.” We do is ship it back. But in the meantime, they’re screaming at people … “We’ve shipped a million records!” It ‘s a hype
record. This is not a record that people are going out and asking for. Like the Timmy Thomas record. I sold two million … my returns are nil on it…they’re
still selling it…so I know that’s a smash record. I’ve been involved with records that have sold 200,000 and I’m happy … because I don’t get a hundred thousand

BOB: When you look at the national trades, tip sheets, publications, etc. , does it kind of crack you up because you see distortion in those?

HENRY: I definitely do . I was just sitting here with Sherry going over some of the sheets and charts. Get me the sheet and I’ll tell you the story behind
every one of these records, you know? Just like everything else, if you know your business, you know when a record is legitimately selling. There are a lot of completely involved record people who know …

BOB: A matter of not lying to yourself..

HENRY : That’s right…I’ve been around this thing a long time .. .I know you are enjoying what you’re doing … so do I really love it. When you love something
you can’t lie to it…you have to live with it. I’m trying to handle my manufacturing business that way.. It’s a good feeling to have four records that are
selling. If my product isn’t good it’ s not going to sell.

BOB: Back to this idea of black records and the length of time that you’ve been involved in that . We have a changing society and especially in the
case of black people … they’re getting more education and better jobs … has this made a difference as far as black music is concerned?

HENRY: The black music is getting a little more sophisticated.

BOB: Does this mean that more white people are buying black records?

HENRY: No: that means that more black people are buying records. Let me give you a little theory … You mentioned something about marketing .. .I’ll tell you
something about getting a black record on a pop station. This is a wild theory which I know works. About 50% of our black people today don’t buy in ghetto
areas. They buy in the areas where shopping centers are, you know? Take California for example. You get a record on KGFJ, which is a black station … so
let’s say you get a lot of people that buy a record like the Barry White record … now KGFJ is playing the record … andKHJ picks up on it…automatically the
rack jobbers pick up on it … more so than the ghetto stores. The Handleman’s put it in their racks where a lot of black people are shopping today. So more
black people buy that record. A lot of black people don’t go in the ghetto areas to buy records. Does that make sense? That’s a little theory I picked up
myself. There are a lot of black records that white kids won’t buy .. .it’s just that more black people are exposed to them.

BOB: Would you agree with the guy who says single sales only go to black people and poor people … people that can’t afford albums?

HENRY: Well…! would say more so … because the person with a little more money will buy the album … But one thing about a black person .. .he knows his
music…so he’s not going to spend $6 for an album with one hit song and a bunch of junk in it.

BOB: So, as a program director… what do I play?

HENRY: Well…that again is a very touchy situation. A lot of it has to do with personal taste. No matter how sharp the program director is he still is a human being and he has to have personal taste somewhere along the way. Yet, he still has to think of his audience so if he has a direct pipeline to sales without getting hyped he can know.

BOB: Where does he pick up that direct pipeline?

HENRY: It’s knowing a lot of people. I have people who call me because they believe in me …

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