Sunday 17 May 2015

Record Store Day and the madness of internet shopping

Record Store Day's principled ethos is that it encourages shoppers to use independent record shops. The reality is that it encourages some people to make money by selling the records on ebay. I've got no problem with that; I do think, though, that the buyers are often the real problem.

One month on from Record Store Day, I visited my two local record shops to see what RSD stock was still available. That Frank Wilson 7" that's sold for £40 on ebay? Still available. The Jimi Goodwin and Pete Wiggs 7" that was selling for £20? Loads of copies. Paid £25 for the Dusty 7"? Should have waited. It's still in the shops a month later. Were you one of the people that bought A-ha's Take One Me picture disc for £50? Yep, that one's still in the shops.

You'll see on ebay's completed sales that the crazy prices happen on RSD itself or the day after. I understand buyers' panic - I've been there - but 2015 was the eighth RSD in the UK and you can always get most items in the days after and a lot of them a week later when shops can shift unsold stock online.

There are always some big ticket items each year - you'll never find this year's U2 release after 9am on RSD (yeah, I know, try to hide your disappointment) - but most heritage act reissues just aren't that popular. Sorry, Bob Dylan, there aren't 4,000 people that want The Night We Called It A Day on 7" even if it is on blue vinyl. Someone was prepared to pay £30 through ebay on RSD, but three days later it took £6. A month later, the shops are stuck with unsold stock.

RSD is a victim of its own publicity department. Record shops are a victim of the no returns policy. Shops buy a lot of stock to attract customers - they're not guaranteed to get what they order, so typically order a wide range of releases to fill up the racks - but can't return unsold records, which is how record shops usually work.

You see these unsold RSD releases sat forlornly in shops like deflated balloons after the party's over. Today I saw some unsold 2011 stock. Once the hype's over, it's very difficult to sell any RSD releases. Especially as they're marketed to people who go to record shops only on RSD and in the week before Christmas.

A North London second-hand record shop owner told me recently about one of his comrades in the suburbs whose shop joined in the RSD farrago last year. He lost £7,000. That's not helping an independent record shop survive. It's killing it. If RSD introduced a sale or return policy, you'd quickly find the 550+ releases would shrink to something more manageable that would minimise record labels' risk and, crucially, benefit shops.

I know that ebay is a different world - I shop there sometimes, but I wouldn't want to live there - and it has a culture of crazy prices. I checked prices on discogs. There weren't any RSD 2015 releases from my sample on sale.

While on discogs, I looked at the entry for the original Frank Wilson Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). Only 2 copies exist. One sold for £25,742 6 years ago. Yet 8 people claim to own a copy. This is why I have trust issues.

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