Database design – a case study
Absolute Marketing and Distribution work with independent record labels and artists to manage all aspects of the release of their music. This includes everything from the mastering and manufacturing of CDs to ensuring that the music is available for download through platforms such as iTunes, from arranging for television advertising through to placement of tracks in film and television broadcasts. (The diagram above illustrates some of the key objects that the database tracks).
They manage the music of over 1800 artists and 700 labels, have dealt with almost 6000 releases of CDs and DVDs, vynil albums and download albumns, and liaise with countless suppliers, customers, advertisers, broadcasters and others. They needed a system to make their life easier.
In essence, the system has to manage:
- Information about record labels
- Information about artists
- Information about titles (For example "Greatest Hits") and formats (such as the CD, the DVD, the Download).
- Information about the tracks on each title, and the writers, producers, artists, musicians on each track
- Information about sales and download sales
- Invoices to labels for work done on their behalf
- Charges to labels for items manufactured
- Invoices received from manufacturers and other suppliers
- Stock movements from distributors to stores
- All aspects of communication with labels, artists as suppliers
In addition to allowing the staff at Absolute to manage these items, the database automates a huge amount of functionality. This allows staff to concentrate on their key roles of working with customers and suppliers, rather than on entering and tracking information.
Among other things the automation performed by the database includes:
- Sending orders to suppliers as they are entered in the system
- Confirming orders on a weekly basis, and again just before they are due for delivery
- Emailing forthcoming release schedules to labels, artists and other interested parties
- Charging labels for regular work done, and for specific items produced as part of the manufacturing process
- Creating unique bar codes for releases
- Creating monthly invoices, including detailed Excel spreadsheets to allow costs to be tracked by customers
- Importing sales information produced by third parties in Excel and text formats
“Our new database has revolutionised what we can do. It saves us quite literally hours of work each day, in importing data, generating charges to our customers each day without us having to remember to do so manually, and in preventing errors. But more importantly, the database allows us to offer a hugely improved service to our customers – we generate reports each week, we flag up missing information and can prevent problems from happening rather than react when they do.
“In this way, the database has made given us an enormous edge, allowing us to respond to the needs of our customers in a way which we couldn’t have imagined before.
“Not only that, but The IT Service have been fantastic to work with – nothing is too much trouble, and Andrew has gone out of his way to gain an in depth understanding of our business. There are times when he seems to know more about my business than I do! This has meant that when I’ve suggesed something we’d like the database to do, Andrew’s come back to us and suggested an even better solution to our questions. “
"In short, his system has made our service more responsive to our customers’ needs, has made us more consistent in the service we deliver, and has allowed us to become more profitable in the process.
"Furthermore, I would say that it is saving us at least £40,000 per year…"
Simon Wills, MD, Absolute Marketing and Distribution