Monday, April 21, 2014

Got Dem Monday Morning, Two Days After, Price Gouging Record Store Day Bullshit Blues Again

"Hey Sal - on a side note - you are showing unusual restraint in not commenting on Record Store Day today. Hope it's not causing you too much grief, and maybe you are finding one overly-hyped item you would like to spend too much on :)"

-Burning Wood Reader, A Walk In The Woods

I was selling records at the Holiday Inn this past Saturday, Record Store Day. Well, I was trying to. The show was a bust in a "what if they gave a party and nobody came" kind of way, except that there was a party in just about every record store in the country and people did come, in droves. My record show was more like the bad party given by the high school math league, with punch and Rice Krispies treats.

I know some people who made the effort to grab some of those RSD exclusives, including one friend who was kind enough to go shopping for me. I was lucky and thanks to the major efforts and patience of my friend, got all but one item on my wish list. My friends, not so lucky, though every one of those elusive 45's and limited editions E.P.'s can be found "in stock" on eBay for 3-5 times the list price.  But you know, it's all about the fans and the indie retailers, right?

I'm not a fan of Record Store Day. I've made that clear. And I don't believe for a heartbeat that it is about either the retailers or the fans.

I had a talk with my friend who is still a record store owner. Here it is, verbatim.

ME: Do you like RSD?

HIM: Yes I do. It's good and bad and it can be stressful for a store owner. You really have to know your clientele. It can put an indie store out of biz if they screw up. All product is paid for in advance, no returns. If you order too much of something and no one wants it, you eat it and your profits are shot to hell. It is fun to see people getting excited about music again. Annoying that you can order 50 of something and get none. Love the fact that each year the rules are tweaked to become more fair to each store owner, i.e., no midnight sales no internet sales.

ME: Is there no resentment at all that for 364 days a year, little to no mind is paid to the daily issues a record store faces? New vinyl listing for $25, CD sales rapidly going to hell, etc.? Yeah, I was excited about the Bruce Springsteen release. But I didn't get one. This is fun? In the meantime, if "records" were so "hot" and "trendy," where is everybody on the other days of the year?

HIM: That of course is the other side of it. Makes me think yes, stupid fucking record companies taking advantage once again, cutting off nose to spite face with the fact that people are buying vinyl so raise the list price. There was a time when they catered to Best Buy and Walmart, but you don't see them putting in record departments do ya? You are lucky if your local chain has any catalogue at all. I said from the very beginning of Napster, the way to combat all of this is to lower the goddamn list prices to under ten bucks. $6.98 for old catalogue. At that time, Universal went to $17.98, up instead of down. Now years later, catalogue is $6.98 and the only way to get their $17.98 is to remaster and add some bonus tracks. Fact is most people don't care anymore. One can download the bonus tracks anywhere on the web on a google search!!!!!! 

(Here is the NYT Op-Ed my business partner and I had written in 2007, saying that same thing, more or less.)

ME: All the mistakes of the majors have been talked into the ground. I guess what intrigues me most is the fervor over RSD. It's meant to help who exactly? The mom and pops? So one day a year, they get a boost for all the work and stress. In the meantime, all the mom and pops have been putting in 110% all year round because they love what they do, and no one shows and the majors don't care. How about the fans? You create a collectors item and now fans have to scrounge for copies or pay through the nose on eBay. (Cost me $35 for the $12 Bruce E.P.) This creates what? A buzz? Big fucking deal. How does that help year-round, one buzz on RSD? So now, eBay is full of these releases for 3-5 times the intended list price. Where are the record stores now? Who exactly is this good for?

HIM: The coalition of indie stores is run by a guy who, with the help of a few others created RSD with good intentions. It's the people that buy to screw others by gouging on eBay that are assholes.
And honestly, the coalition does try to help all year, but with everything, of course, there's politics. I'd like to know what ration of limited editions a store like Amoeba gets.

Without RSD, the odds of a new Springsteen, vinyl-only E.P. selling out of all stores within hours are slim to none, even with a limited run. Without RSD, a limited edition 45 of garage band The Litter would never have been pressed. So RSD has come and gone, now what indie record store owners? That's the question I should have asked my friend.

Now what?

Here's an idea!

How about Record Store Day with NO exclusive releases? Just plain ol' Record Store Day. Make people buy from the thousands upon thousands of quality vinyl already in stock!

(Hey, I have three links just waiting for some sales.)


Anonymous said...

I stopped by a couple of stores looking for this Butch Walker single. I didn't find it but now I see a couple up on Ebay. One has 5 bids and is up to $150. The other two have starting bids at $50.

Isn't that what Record Store Day is all about?

Gyro1966 said...

It's simple - support record stores all year long. Don't get caught up on limited edition record store day nonsense. It's just a gimmick.

William Repsher said...

What happened in the digital age is that record companies became reluctant followers, not leaders. They laughed at MP3s and downloading when it first appeared. They weren't laughing too long.

It seems to me that the only way they can exert that old-world control they once had is via selling physical product and, as you've seen, they've chosen to go the "exclusivity = higher price" route. Because they know most fans of physical product, now, are collectors. And collectors will pay for a well put together package (and sometimes feel ripped off for shitty-grade vinyl and such).

I know I got out of the habit of must-own physical product a few years ago when every new CD I bought for my favorite bands amounted to pretty much a one-page CD cover with bare minimum liner notes and no art work ... just a cover, a CD and a track listing back cover. Which was more often than not the band's reality of having zero money to budget for artwork because everyone was downloading by that point. (And from what I gather, streaming now.)

It's a rotten industry, for years predicated on screwing over teenage fans, and I take little solace in that the tables were eventually turned, and fans returned the "favor." To the point now where music has become so devalued that most consumers are or will be entirely satisfied with streaming music, which is essentially renting it. That's a world away from the days when we'd wait in line on release day for an album we had read about for weeks and were dying to own the moment it came out.

A walk in the woods said...

I think we need a RSD featuring lemonade and rice crispy treats and whatever is already in stock...

Naw, I do have fun at RSD, but only for one reason: I have never cared one whit about The Music Industry. It never crosses my mind. I just love music. And the only thing I might love more than music, in that category, is record stores themselves.

So the fun for me is seeing people in them, and hoping that, like the pre-Christmas rush used to kinda do, maybe some of them will see the fun too and show up on June 29th or Nov 3rd or Feb 33rd instead of just this one day.

I went to three stores Saturday, and the only RSD pieces I got were the luscious-looking Donny Hathaway live piece (I cain't resist it) and a Wes Montgomery "whiskey-colored vinyl" piece.

Both overpriced. But, both are music, and both come from real record stores. So - I had fun.

I might think differently if, like Sal, I'd owned a store previously. But here in Atlanta, there are 9-10 vinyl stores (including one that just opened 3 weeks ago!) open every day and I am relishing that as long as I can... RSD or not.

melvinrussell said...

I stopped going to record stores years ago. At the time I felt like I was helping to keep the music industry afloat by myself, buying stuff almost every week. I used to go to one indie store in New York regularly, but maybe because I was somewhat older and balder than the staff used to get treated with derision (excepting one guy). One clown used to return my change by holding it high above my hand then dropping it. Finally I said, "eff this", I can get everything I want over the internet. I never looked back. Still love and buy recorded music, but I can do without hipster weenies. Also, I always hated collectable stuff because I find it elitist and usually it's so precious you're afraid to use it.

A walk in the woods said...

p.s. clearly, I am a pro at compartmentalization

soundsource said...

Paul Weller chimes in on RSD