This week, the news came out that Universal Music Group is planning on slashing its CD list prices in an attempt to revitalize CD sales. This is a good thing for music fans, right? Unfortunately, it sounds like it was implemented about as thoughtfully as a Republican-backed prescription drug plan. In the end, who gets fucked? The little guy. Glorious Noise got permission to reprint this message from an outraged record store employee.
Don’t believe the hype. This is a pretty disgusting attempt by one of the majors to further stick it to the small retailers and the one-stop wholesalers who have helped to make these fuckers fat and rich over the years. Earlier this week, Universal Music gave our independent record coalition an early look at this “great deal.” The details are pretty offensive. They advertise a big cut in the list price and hype this great savings to consumers. In reality the actual cost to wholesalers is dropped a buck and a half or so.
Retailers who aren’t direct with the majors (95% of us) will still get stuff through a one-stop who will have to compensate for their own shrinking margin by adjusting prices to us. We may ultimately pay a buck less for discs and are now faced with an already cynical, downloading public who saw the news reports and now thinks they shouldn’t have to pay more than $10 or $11.99 for a cd.
Long story short: record stores end up looking even more like the bad guys. Best Buy will still sell stuff at or below the already unfair cost price they get from these fuckers. On top of all that, Universal plans to use this move as an excuse to cut program incentives and co-op advertising dollars to retailers. Now we can’t even get some of the ad dollars that have been available to us. They even have the balls to make it sound like they are doing us a favor.
“Our new pricing model will enable U.S. retailers to offer music at a much more appealing price point in comparison to other entertainment products,” said Jim Urie, president of Universal Music & Video Distribution. “We are confident this pricing approach will drive music fans back into retail stores.”
I hate to get completely preachy here but…if you love music (and I know you guys do) you need to support record stores. These labels are evil bastards who would love nothing more than to completely eliminate us from the process. They could care less if the only place to buy music is Best Buy, Circuit City, Borders and through their own online methods. And half of these label reps are too stupid to realize that if this happens it’s going to eliminate most of their jobs as well. No accounts to service means no need for account reps.
Yesterday an old friend who owns and operates a great store called Desirable Discs called to tell me that she was closing her doors after 25 years of doing business in the Dearborn area. This was one of the greatest record stores in the history of Michigan record stores. As recently as a year ago they had three stores, the flagship being a 4000+ square foot store loaded with mostly independent CDs and an amazing collection of vinyl. Record freaks and store owners ranging from NRBQ’s Tom Ardolino & Terry Adams to high end Japanese dealers went out of their way to get to this store. They closed one store, then another, moved their last location to a much smaller spot and finally decided to call it quits yesterday. Look around. This is happening in your town too.
If you only care about sitting at your computer and ordering from Amazon or think saving two bucks on a new release justifies shopping at Best Buy and Target (great music store), then ignore all this shit. But if you are at all like me and you love shopping in record stores, seriously reconsider your buying habits. I seriously believe that the erosion of real stores will ultimately mean the erosion of lots of the real music out there.
Robert Nolan is co-owner of Rubber Soul Records in Ypsilanti, Michigan.