Music

The War on Used Records

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Billboard reports:

Independent merchants selling and buying used CDs across the United States say they are alarmed by stepped-up pawn-broker-related laws recently enacted in Florida and Utah and pending in Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

In Florida, the new legislation requires all stores buying second-hand merchandise for resale to apply for a permit and file security in the form of a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In addition, stores would be required to thumb-print customers selling used CDs, and acquire a copy of state-issued identity documents such as a driver's license. Furthermore, stores could issue only store credit—not cash—in exchange for traded CDs, and would be required to hold discs for 30 days before reselling them….

Brian Faber, director of operations for the eight-store, Phoenix-based Zia chain, says that while the rules sound onerous and could devalue the used-CD market, "we would comply and the market would ultimately adjust itself."

It doesn't take much imagination to guess what that "adjustment" might look like.

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  1. A thumb print to buy a CD? If George Bush required a thumb print to buy fertizler in the name of stopping terrorism, the same Hollywood jackasses that came up with idea would be hitting the baracades. When it comes to protecting their outdated business model, you have no privacy rights apparently.

    I fail to see any reason why anyone should ever give one more dime to the music industry by purchasing music.

  2. 1993: Garth Brooks threatens to withhold his new album from stores that sold used CD’s, calling the sale of used CD’s “evil”.

    The ultimate Hollywood merger with the state will be when your Government Assigned Identification becomes the unique key used to “decrypt” (i.e., USE) material you supposedly bought and paid for.

    Freedom — not license!

  3. Exactly the reason why many people I know haven’t bought any CDs in a long long time.

  4. Wow. I can see the logic behind stepped-up enforcement of copyrights, but this goes way, way over the line.

    I keep asking myself when voters are going to wise up and stop electing these goons, who are in cahoots with the music/movie industry to totally screw over the consumer. Problem is, that life is so easy nowadays that people just don’t pay attention unless you knock down a skyscraper or two.

  5. If people can’t sell CDs at shops, they will just sell them to each other at yard sales and the like. How long before the FBI is conducting a “war on underground CD shops”?

  6. Maybe we need one of those “hit em where it hurts” movements. Unlike fuel, people should be able to go without new music for over a month. The music industry should be reminded that the consumers control their profits.

  7. Is there any precedent for this? Are there any other transactions that require such intrusive measures? I don’t have to get fingerprinted to sell anything that I can think of. On the other hand, I’ve known a couple of record store owners, and they were sleazy as hell, and they knowingly bought and sold stolen CDs (got busted for it too). Perhaps the independent record stores of Florida deserve this for their failure to police themselves.

  8. I wonder why state legislatures feel the need to get involved in this?

  9. The sale of ANY Garth Brooks CD’s should illegal. At the very least it should require a mental health evaluation of the purchaser.

  10. MP: Because, obviously, they’ve solved all the real problems they’re responsible for already.

  11. There’s nothing that the record industry can be done. The genie is out of the bottle. They simply can’t get buy selling the same over priced shit that they’ve been pushing down consumers’ throats for decades. The RIAA simply won’t exist in 10 years. And maybe by that time, somebody who makes a catchy little tune won’t instantly become a multi-millionaire. Times are a changin’!

  12. Are you sure this has to do with copyright? Sounds like a reaction to pawn shops being used to dump off stolen goods. That said, I still don’t see the need. As more and more music is sold via the internet, there are less and less CDs of value to steal and be re-sold.

  13. Exactly the reason why many people I know haven’t bought any CDs in a long long time.

    That makes no sense, geek. “laws recently enacted”, not laws enacted “a long long time ago.” What’s the real reason? Evil record companies, I suspect? The Man screwing the little guy?

    For the record, I believe that once you have paid for the CD, it’s yours to resell or give away as you please. You cannot, however, make unlimited copies and sell them. That’s an ethical difference that too few people, including libertarians, comprehend.

  14. Is this just pure ass-hatted-ness from the music industry or what?

    If you can sell used books without all the hassle, I don’t see what the pother is about used CDs.

