Radio Free, a thought on music pricing.

The third annual Record Store Day took place on August 17th this year. In observance of it hundreds of new records and rather exciting reissues were being released exclusively to independent record stores, as well as tons of free performances, give aways, etc. - and hey, with the closing of the Virgin's last year almost every record store in New York City was an independent. There was a big hunting ground. Most of the releases were centered on vinyl, and with a little time spent saving up I had a few in mind for myself. A long-coveted pressing of the Moon and Antarctica on vinyl, REM's debut Chronic Town EP, a split single with Mogwai and Fuck Buttons covering each other, SoundGarden's amazing first single repressed, new 7" singles by Japandroids, Blur, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fucked Up. Sixty Nine Love Songs got its first ever vinyl pressing. I knew I only had only saved the money for, maybe, three of these discs, but I was excited none the less.

I showed up to my favorite store fifteen minutes before its special early opening, there was a line around the block. I thought, ok, there are maybe fifty people in front of me, big deal.... By the time I walked in the door The Moon and Antarctica was sold out. Chronic Town, a twenty five year old EP reissue, was sitting on the wall for more than 15 dollars. The Mogwai/Fuck Buttons split, just two songs mind you, cost more than 10. Sixty Nine Love Songs cost almost 100. There was nothing I could afford. I looked around. In the arms of most people in the crowded store I could see my coveted M&A disc. And further more, in there arms were five or six or eight or ten other over priced records as well. I realized I was beat. I lost because I came to celebrate with thirty dollars while they came with two hundred.

Sitting on the subway heading to another shop to try again, I realized that I had gotten hugely excited for all three Record Store Days so far, I had even told most of my music loving friends about them, effectively advertising for the cause, and yet I had never walked away with any Record Store Day specific release at all. And I thought about when I had gotten into vinyl, how it was the most amazing format in the world because I could find Led Zeppelin IV for six dollars. I could pick up a beat up copy of Cream's Disrali Gears for two. The White Stripes' White Blood Cells cost me eight bucks, a new copy of Minor Threats 12" on bright green wax cost me nine. I could forsake convenience for quality - and for quantity.

That was only four years ago and yet.... vinyl isn't made for me anymore. I tear my hair anytime a deluxe x2LP 180gram record comes out, because I know they'll try to make me pay 25 dollars for one album, and I know I won't be able to. I hide my head when they speak of good packaging and pristine sound, because I know I won't be able to see and hear it. Vinyl is now for the rich who can afford to love all the high quality pressings, or for the stupid, too rapped up in the hipness of the format to realize they're being ripped off. This is a hard thing for me to realize. And I feel like because of the rampant theft of music online is putting so many bands and record labels in a tough place, they're taking it out on us - those who have been committed to paying for their music. And I don't know what to do about this.


  1. Ubisoft recently developed something called a "cloud-based save system" for their games. I'm not entirely sure on the specifics, but basically what it means is that your computer has to be hooked up to the internet at all times or the game won't run, even if you're playing a single-player game. This is supposed to make pirating their games more difficult, when in fact pirates will just find a way around it and the people who actually buy their games will probably stop, because they feel like they're being punished for something they didn't do.

    Comic companies are reissuing their older comics in hardcover editions that can have as little value as 5 issues of content for forty dollars, giving new readers who may want to sample this content nowhere to turn but shit quality, black-and-white paperbacks and torrents in order to read anything older than the late '80s.. DC is also going to start making their issues four dollars for twenty two pages of story content, knowing that their minuscule, dwindling fanbase will buy whatever they put out regardless of cost.

    And the music companies, like you say, are figuring "if they'll pay a dollar, it stands to reason they'll pay ten" and milking what few consumers they have left for all they're worth, leaving the people who don't have incredible amounts of money to spend but still value the physical qualities of music out in the dust.

    There's a way to combat piracy, and this is not it. In a sense, companies are biting the hand that feeds them and ignoring the one that pokes them in the eye, knowing they can't do anything about it. And as they continue this abusive behavior towards their consumers, they may find themselves going completely blind one day very soon.

  2. I had heard a rumor that some record company (Warner Brothers maybe?) was going to lower the prices of ALL of their artists to below $10. No special sale, no new release nothing significant. ALL of them. To me, this is a step in the right direction.

    I've always been of the mindset that music is consistently too expensive for it's own good. I refuse to spend more than $12 on a new release. Typically I spend more time in the used section of my local record stores than anywhere else. I can find a decent balance of quality and quantity if I look long and hard enough.

    The music industry is run by a bunch of obsolete dinosaurs with archaic thinking; preventing them from seeing the solution that's in front of their faces. The worst part is, the smaller, independent labels that have more quality musicians are getting beat up more than the giants are because they simply can't compete with the pirated market.

    I won't deny that I'll hunt down albums now and then, but mostly for preview purposes. I'm not going to blow money on an album that I won't necessarily like.