Yes, this is a real job. Rack jobbers are the music (or games) industry equivalent of door-to-door salesmen, independent suppliers who provide CDs and video games to secondary markets like department stores, clothing stores, or coffee shops.
A rack jobber orders inventory from a distributor and then negotiates space to display and sell the merchandise in third-party retail outlets. Deals may include leasing space for a price paid to the store owner and/or paying the owner a percentage of the sales. Because there is limited space to display and stock merchandise, this person carefully selects albums or games to purchase and resell based on popularity and the client demographics of the areas he or she services. In other words, you won’t see a rack jobber pushing country records in a Hot Topic or BioShock at a truck stop. This person also assumes all of the risk of the venture by agreeing to take back any items that are not purchased. Obviously this presents the businessperson with the challenge of stocking only as many units as will sell so as not to lose money on the deal. Along with delivering product to client locations, the rack jobber also designs and installs displays that will attract attention from shoppers and help move the product. Periodically he or she will visit each location to track inventory, restock the shelves, and speak with sales personnel to better understand how consumers are responding to the displays. If business is lagging, this person must devise a strategy to fire up sales. Stores are not inclined to continue providing valuable retail space to a product that is not pulling its weight.
Skills & Education
This challenging career demands an individual with business savvy and a thorough understanding of the industry. He or she must be a slick salesperson who is comfortable in negotiations and is not dismayed by rejection. A college degree in music business, merchandising, or marketing is recommended, though not mandatory; courses in finance and statistics are also beneficial. Previous experience in sales or at a record label is helpful. The Billboard charts and trade publications like Game Informer or Pollstar are crucial tools to help decide which releases to buy and help estimate return on investment, so make these your daily required reading.
What to Expect
Rack jobbers may work alone to operate a small territory with a select number of stores, or hire several employees to manage large regions or a chain of merchants. Spend a few years learning the ropes in the field under the employment of an established professional before you set up your own business and take the time to learn the common pitfalls and mistakes that rookies make before you invest your own life savings. This will present you with the opportunity to make professional connections and understand the day-to-day details of running your own business. Eventually you may also face turf wars with other rack jobbers and have to compete for limited retailers, so it’s important to stay a step ahead of the other guy by tailoring your inventory to yield the highest profit for you and your client.
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