In the early 1800s, the US economy was growing fast and coin money was becoming increasingly hard to deal with. It was heavy, terribly difficult to transport, and it wore during handling so it needed to be weighed every time it changed hands. The US wanted something light, and more like a promise of money. This is when they started letting banks create paper money and the term “Bank Note” was coined(too easy, sorry). Now imagine that for a second. The Government licensed the right to produce paper money, but they never created a standard. It was a complete free for all. Over 25,000 different designs were out there. Licensed to more than 1500 banks. There was no trucking or shipping or a system that allowed for fast country wide communication. And because of this, people looking to make a quick buck came out of the woodwork to collect. Namely counterfeiters. It was just too easy. One of the major problems was, since there wasn’t a unified communication system, people really had no clue what specific bank notes looked like. It was this simple problem of communication that allowed anyone to get away with anything. And it was like this till the government took over the printing of paper money, and of course when technology caught up with the times.
The world of vinyl collecting has been going through a similar situation for about 6 years now. AKA flipping. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when you buy a record on spec, thinking it will be a very desirable item, and when it goes out of stock, you auction it on eBay and retire off your profits. It’s something that’s plaguing the collecting world right now. There’s so many factors that contribute to this problem. Least of which is how big record collecting has gotten. I thought I’d try and dig deep and expose the many hurdles this industry is currently facing, as it pertains to flipping. Here, in no particular order, are the issues as I see them:
The Social Networks a Bitch
As the Internet becomes more and more the number one form of communication, the ways of communicating on the internet increase. And unfortunately, each one of these sites is looking to create their own ecosystem, which makes them separate themselves from other communication platforms. Twitter and Facebook are 2 obvious ones. But it goes deeper than that. Ecommerce sites like Big Cartel, Limited Pressing, Bandcamp, Shopify, etc are plentiful as well. Then you have blog sites like Tumblr, Blogger, Wordpress, SquareSpace, etc. There just isn’t one way to find a band or label anymore. It use to be Myspace. But you can’t contain an industry like independent music to one shitty platform like Myspace. And that’s Myspace’s fault. They should have realized what they had. They didn’t grow with the times. Their brand splintered off and down went myspace’s zeppelin.
All these different sites create cliques inside of independent music, and it makes it extremely difficult to know when something you want will be for sale. You definitely can’t be without Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes you’re just not on the right one. Next thing you know, SOLD OUT! It’s a hard problem to solve. A lot of work goes into staying on top of all the releases you might want to buy. And it shouldn’t be a lot of work. It should be easy as hell. I mean when a band like Green Day is going to put out a new album, everyone knows about it. Why? Cause every news site in the world posts about it. You can’t go anywhere without hearing about this album. There isn’t one diy site that has the juice to match the Green Day publicist. Because once they get the juice, they tend to promote bigger bands cause the juice is addictive. There is one solution, but no one uses it. I’ll get to that problem later.
Money is Cooler Than Eating
This problem works in many ways. Let’s talk in terms of budgets and lifestyles. Say for instance 2 people, who have the same budget(barely any) and lifestyle, both collect vinyl, but only one of them loves “BAND X”. The other one has no interest in BAND X, but follows the collecting scene and flips occasionally. These 2 people will look at BAND X’s next release completely different. One says, “I love this band but I don’t have the cash to spend on their new record. I’ll have to wait till pay day cause damn I like to eat.” The other dude says this, “Well I don’t have too much cash, and I don’t really like BAND X, but this thing is going to be worth a bunch of dough on ebay. I’ll buy it when it comes out and flip it.” See money wins here. This situation happens a lot. People that have no money and want to keep the record, always lose to people who have no money and want to flip the record. And in the world of punk/hardcore/indie vinyl there are a ton of people that have no money.
RSS Feeds, How Do They Work?
That solution to the worlds social network problems? RSS Feeds. Every single social network and blog has an RSS Feed. And you could just put them all into google reader and you’d be on top of everything, at all times. You’d never have to worry about who’s on what network, or who is using what blog. You could get all the news you want. And it’s free too. Not like Newsletters which have serious delivery issues and cost the person sending them dough. So where’s the issue? Well there’s 2 issues. The first is no one gets RSS Feeds. They make no sense to people. The normal human being probably hasn’t even heard of RSS Feeds. The only people I know who use them are anti-social nerds. Yeah, redundant, I know. This brings me to the second reason people don’t use RSS Feeds. They’re boooorrr-rrriiinnngggggg. Most people like being social, and hanging out with their imaginary internet friends. They love getting their info in a social way. RSS Feeds aren’t social. They aren’t fun. It’s like you asked your parents for a handheld gaming device and they gave you a TI-89.
The Distro Gold Mine
One of the best kept secrets is a great distro. With so many small labels and bands out there, people are always looking to dump a ton a copies on a distro. Unfortunately, one never knows when a release is going to go nuclear. You could press 500 copies, predict a failure, dump 200 copies on random distros around the world to reduce costs, and then out of no where you’re sold out, and 2/5ths of your shit is dismembered and buried among a million failed releases never to be seen again. This problem is very much a catch-22. If the distro doesn’t realize what they have, they can’t promote it. And if they do, they’re likely to remove it from the distro and flip it on ebay themselves.
Accurate Assumptions Are Rare
Predicting the amount of records that will sell is such a major issue concerning vinyl these days. No one has any clue how many records they can move, and since pressing takes so damn long, you need to be pretty accurate with your quantities to avoid problems. If you go too little, you’ll sell out too quick, and the record will be an instant flipper. Then depending on how many you missed by, the minimum order amount might be too much for a second pressing. If you go to heavy, you’ll be stuck with a pile of kindling, and no matches. This is one of the main reasons preorders started. That and the fact that every single label has cash flow problems. IMO the best pressing is the one that, not only gets copies to 99% of the people who want it, but also gets some to the flippers, who then, get completely screwed and can’t sell them. Love when flippers take a loss.
These are just 5 of the problems that make it difficult to combat the flippers. Truthfully, the disconnected internet is the main issue. In my eyes, it’s more than 50% of the problem. If there was one spot to find every new release, regardless of popularity, we could almost beat this thing. We need maximum exposure for everyone. We need the Green Day publicist working for Iron Chic. But that’s a long ways away. Building the site is easy. Getting everyone to use it, that’s the hard part.