Last week's free Saosin show in the parking lot of Lou's Records in Encinitas did not sit well with a local who sells concert tickets for a living.
"How do they get away with it?" asks the vendor about Lou's, which has hosted free shows by G. Love & Special Sauce, Flogging Molly, Pepper, and Pete Yorn.
"There were 3000 people who showed up for Jack Johnson," says a person who attended that March 2005 show. "You couldn't drive on the street in back of us because there were so many people." (A call to Encinitas code-enforcement director Joan Hughes was not returned.)
How does Lou's get big-name bands to play for free? An insider says that SoundScan, which generates CD sales figures based on cash-register scans of bar codes, is to blame.
"Every record sold at Lou's counts as five for the ones sold at big stores," says the insider. Though the five-to-one multiplier could not be verified, many sources confirmed that CDs sold at independent stores such as Lou's are given more weight than if they were sold by Wal-Mart; hence, the practice is called "weighting." It's said that record companies encourage their artists to play free shows at Lou's because CD sales matter more there than they do at Best Buy. The alleged rationale is that SoundScan multiplies independent-store sales figures to compensate for the indie stores that are not part of the SoundScan network.
Lou Russell, owner of Lou's, says, "I don't know" when asked about SoundScan's alleged weighting.
Norm Leggio, who has owned Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon for 11 years, says that SoundScan does multiply CD sales from independent stores.
"But SoundScan won't tell you what it is," says Leggio. "I couldn't afford SoundScan until 2 years ago, but I wish I had gotten it 11 years ago. It cost about $1000 for the computer, and then SoundScan charges you another $4000 for the software. But it's worth it because everyone would have known how much metal we were selling at Blue Meannie when everyone else didn't give a shit about metal, back before the Best Buys and the Wal-Marts jumped on the metal bandwagon."
A call to David Lopez, who handles retail accounts for SoundScan/Nielsen Entertainment, was not returned.