    This pisses me off enough I’m tempted to donate a chunk of cash to our local public library, earmarking it for CDs. A huge number of people will then BORROW the CDs from the library and LISTEN TO THEM without paying royalties to the music industry and maybe even COPY THEM so they can listen to them again and then RETURN the CDs to the library so other people can have the same freedom (again, without PAYING royalties)

    Take that, music industry!

  15. Are you sure this has to do with copyright? Sounds like a reaction to pawn shops being used to dump off stolen goods.

    That’s the way I read it, since there’s nothing about requiring thumb prints to buy a cd in the article, just to sell. This sounds like relatively harmless overreaction to the problem of people pawning hot merchandise, although it could become problematic if the Feds every got this idea re: eBay.

  16. “, since” should be “; also”

  17. JF,

    There have been rules about pawnshops for people selling hot goods for years. Why all of the sudden are used CD shops considered the same way as pawnshops? Its not like people are kicking down doors of houses while the owners are at work to get their man band CD collection. Why apply the rule to stop buglers from profiting from stealing your wife’s diamond necklace to used CD shops? My guess would be because the RIAA paid off the right legislatures with idea making selling CDs such a pain that the shops will go out of business.

  18. Are you sure this has to do with copyright? Sounds like a reaction to pawn shops being used to dump off stolen goods.

    The more onerous requirements (ie, fingerprinting the seller) apply only to people selling used CDs. People selling diamond rings to a pawnbroker do not have to do this.

    Yeah, I’d say it has to do with pressure from the recording industry.

  19. Ever since the US cracked down on Allofmp3, I went back to buying CDs. I buy either from Amazon Marketplace (dirt-cheap used CDs) or from a local used books/used CDs store where I keep a store credit; I haven’t purchased a new CD in ages. There are several reasons for this, and price is only one. I also listen primarily to classical music, which is in very short supply in new CD stores, and a particular recording is nearly impossible to find new. In addition, many albums never make it officially to the US, which means that record stores have a copy or two of an “imported” version, selling between $25 and $30, and I can get a used copy from South America for as little as $5 (incl. shipping when I buy several titles).

    Still, at the end it comes down to the price: the marketplace prices used CDs much more efficiently than the record companies do. The former price is more often in line with what I’m willing to pay than the price of new CDs, and as a result I purchase more used CDs. Limiting my options to buy used CDs will only increase their price, and not the intrinsic value they offer, and as such I’ll simply buy less music.

  20. “You cannot, however, make unlimited copies and sell them.”

    You’re talking about bootleg CDs. Nobody thinks that should be legal. What a dumb post.

  21. Because of the RIAA, I haven’t bought a new CD in several years. I stick to buying strictly used CD’s.

    So how is this going to work given that places like Amazon.com and Half.com truck in used merchandise? If I buy a used CD from a seller in Florida via Amazon, will I be required to send him a scan of my thumbprint?

    This entire thing is utterly stupid.

  22. A huge number of people will then BORROW the CDs from the library and LISTEN TO THEM without paying royalties to the music industry and maybe even COPY THEM so they can listen to them again and then RETURN the CDs to the library so other people can have the same freedom (again, without PAYING royalties)

    Copying a CD you borrow at the library would be illegal and wrong. You may as well join the thieves who download copyrighted material illegally if you go that route.

    This issue has nothing to do with copyright, since reselling a used CD does not violate copyright since only one copy of the CD is in use at any given time.

  23. The more onerous requirements (ie, fingerprinting the seller) apply only to people selling used CDs.

    That’s not clear from the article. The article focuses on CD dealers, because it’s in Billboard magazine. But it doesn’t explicitly say that those requirements ONLY apply to CDs.

  24. Because of the RIAA, I haven’t bought a new CD in several years. I stick to buying strictly used CD’s.

    Ah, but by buying used CDs, you are driving up their resale price, which makes buying new CDs more attractive.

  25. Crimethink: I’ve only seen used CD prices go down, down, down. I suspect it is because the CD is on the way out. Your market analysis with respect to resale pricing doesn’t account for the demand side.

