To preface this, I will start by saying that I am a vinyl collector. I love records. It started when I would go to shows and buy 7 inches because they had songs that weren’t available on other releases. Over the course of a decade or more of going to shows I amassed about 30-40 of them. In 2008, I ordered the As Tall As Lions EP, Into The Flood, mostly because it was a digital release unless you bought the vinyl. When it finally came in the mail those 4 years ago, I pulled it out, and something just clicked in my brain. I fell in love. I knew CDs were on the way out, but I loved liner notes and the feel of holding music, so it made sense to “regress” to collecting records instead of CDs. A couple of thousands of dollars/pounds later, I still love collecting records every bit as much as I did 4 years ago. If you are curious to see what 4 years and a bunch of money looks like; you can check out my collection here. It’s been a great little hobby. It’s grown and held my interest like nothing else in the last few years. Even though I got into it a bit too late in the game to have any true scene cred, I really do consider myself a lifelong enthusiast. I won’t just walk away from the whole thing when it goes out of fashion. In fact, I’m starting to look forward to the day when it does.
With that said: last week an event occurred which typifies what is wrong with the current vinyl collecting landscape. I found out over the weekend that the Thrice record, The Artist in the Ambulance, was getting a repress of 1000 on colored wax, by Hot Topic. Say what you will about Hot Topic, I’ve never really liked the place either, but I have scored some awesome record finds there over the years. Also, I’ll support any company that is pushing records forward, pressing more albums, and generally expanding the scene. Well, there is no Hot Topic in the UK town I currently live in, so I thought I’d order online.
Now to those of you who don’t know, Vinyl pre-orders can be a nightmare. You have about 5 minutes from the link going active until they sell out, especially on a high demand record like TAITA (which has been OOP for well over 5 years). The problem is that (sometimes) sites don’t set order limits, so a handful of people order all of the copies. Since I live in the UK, I miss a lot of those pre-orders due to the time difference. Unsurprisingly, when I logged onto the website one hour after the orders went live, they were sold out. This was a title that’s been on my want list for quite some time, so I thought I would go the extra mile to get a copy; I was going to have to get someone in the States to get me a copy. Who does a 31 year-old man call to make a mall-run to pick up a 10 year-old post-hardcore record? His mom, of course. She agreed. “Thanks mom, you’re awesome”, problem solved. I went about my day teaching science to brats over here across the pond, and didn’t give it a second thought until I was seated that evening, around 6 pm, in a pub with my friend Chris. His favorite band is Thrice, and I told him about the record re-press. He asked if I could call my mom and have her pick up one for him as well. I called, and she gave me this story: “Well I was the first one through the door but she said that she had just got off the phone, and some man had reserved ALL of this store’s copies. She checked the computer and it turned out that all of the stores in the PDX area were sold out except for 1 copy up in Seattle.” I was bummed, but I thanked my mom profusely for even trying for me. Then I hung up the phone and promptly lost my shit.
First off, Hot Topic employee, I know you probably don’t know a lot about collecting records and had no idea why this was a big deal, but since when did the customer on the phone get priority over the one there in the flesh. I mean, c’mon, can’t you see that this must be in high demand and maybe you could free up a copy of the record to sell to the person who IS STANDING IN FRONT OF YOU? You haven’t signed a contract with the guy over the phone, save him one copy and then sell the rest to actual customers. What is the worst he could do? Not buy the super-in-demand record that tons of people want? Overall, it’s not the minimum wage employee I’m frustrated with, she’s not paid to think these things through and I don’t really expect her to care all that much regardless, it’s the dick on the phone that is the real problem.
So here is my open letter:
Dear Guy who is buying all available copies of rare records to sell on eBay,
Piss off. You are ruining something that I and many others love by trying to make a quick buck off of it. If you have a response to justify yourself, please, let me know. Why do you have to get greedy? Just because there is a dollar to be made doesn’t mean we have to make it. Worse than that, you go on eBay and try to create your own market by selling copies at ridiculous “Buy It Now” prices. At the very least, put it up starting at $0.00 and see what the market dictates. Also, do you have to be so greedy that you buy them ALL? Not only are you making money off of people who didn’t have your insane amount of free time to call every store in the area, but you are robbing true fans of vinyl of something that they want for pure reasons. I went and counted the number of TAITA records that were being flipped at this exact moment on eBay. You know how many sellers? 43, many with multiple copies. That’s absolutely out of order. At this moment 7-8% of the total pressing are being flipped and that’s just RIGHT NOW (March 3rd, 2012), only 4 days after release. At a conservative estimate, I’m willing to bet that 30-40% of the total copies purchased will be sold at exorbitant rates on eBay, some now, some later, but eventually it will happen. You should be ashamed of yourself. Seriously, you should feel shame over your actions, and if you want to do right by me, and all of the other fans out there, sell the records for reasonable prices on one of the many record collecting message boards and donate your ‘profit’ to an appropriate charity – Invisible Children is a great one, and hey, Thrice supports them too.
Avid music fan and vinyl collector.
I still feel the need to qualify a few things, so I will.
1. I’m not maligning the fact that vinyl collecting is getting more popular. I’m actually really happy about that. If more records get bought, more labels will start pressing records, little start up businesses will press bands’ back catalogs (Broken Circles, Academy Fight Song, etc.), and the industry will thrive. I’m not against making money either; businesses have to make money to survive, and as long as it’s fair and not blatant price gouging, then fine, the more the merrier.
2. I’ll confess, I’ve sometimes bought more than one copy of a record that I knew was limited. But I’ve never bought more than two, and I’ve never bought a record with the intention of flipping it. In fact, now that I think about it, almost every time I’ve bought more than one record, I have called my record collector friends and asked if they wanted the extra copy, which I sold for exactly the same price that I bought it for. The only exception to this was when I bought two very limited New Found Glory tour-only 7 inches off a website thanks to a tip from a message board poster on Deadformat.net. He ended up not getting a copy, so I told him he could have it at any price he thought was fair plus shipping. HE gave me about 5 dollars more than I had paid, so I shipped it for free, and spent the extra 2 dollars on a Taco Bell burrito. I don’t even mind when people buy an extra copy to sell a year or two later. At least they’re taking a risk and making an investment.
3. Certain bands have hardcore followings which drive up the price of their vinyl. A couple of the biggest culprits are Converge, Brand New, Thrice, Coheed and Cambria, Death Cab For Cutie, and Circa Survive (there are TONS of others, but alas…). I take special umbrage with people who turn these fans’ rabidity against them. They know they will pay a certain HIGHER price, so they try and squeeze them for all they can get. Not cool at all. It’s ridiculous that copies of Vheissu go for over $200 on eBay, and it will be even more ridiculous when the eventual repress comes down the pike and the aforementioned Bastards will snatch them up and try to get top dollar. Supply warrants that price should come down, but here they are still trying to rape every last nickel out of the fans.
4. I also have no problem with making money off of selling a personal record collection. We all need money sometimes, and let’s face it, records are worth money. It’s the deliberate and immediate flipping that is the problem.
All is not lost though, we can combat this. We need to abandon our immediate gratification and not buy these ridiculous “Buy It Nows” on eBay. It has absolutely gotten out of hand. If we ignore it, flippers will stop making money and have to find another carcass to pick the scraps off of. At the very least, go through distributors like Vinyljunkiedistro.com or buy from a private seller on Dead Format, or get it from an auction. We can make this thing better as long as we don’t play into it, or worse, become the problem ourselves.