I thought the answer to this question was self-evident.
“It has to be cheaper buying from used record shops and record fairs.” I somewhat patronisingly advised a friend of mine.
“Buying records online is more expensive.
“eBay is a global marketplace. It is designed to bring together the biggest number of buyers: the more buyers, the more demand. The greater the demand, the higher the price.
“It’s basic economic theory. It’s the “perfect market”.”
I can be a right bore sometimes…
My friend Chris scratched his head. We were having this chat over a coffee, and he didn’t look convinced by my argument.
“But doesn’t that mean it’s cheaper then?” he asked slyly. Deliberately trolling me, I suspected.
“After all, there might be greater demand, but – to take your slightly dull “economic theory” point one step further,” and here he rolled his eyes rather too witheringly I thought, “there’s also more supply. That brings prices down. Loads of competition. Whereas in a shop, there’s usually only one copy and you pay the price the shopkeeper wants for it, which is often higher than you’d expect, because he has overheads.”
I admit I winced slightly at the emphasis on the word “dull”, but could he have a point?
We have these “stimulating” conversations sometimes. Usually however, economic theory stays where it belongs.
In a textbook.
More precisely in a textbook that belongs to, and is read by, other people.
And anyway, since when did an economist know anything? We are, after all, living in a world where we are apparently all fed up with experts, and people who, God forbid, know what they are talking about. Far better, so they say, to listen to some ill-informed nonsense from random strangers…
And – naturally – you couldn’t have come to a better place for that, dear reader.
Nevertheless, the question as to whether it is better to buy online or in-store is a good one. If you are building up a collection, and assuming like the rest of us you’re not absolutely swimming in the folding stuff, how can you acquire these black discs of wonder in the least expensive manner? These are crucial life skills. After all, there’s nothing that dampens the ardour of even the most spirited loved one than when he or she learns you can’t go on a romantic night out because you just spent the evening’s dinner money on a rare first pressing of Throbbing Gristle’s debut LP.
There’s also something strangely satisfying about finding an album for not very much money. I am certain the pleasure I take listening to my original copies of The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up” and Motörhead’s “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith” is greatly enhanced by knowing I found both for a pound each.
Record collecting for the super rich must be so much less satisfying. If you can afford everything, where’s the fun in that? I pity the oligarchs who will never know the pure adrenaline rush and utter joy of uncovering an original laminated-covered-and-orange-labelled copy of Bowie’s “Heroes” for a fiver at a record fair.
And it must be hellish trying to stop the needle skipping on your yacht in a heavy storm.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand.
To discover whether it is cheaper to build a record collection on line or in person, what we need is a scientific experiment. Perhaps, as the late great Paul Daniels might have put it, “Under Laboratory Conditions”. Or more precisely, two people who could go out and buy an identical record collection over the same time period. One would buy online, from all the sellers on eBay, and Discogs and so on.
The other would trawl record fairs, record shops and anywhere else that might carry such items. We could then compare what they paid online and in person and reach a conclusion.
But where in the wide, wide world of record collecting could we find such individuals?
I’m glad you asked…
Because for the last six months, Chris and I have been doing exactly that. And as I write this, I don’t yet know how much he has spent.
What’s more, to add some spice to proceedings, as is traditional on Every Record Tells A Story, we have made it interesting by way of a small wager.
The person who spends the most money loses the bet. The forfeit is to be forced to listen to an entire album by Chris De Burgh. All the way through.
To the bitter end.
At least five times.
So as you can see, the stakes are high.
And finally, because we will have two of everything, assuming all goes well, we may even sell one complete set of records to you, the record buying, blog reading public. Online. Or face to face. But probably online.
The next question is: what records did we buy?
I’ll tell you next time…
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