  26. This issue has nothing to do with copyright, since reselling a used CD does not violate copyright since only one copy of the CD is in use at any given time.

    It’s about controlling content distribution, which is about copyright. If I pay $6 for a used CD, rip it, then re-sell it for $3, it cost me $3 for music I have permanently and the original content provider never received a nickel.

    I can fully understand why the RIAA supports this type of legislation. I can also fully understand why it is doomed to fail.

    The genie was let out of the back when the first CD burner became affordable.

  27. What idiocy is this? It seems to affect ALL buers of used merchandise, used books, Salvation Army Store… It could put them all out of business!

  28. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what that “adjustment” might look like.

    Hmmm perhaps not, but with a little imagination….

    Shady Character: Pssst. Hey you.

    Passer By: Who Me

    SC: Yeah you. C’meeeer.
    SC: How’d you like some used CDs?

    PB: Used CDs?!

    SC: Shhhhhhhhh

  29. It seems to me, it has a lot to do with intellectual property. I have a feeling this is an attempt by the corrupt music industry to use the also corrupt government to regulate the used record companies as a way of deterring used CD sales, thereby increasing new CD sales. This obviously benefits the record industry. as with other forms of government regulation, it will be made to appear necessary for the benefit of “society,” or something like that. who knows, maybe it prevents terrorism.

  30. I’m not so sure that the record industry is behind this. I suspect the big box chains like Best Buy pushed these laws. It would seem to me that the retailer has the most direct interest in (1) controlling the hot CD market, and (2) hurting small business owners with whom they compete.

  31. Crimethink,

    The only reason people download is because the business model for CDs is lousy and CDs are overpriced. If CDs didn’t make you buy a bundle of songs and not just the actual song you want and were not priced at $15 the demand for downloading would be much less. Look no further than the success of ITunes, which did nothing but give people the ability to buy one song at a time rather than 10 song bundles, to see why that is true. This is not about stopping theft or protecting copyrights. It is all about protecting an outdated business model that has allowed higher than market profits for the recording industry.

  32. The only place I’ve bought a used CD from is ebay. I’m surprised theres much of a market for used CD’s anyway.

  33. But Lamar do the box chains even make money selling CDs? I don’t know but it wouldn’t shock me if the CDs are just lost leaders to get people to walk through and by electronics.

  34. John, I don’t know the answer to your query, but even if CDs are loss leaders, it still stands to reason that they don’t want somebody stealing $400 worth of CDs at a time. Just because they don’t make a profit on CDs when they sell them doesn’t mean that they don’t lose money when they’re stolen, whether they eat the loss or pay a higher insurance premium.

  35. I would think that a law like this would only increase the rate of elimination of the middle man used-CD stores. People will just increase the rate at which they sell CDs to one another directly over the internet on ebay, craigslist-type sites, and the like. Then of course there’s the notion that CDs are outdated, have entirely too large of a profit margin because they’re mostly selling 2-3 good songs for the price of 10-12, and that commercially produced CDs will all but be eliminated in 5 years.

  36. ed | May 7, 2007, 10:24am | #

    Exactly the reason why many people I know haven’t bought any CDs in a long long time.

    That makes no sense, geek. “laws recently enacted”, not laws enacted “a long long time ago.” What’s the real reason? Evil record companies, I suspect? The Man screwing the little guy?

    For the record, I believe that once you have paid for the CD, it’s yours to resell or give away as you please. You cannot, however, make unlimited copies and sell them. That’s an ethical difference that too few people, including libertarians, comprehend.

    I should have clarified…the stupid acts and greed of the RIAA / MPAA are the reason most people I know don’t buy CDs…not this particular law…

  37. “””A thumb print to buy a CD? “””

    Where did you get that one John?

    The thumb print is to SELL the CD to the pawnshop. I read the article and found nothing about a print to BUY a CD.

  38. TrickyVic,

    I meant to right sell and wrote buy. Regardless it is very objectionable.

