Welcome to the Complaint Department, a column dedicated to calling out trends in the entertainment industry that bother us.
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Times are tough in the world. Everyone seems to be short on cash, and many are trying to find a way to make a quick buck. For some, scalping tickets to sporting events, concerts, and the like has always been a pretty easy science to master. The concept is simple:
- Buy as many tickets as possible to a concert in high demand
- Wait for said show to sell out
- Post your tickets online at a price above the original retail value
If you’re anything like me, I’m willing to wager twenty bucks that reading the above description lead you to think, “Man, I hate scalpers! Fuck those dudes!” And you’re right, scalpers can be pretty scummy people. They’re taking advantage of someone’s extreme fandom for an artist and exploiting it. Along with ticket scalping, another method of exploiting fandom that has plagued the industry for years is the concept of flipping vinyl. It’s always been a problem, however, the rise of the internet has made things exponentially worse. The Internet has made it extremely easy for anyone to snag up limited pressing records and then immediately put them on your favorite websites for marked up prices. That is not okay. Simply put, if you buy vinyl with the sole purpose of exploiting a fan’s love for your own gain,
2012, all things considered, was a good year for physical album sales. Record labels caught on that kids wanted to buy vinyl again. Kids found that there’s something inherently rewarding about holding one of your favorite band’s records in your hands. To meet demand while staying financially affordable, record labels put out wax versions of your favorite albums, both old and new, in limited runs, to ensure that they could make back the money invested into pressing said record. Labels generally press about 500-1500 records per pressing, and within that number they make different color variants that are even more limited in quantity. Let me break it down for you really fast with a great example from recent memory: The newest Title Fight record, Floral Green.
SideOneDummy, a super successful punk label recently pressed:
500 “Floral Green” color records
2500 “Green” color Records
A undisclosed amount of Black Records
(many major labels just press records on black after selling the limited color variants)
This number of the limited color variants is actually quite large in comparison to other labels pressing vinyl these days. Most labels will make three different color variants out of a total of about 1500 records. But the thing that’s awesome is all the different colorways are the same price. 15 dollars. While there are deviations depending on the label and record, all color variants are (generally) the same price. But back to Title Fight.
When SideOneDummy announced that Floral Green was up for pre-order, the internet went into a panic. Why? Because everyone NEEDED that “Floral Green” color variant of the record. Not only was it a gorgeous pressing, but it was also the colorway that had the least amount available. This “Floral Green” colorway sold out in about 1 hour. I wasn’t very surprised. This same thing happened with Title Fight’s debut full length Shed. But why did it sell out so fast?
After a few weeks and the album dropped, it all started to make more sense. When people started to get their copies in the mail, I immediately saw to see this most limited color variant all over eBay, Vinyl Collective, and other websites. It wasn’t for the same price (or honestly even relatively close to the market price). The “Floral Green” color variant was consistently going for 90-110 dollars on eBay, with a few cases of people buying it for more than that. This was only days after it was released.
I understand someone setting a really high price for a Minor Threat 1st pressing of their début 7inch, that’s a landmark album and a piece of punk history. But we’re not back in the 80’s when records were really the only way to consume music. Music is available digitally everywhere, so buying vinyl is more of a collector’s item. They’re not made in mass production like it used to, which in turn makes records harder to acquire (if you don’t know what you’re doing). People have taken to the internet to take these already limited quantities of records and put them on the internet purely for their own gain, pushing kids and collectors to pay 100 dollars for a record that just came out and the original buyer didn’t even want. That’s honestly really messed up.
This exploitation of fans is going to kill vinyl collecting. Sure, I understand better than anyone that people want the most limited pressing. I ran out in the freezing snow in shorts while on tour to get better signal on my phone just so I could snag up the most limited variant of the new The Rival Mob record. It’s an addiction and it’s a game. There are records in my collection I could sell now for almost five to six times the price I bought them for, and that’s a sin. But who sets these values on records? Who makes these rules? Who makes a record that came out a month ago worth so much money? Those who have the fastest finger when pre-orders come out.
When the internet wasn’t around, or at the very least not as functional and easy to use as it is today, collectors had to physically buy records from bands, stores, or other collectors. The effort to get a record was much greater, because you had to physically pick your ass up and get it. Now, it takes a few clicks of your mouse and you’re done. Just like that. Because it’s so easy to buy, it’s also easier to sell. This is great for respectable collectors, because you can find someone across the world who has the record you want and work out a way to buy (or trade) for it. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Until all the records you want are now in some flipper’s basement collecting dust until his eBay sale of 100 dollars ends. Collecting vinyl has become less of a hobby, and more of a business, and that’s simply not okay. Hell, I bought a record from a guy who makes a killing simply buying limited press vinyl and then immediately putting them up in a webstore for exponentially more money. I asked him why he does it, and he said, “It’s cause guys like you will buy them.” Thanks.
Do I sound bitter? I’m a vinyl collector, of course I’m angry about this. But the fact of the matter is I’m better at snagging up these pressings than the general vinyl population. If I know there is a record that I want, I religiously follow it via the internet to make sure I know exactly when it goes up for pre-order so I can get that limited quantity. But I would never, ever, buy a record that I don’t want just for the sole purpose of flipping it online. I’m going to go as far to say I think you’re relatively scummy for buying two of the same record purely to sell one and keep the other. Yes, I’m looking at you who snagged more than one copy of the new Fall Out Boy From Under the Cork Tree repress. Sure, you bought one record for yourself, but you’re just being greedy. What if it was you who missed out? I know a bunch of friends who have missed out on pressings who were really upset to learn that they could get that record for almost five times the price online. That’s a depressing realization. If you go on eBay now, there are already plenty of copies of the Fall Out Boy From Under the Cork Tree repress listed for sale. It went on sale last Monday.
Is there really a solution to this? Yes and no.
- Record labels first need see that this is happening – You know that kids are doing it, and I know you’re nervous about selling all the records so you can make back the investment you put in. Breathe easy, if the record is good kids are still going to want to buy it, and you will make your money back, I promise. Put a limit to the amount that a person can buy of a single record. I suggest two, because sometimes people do actually want to pick up another copy for a friend.
- For the vinyl collector / fans who miss out? Get better at using the internet. – Since every record is basically a rat race to see who has the fastest finger, you just need to be better than the flipper. Research when records you want are coming out, and make accounts on the labels you know you buy from often to speed up the process.
Vinyl is a resurging entity that makes purchasing music interesting again. I actually care about picking up an album, not just waiting for it to hit my nearest blog for free download. I want to buy it. If you asked me this same thing five years ago, I probably would have laughed at you. Keyboard warriors of the internet: please don’t make me apathetic again. Support the bands you love, and share the joy of purchasing a band’s new record with everyone. Because there really is nothing like opening up and pressing the needle down on a clean, new piece of wax filled with music you love.
Written By: Tyler Osborne (Follow him on Twitter and let him know if you agree)