Spindle swindle… the downside to RSD
THE annual orange limited edition 3″ pressing which is Record Store Day happens a week this Saturday on April 13th. The company behind RSD is undeniably delighted that people now regularly buy vinyl records (£91.3m in UK sales in 2018) in addition to becoming digital ‘subscribers’. Those small, independent stores such as Amazon, Tescos and Sainsburys (members of Entertainment Retailers Association) are equally happy to share in the green you hand over. Every purchase helps to maintain prices – and these are historically at a high without any justifiable reason, it seems.
In terms of playing the blame game when it comes to the high prices, un-necessary releases and artificially-inflated hype of RSD, lumping on major labels is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy, too obvious, nothing new. If Virgin want to put out a double picture disc set of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Universal will issue a 10″ teal-coloured vinyl of Weezer‘s ‘Teal’. I was suckered into buying the Beastie Boys ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ on a plane-shaped seven back in ’87. People will buy this shit; we’re music and artist lovers.
Whether we’re talking artists’ contracts or long-suffering customers, it’s in the majors’ best interest to hog the pressing plants and pump out new versions of old.
Are the stores themselves to blame? Whether a hip new start-up or a long-established bricks and mortar store, many of these businesses need RSD to balance up the books and compensate for the mid-week lows when even the tumbleweed ain’t buying. If customers eventually baulk at paying top dollar for yet another re-issue, yet another shittily-pressed version of a classic release, the shops will adjust their stock and prices accordingly or else they’ll hit the wall.
Customers? Ranging from doe-eyed initiates, keen to join the long-running saga of reading run-out messages, to the near-retired looking for that OMD album finally back in catalogue, they genuinely want in… whatever the stakes, whatever the big blind.
It’s the flippers who are to blame; RSD‘s equivalent of concert ticket scalpers and gougers; life’s queuers who aim to make a buck rather than satisfy the hole in their heart over a first/lost copy of ‘Exile on Main Street’.
There are countless discussion threads available online on this topic, many of which can be summed up by the following: buying a desirable item in short supply only to then ‘flip it’ (sell) on eBay or Discogs for double/triple/name your price is a shitty thing to do. Understandable, sure, but shitty.
Not wanting to tread on such well-walked ground [disclaimer: I myself sell on Discogs], there is a hidden part of this story however…
Every minute and hour that a flippers
waste waits to snap up Record Store Day releases means further distance between themselves and the music. Yes, they will gain dollars and pounds either immediately or soon after. Yes, they are fulfilling a burgeoning need to provide folk with glossed-out 180-grammed LP-shaped hipness signifiers (at cost plus an air-plucked mark-up).
Forget the customers though: it’s the flippers who lose out. Once items are purchased by whatever means, those hip, young buyers have some eye candy to enjoy before the pet and then the baby arrives in their lap.
The flippers though continue to ‘list labour‘ solely for cash without receiving, directly or indirectly, the joy of the actual tunes, beats, lyrics and instruments they flog. ‘What does it profit a man…’ and so on.
In neglecting to get to know their commodity (and the traditional job of tracking down said items), these people unknowingly masquerade as a group which was derided not long that ago as outdated nerds. The flippers eschew this road less travelled, but they have lost out on the glory wherein.
Do the flippers queue outside a record store on any other Saturday? Have they bussed to a nearby city and rationed out enough cash for a bag of crisps and a soft drink to sustain them for eight hours so they could cover all the purchases they might – and do – need? Taken a risk on something they’d never heard of, but a name in the credits or a cover sold it to them?
Has there been a time when they’ve manned up and taken an allotted twenty seconds at the counter to respectfully request a record from the rack behind the guy who has sneered at a million of them before? Endured all manner of pain before reaching home and having it all made worthwhile the second the stylus hits?
Or have they ever worked in an actual store, buying and selling, cleaning and filing, hoiking out the drunks and the junkies, day after day being stuck to a stool? Flicking through an old dear’s lovingly-kept Jim Reeves LPs and Stan Kenton 78s collection only then to inform her they’re worth zilch? Bonded over Bootsy with a Kiwi straight-edge nutter? Found Organized Konfusion‘s first album in a box in the damp basement and then walked on air for two days straight? Wasted so much fucking money on shite devoid of a break or tune, but yet still kept breathing in the mouldy dust and fingering the worryingly discoloured marks on sleeves? It’s doubtful.
They’ll never know the delight of quickly rubbing the shrink-sealed opening across your leg in order to open the LP/twelve and play it. Neither have they felt the unmistakable buzz when levering the vinyl out of the white inner for the first time, feeling the static pull before you hold the pristine blackness in your hand, the room rebounding out from the grooves until you head, steadily but carefully, to the deck to ease it on to the spindle. And then to hear the incredible pillow-soft backing harmonies usher in ‘And Don’t You Say No’ [insert your own remembrance]? Priceless… and a B side too!
So flippers and their like are welcome to the official affiliated cider. They can wear a sanctioned casual polo neck and enjoy the sanctified buzz once they’ve queued on the 13th. They aren’t diggers or seekers or long-lost lovers of that shiny shellac so in vogue. They’re not even £50 men… but they do deserve our sorrow.