  39. that’s a good possibility Lamar. no matter who is pushing this legislation, it is ultimately an encroachment of rights by the government.

  40. Funny story:

    I was at my favorite neighborhood used LP shop when an older guy came in to speak to the owner. He had a list with him of some tapes he was missing. The old guy was certain that his son and his girlfriend had sold the tapes to this shop. He had written down the UPC’s from every tape and he was telling the owner that since the UPC numbers matched, she had his stolen tapes. The owner is a tough old bird (I like to ask her if she’ll sell me her vintage Jam posters every time I go in. It seems to infuriate her.) She very patiently explained that the UPC number is not specific to each tape. This went on for about 15 minutes.

    All right, maybe you had to be there. I was dying while I flipped through the stacks.

  41. HI#,
    Did you helpfully suggest they could also cross reference the artist, title, and song list, to help identify his tapes. 🙂

  42. “””I meant to right sell and wrote buy. Regardless it is very objectionable.”””

    Ah, got ya.

    Agreed.

    They are going to want a finger print for everything someday.

  43. If CDs didn’t make you buy a bundle of songs and not just the actual song you want and were not priced at $15 the demand for downloading would be much less.

    The funny thing about this trend is that the recording industry is directly responsible for it, due to how they release content to radio stations.

    I still don’t understand why people buy only singles. This “I only buy what I like” is so bogus. How do you know what you like that wasn’t spoonfed to you by the music industry through singles released to radio stations?

    I don’t buy singles. I buy albums. Because I want new music by artists that I like. Not some pop hit I can listen to 50 times a day.

  44. “Ah, but by buying used CDs, you are driving up their resale price, which makes buying new CDs more attractive.”

    When I go into my local record store and find that a used version of a CD is the same price as a new copy of the same disc, I’ll agree.

    Until then, you’re a retard.

  45. Its not like people are kicking down doors of houses while the owners are at work to get their man band CD collection.

    Actually, it is. CD’s and DVD’s have been a huge home theft (and car theft) item from the police reports I’ve read. The reason is because a 200-CD collection can be converted to about $100 or so rather quickly. Of course, that’s usually at horse-shit quality used shops.

    The better used CD shops know all the signs of a collection being fenced and don’t take them. There should at least be some kind of sensibility in the law to have a minimum transaction size of say $200 because this seems like a huge waste for the typical $10-$20 used record transaction. (I realize some rare pieces may go for over $200 which still makes the transaction a massive bit of overkill.)

  46. “I don’t buy singles. I buy albums. Because I want new music by artists that I like. Not some pop hit I can listen to 50 times a day.”

    What you feel you are a better music fan for listening to the nine or ten throw away songs on most records? I can name on my hands and feet how many albums have been produced in the last 20 years that play well from end to end without a weak track. There are lots of artists I like and I will be the first to admit that even the best of them are worth at most four or five songs on a given record. Once I have listened to the sample of each song, why should I be forced to purchase the crap with the good? Further, there are a lot of bands out there that are only good for that one pop hit. Not everyone can be Lennen and McCartney. Most in fact are lucky to produce one or two really good songs.

  47. Its not like people are kicking down doors of houses while the owners are at work to get their man band CD collection.

    A few years ago, my roomate came home from work to find our kitchen window broken in, and my stereo and CD collection gone. I had around 300-350 CDs at the time.

    It has always been my assumption that the CDs ended up at a used record store, which gained a windfall of obscure progressive rock CDs. The replacement cost of those 300 CDs was something like $4500 bucks, assuming that they’re $15 apiece.

    This experience also drove home the idea that the RIAA’s ‘Piracy is theft’ line was complete bullshit. Some asshole busting out your window and stealing all your shit is theft. Some kid downloading a song off the internet is just copyright violation. I’d never used Napster/Kazaa/Limewire/Bittorrent before the breakin, but after, fuck the RIAA. I ripped every CD my friends had, downloaded what I could, and still haven’t replaced huge swaths of my CD collection. But the RIAA got their money, and if I’d followed thier rules, they’d have gotten it all again.

