So a little over a year ago a company I never would have given the time of day to a few years before impressed the hell out of me. What company?
You see, other than driving into Hollywood to Amoeba Records*, there really isn’t any place to buy tactile music where I live in the Southbay of Los Angeles. Except that is, for a store called FYE.
Now, you have probably heard of this chain music/movie store. At some point within the late 90’s/early 00’s FYE began buying Sam Goodies or Musiclands or Record Towns or whatever other mall-tethered music retail stores had previously gone the way of the dust. I think I probably walked into an FYE once, saw how it was set-up and what the prices were and then walked out and never returned. I was spoiled on the south side of Chicago: for a time we had Threshold Music, Record Swap, Unabused Music (Hi Mark if you’re out there) and maybe a couple of other stores where I could go and browse and buy music. Threshold was arguably my favorite, and their 15.99-18.99 price range for CD’s was slightly justified by the fact that they had A LOT. In hindsight it wasn’t Amoeba level, but it was up there. So why the hell would I want to step foot in a corporate store where sale prices rang in around 16.99?
Of course all those stores are gone from Chicago’s South Side, mostly were by the time I moved out to LA, where I found nowhere to go quickly and cheaply to buy music other than a borders (P.U.), a tower records or again, that drive to Amoeba, which isn’t just hard on the wallet by way of the gas bill, but seriously induces buying frenzy just by witnessing their selection. I cannot stress this enough – I have to give my wife my wallet before we enter Amoeba. Anyway, the tower eventually closed and in moved that FYE place again.
Then something weird happened. To loop back to the beginning of this rant, a little over a year ago I went into the FYE desperately looking for something I had to have the day it came out and found that I was standing in the smartest post-iTunes music retailer around. Why the smartest? Because FYE was the only company to figure out that, well gee, if all CD’s are 9.99 on iTunes, the only way to adequately even attempt to adapt and survive was to price ALL SINGLE DISC CDS 9.99.
Praise the Gourd and Hallelujah – why did no one else see the simplicity of this solution? I mean, really, what’s the freakin’ markup on a CD that is MASS produced and distributed when it goes for over 9.99? And here’s another thing – I was shocked to see FYE had a pretty damn good selection. Over the last year and some odd months I purchased such relative left-of-center albums as Turning Lead Into Gold With The High Confessions, pretty much every album by The Ocean Collective, Sunn O)))’s Monoliths and Dimensions and several other things I probably would not have found anywhere other than Amoeba (or obviously the internet). So For a time, I was happy to welcome in to my good graces a company I had formally ignored. Corporate? Yes, however it seemed a new species of corporate – one that had been justifiably humbled by the internet, instead of destroyed due to pig-headedness.
Then they went and fucked it up. Recently FYE went and changed their pricing so that now it’s “hundreds of CD’s 9.99″ – the difference being anything that does not fit into this unknowable classification went back up in price to between 16.99-18.99. Now, why the hell would they do this? Well, anyone that’s ever worked for a corporate company, especially in the era in which said company’s business is disappearing/evolving, will know that everything goes out the window in a panic-induced fugue state: CEO’s turn over like corpses at a necrophiliac**’s house and pricing strategy and common sense go right out with it.
I was not happy. I still go into FYE on occasion, when there’s something there I know I need and reason I might not be gouged for. But seriously, this just feels like such a stupid, stupid misstep in an economic climate where people should be running their companies with brains, not reactionary kowtowing to shareholders.
But so here’s the money shot in all this. Recently I did go in to FYE for the first time in a while to pick up a reissue of Godflesh’s Pure album and ended up buying two reasonably priced DVD’s along with it, a brand new copy of Phantasm II (9.99) and a brand new, copy of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (14.99). And you know what the girl at the counter asked me when it was my turn to go up and pay? She asked if I wanted to purchase the two-year warranty on my DVDs.
So now I’ve got it all figured out (but don’t I always?) – the price increases at FYE and at several other corporate establishments I know of that sell music but don’t deserve to be mentioned here. The Warranties on DVDs, the total lack of logic dictated by the fact that, TA DA – someone somewhere, one of those corporate black magician number crunchers isolated in a lonely and probably blood-soaked board room must have done the numbers and realized if you take the number of people who still buy tactile media for the next x number of years and compare it to the receding amount that do not, you’re better off gouging that shrinking percent than acclimating to the market of the others. So that, raising prices and selling frivolous warranties will offset the number of people those same tactics will finally chase away forever.
If god loves a salesman than satan’s gotta have a soft spot for consumers.
** The little red squiggly is appearing under this word suggesting it is misspelled, but this is the way Slayer spelled it and so it’s the way I’m spelling it!
*** It should be said here as a bit of an afterward that although some may think me a luddite I most certainly am not; I buy a lot of music online too. But some things HAVE to be tactile. What would Black Sabbath’s first album, David Bowie’s Reality or any of Type O Negative’s albums be without having a cover and, especially in Sabbath’s case with the delightful ‘NOTES’ section of the inner sleeve, an actual, physical album cover to hold and look through?