View from a Record Store #4
This week: the hot topic of the price of vinyl in the hallowed 'vinyl resurgence'
What is it with the price of New Vinyl? £35 for a Neil Young Record...... and no this is not for a first press of Harvest (which is only worth about £18 anyway) nor is it for a 10 CD box set. This is the price for his new album, Americana, on LP. Just so you know, the CD is £9.
At what point did Warner Brothers/Reprise think it was a good idea to charge this kind of money for a record?
But let's look at what we are dealing with here. Patti Smith's Banga LP £25 (Sony), Black Keys El Camino £28 (Warner), Lana Del Rey £27 (Universal) and the worst of all, EMI, a label who are on a binge of reissuing old music that is readily available for chump change for silly money, Paul Simon's Graceland LP £22 (got an original in the racks for £5), Lindisfarne Fog on the Tyne LP £35 (I have near to 20 copies of the original if you're in need, can't sell it, so don't put it out!), Pink Floyd albums re-presses at £25 a piece...... erm, wtf....
Record Store Day saw the worst excesses of this behaviour. The Black Keys' El Camino special edition for £45 was a peach, but actually re-issues of old Ramones singles being sold for £7 was the real icing on the cake. These are singles that, with a 1970's picture sleeve sell for £2, when like new. Otherwise, I sell em for 30p! Can you imagine how many Ramones singles were sold in the 70's. Hundreds of thousands. So re-printing it without the picture sleeve and selling for £7 is bonkers.
Now I see this behaviour creeping into the indies, with Domino in particular doing deluxe editions of albums (Hot Chip, Dirty Projetcors being the latest). In fairness there are also standard copies available for £15...... but it a slightly worrying development.
So what is happening here? It is kind of obvious that the big boys want to ride on the back on the small surge in LP sales in the last couple of years. And in their normal fashion they set out with good intentions then at some point, some crass marketing/accounting type gets hold of the idea of gouging the market. And here I am, left trying to explain why a Neil Young record is costing someone £35.
And this is the problem. In a shop like mine where 2nd hand is mixed with new, it rapidly becomes clear where the price breaks are. Most of my new vinyl is coming from small Indies. Here the retail price has crept up a little bit and sits around the £15 mark. Lots is still £12, and some is now sitting at £17 (usually imports). But this is all along side 2nd hand records. With a pound bin, and the good stuff starting at £5, better stuff at £7 and really good stuff at between £10 to £20..... £35 for Neil starts to look a little foolish. In fact it looks down right mercenary.
Clearly the acts that the big boys are doing this with have massive fan bases. And they are depending on this to ensure sales. Now I want to keep music fan supplied with nice quality product, it's why I do this. I'm a music fan, and am able to be tempted by the most ridiculous thing. But avarice on this scale will only back fire. The simplest way to loose your fan base is to take the piss. And the simplest way to kill of the re-emerging LP market is to charge silly money for average music.
What is bizarre is the obliviousness of the big four to this situation. Warner in particular seem almost completely blind to what they are doing. Warner operate ADA, the Alternitive Distribution Alliance. Here they distribute and even manufacture for literally hundreds of small independent labels. The big names like Greensleeves, Provogue (Joe Bonamassa) and Epitaph all do LPs. And they all do there new releases at around half the price of Warner. So I have this rather odd situation where a sales pack will arrive with over priced Warner product on it, right next to well priced ADA gear. So literally on the same sheet of paper as the Neil Young pre-sale was the Joe Bonamassa new one (which retails for £15!). For what it is worth I've sold about 10 copies of the Joe Bonamassa new one. I have sold none of the Neil. I won't stock it. If I won’t be taken for a fool, I do not see why I should assume my customers will. Kind of goes back to what I was saying before. I don't want people walking out my shop thinking they have been had.
Warner could shift loads of Neil Young if it was reasonably priced. They are right in that he does have a massive fan base. But instead they have thousands of these records unsold. All the big 4 are doing this, and all of them are closing themselves off to the market that feeds the need for vinyl in the first place, by ensuring the very shops that are selling new vinyl won't buy it. How silly is that.