  48. John,

    When reading a novel, do you read the popular chapters and disregard the “throw away” chapters? Or is the value of a novel more than the sum of its parts? I think albums used to be more than just a collection of pop singles (those “throw away” songs mean something). Nowadays, too many people buy music based on the tits of the singer. The singles themselves are now throwaways.

  49. Lamar,

    I am sorry, album is not novel. If you want to take the literary metaphor, it is a collection of short stories each of which stand on their own. Yes, those short stories may in some way fit together to give a particular theme but they stand on their own nonetheless.

    Further, by your theory must you always listen to every movement of a symphony? I can’t listen to just the second and third movements of Beethoven’s Ninth and skip the ode to joy because I am not in the mood for an aria? I don’t see why not and a symphony works as a coherent single piece of music more than any pop record ever will.

  50. Lamar,

    I appreciate your position, but you are a dinosaur. The younger generation views music in terms of songs, not albums, and that has to do with a lot of factors but high up on the list is the simple fact that they have far more entertainment options to chose from than a kid back in the 1960’s. I don’t buy music based on the tits of the singer (can’t even name a single Jessica Simpson song- though I do lover her tits), but I havent’ bought a CD in over a decade. Napster changed the system forever. If I can sample nearly every single song that’s every been made, and downloade (either for free or through a pay site) those that I like, I have the power to make my on albums. I doesn’t bother me at all that my collection omits the 7 worst songs The Rolling Stones ever released. One would have to have grown up in an entirely different era to have such a mentality.

  51. Once I have listened to the sample of each song, why should I be forced to purchase the crap with the good?

    I have no objection in you buying music in any manner that you choose. I don’t think, however, that one can get the full sense of how good/bad a track is from a sample. My suspicion is that “track buyers” are significantly influenced by radio and do not have the means/time to do a critical evaluation of the remaining music released by the artist. They thus miss a lot of worthwhile content.

  52. MP,

    I never listen to the radio. I can’t stand it. I would be a contra example for your “track buyers are influenced by the radio theory”. I can’t remember the last time I bought a record because I heard it on the radio. I am more likly to buy a record because I heard the song in a movie or a TV show rather than on the radio.

  53. I agree with you all that I’m a dinosaur. John, I think your literary categories are a little too binary. People can read The Grand Inquisitor without reading Brother’s Karamazov, but it takes on a whole different light in the context of the novel. Today’s artists don’t seem capable of putting together anything as complicated as a full album, and the record companies don’t keep any act around long enough for them to develop such a talent. I also tend to think that younger music fans see music as good background noise more than an expression with independent value.

  54. MP,

    I am one of your despised “track-buyers” and I haven’t listened to music radio in years. There are lots of ways to be exposed to new music, samples from iTunes being one of them. I don’t feel like I have to own a band’s whole catalog in order to enjoy them.

    More on topic, it seems odd that so many posters have jumped to the conclusion that the RIAA is somehow pulling the strings on these laws, especially without any evidence to support it.

  55. Lamar,

    I am not sure how well even the best of “concept records” really sound. Give me an example of what you are talking about. Not to highjack the thread into a “my music is better than your music” thread, but how many great concept records have there ever been? Days of Future Past maybe? Wish You Where Here with its Shine on You Crazy Diamond parts 1 through 200? The Wall? 2112? Not many really. I can think of lots of records that were just plain great, without a bad song on them, yet in no way had a coherent theme other than great song writing.

  56. “More on topic, it seems odd that so many posters have jumped to the conclusion that the RIAA is somehow pulling the strings on these laws, especially without any evidence to support it.”

    seeing as how they were in on the raid at kim’s in nyc – over mix tapes, mind you – it’s fair to say at this point the fuckers have to buy the benefit of the doubt.

