Maybe I’m swimming against the tide, but I still like to buy records. Hopefully, you do too, and if you’re like me, it’s a habit that puts a fairly big dent in your wallet. Actually, let me revise that earlier statement. I love buying records. I love browsing at record stores, flipping through the rows of albums, looking closely at the cover art, and then–this is the part I don’t love–grimacing at the prices.
Is it just me, or are indie record prices getting a little out of hand? It was not particularly surprising when major labels started charging $20 a CD. Obviously that sort of gouging wasn’t beneath them, but I’ve always expected indie labels to be a little more consumer-friendly and fairness-oriented. So why are some labels’ mail order prices upwards of 19 or 20 bucks for a new LP when labels like K and In the Red are only asking for $12 or $13? Those two venerable labels would appear to demonstrate that high prices aren’t needed for business longevity.
I’m reminded of a Todd Barry joke about Fugazi, about how the band’s commitment to low ticket prices was admirable, but that surely someone in the group must have suggested that if they raised tickets above $5 they might be able to afford health care. In the world of record sales, is it cynical to assume that the extra money isn’t going to the artists? I’ve seen a number of bands charge less for records at their shows than their labels do via mail order. Surely that’s in part to encourage people to leave shows with a little merch, but maybe the bands also know something about pleasing the fans that the labels don’t?
I’m eager to hear your thoughts on all of this. How much is too much for an LP or a 7″? How strongly does the cost of a record affect your decision to buy it? Are there labels that you feel are charging especially fair or unfair prices? Let us know in the comments.