    (obligatory bleep.com link pimpage)

  57. John, I don’t mean “concept albums.” If I did, I would first point to Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger.” What I really meant was just the ability to put together an album that is more than just a compilation of singles. Chris Isaak’s “Forever Blue” is a good example. It isn’t a concept album, but there is a narrative thread that runs through the entire album that lifts some of the weaker numbers. But the grand example of my point is Brian Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).” The songs don’t necessarily depend on one another, but there is a give and take, a certain tension that is periodically released that just can’t happen on a single. In the DJ context, they take a number of singles and attempt to piece together something that isn’t just a random mix of songs.

    I understand that my tastes are from a time before the internet and short attention span America.

  58. God Lamar,

    Have you been raiding my music cabinet? For the record, Red Headed Stranger is one of the few records I will listen to front to back. Of course, Nelson did other ones to. Yesterday’s Wine is the story of the soul of an imperfect man sent to earth by God to complete the message started by the perfect man. (Could you imagine being Nelson’s A&R man in the early 70s?) Phases and Stages is about his divorce. Yes, I am glad I own the entire record, although songs like Yesterday’s Wine and Bloody Mary Morning are just as good alone as in context.

  59. Is there any precedent for this? Are there any other transactions that require such intrusive measures? I don’t have to get fingerprinted to sell anything that I can think of.

    I know that there are certain car dealerships that require a fingerprint before they would sell you a a car. This article was linked to from the consumerist.com a while back. I’ve also read about banks that require a fingerprint to cash checks with a fingerprint here and here

  60. As far as I can tell, we are talking about concept albums now, yes?

    I am a sucker for a good concept album. Here are some in no particular order:

    Quadrophenia
    A rock opera that works (maybe the only one)

    Year Zero
    The new NIN has some cool far reaching internet thing going on. Really cool.

    Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
    Way better than Sgt Pepper

    All of the Parliament albums. Enough of a story to make you follow it, but not so much that the albums are weighed down by it.

    De La Soul is Dead
    Maybe it does have a couple of concepts overlapping, but they both work, even if not with each other.

    The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
    Nothing needs to be said.

    What’s this post about, anyway?
    Oh, yeah.
    So, anyway, if you’re hating on albums, you miss out on some great stuff.

  61. As far as I can tell, we are talking about concept albums now, yes?

    Operation: Mindcrime. ’nuff said.

  62. I was trying to make the post about identifying a non-concept album that is greater than the sum of its parts. I guess that could easily be called a concept album.

    There are some albums that you just know are fluff around a single. Then there are albums where you can tell that that artist wanted the album to be about something, or take a coherent theme.

  63. Seriously, CONCEPT ALBUMS? I hate ’em. They killed rock’n’roll. You never would have seen Chuck Berry put out a fucking concept album. Prog rock is like an attempt to paint the Mona Lisa with spaghetti sauce.

  64. Prog rock does suck. Did I list any prog?

    You know, I don’t remember Chuck Berry putting out any great albums ever. He was a singles artist. Albums weren’t part of rock & roll until Rubber Soul. You can’t use him as an argument against concept albums.

  65. When you think rock should have remained a singles medium, you can.

  66. I love the old rock & roll, but I don’t understand why we can’t have Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy and The Who Sell OutMeet the Beatles and Abbey RoadOriginal Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come for Free…etc.

  67. From the comments on the orignal article.

    pjotr123
    Capitalism gone crazy. I am a convinced capitalist myself, but this is an insane aberration of the free market ideals.

    What the hell is this guy convinced of? Its certainly got nothing to do with the way free markets work.

  68. I wasn’t talking about prog, and I wasn’t talking about concept albums. Do you know where the term “album” came from? It came from before Chuck Berry when 78 rpm records would come in an album, much like a photo album. At that time, much of it was classical music, which had a built in theme. Rubber Soul may have been one of the first rock albums with a cohesive vibe, but musicians have been using the compilation format for centuries.

  69. Rubber Soul was the beginning of album rock.
    Pedant. 🙂

  70. Geez, this is a bit like attempting to regulate buggy-whip sellers in 1920. Most used CD shops I know of are dying a slow death or converting over to primarily used DVD sales.

  71. I’d like to see the record on used wars.

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