View From The Side: Extortionate Prices Are Ruining Discogs- Time For Change


This is probably going to be the least controversial statement I write for some time: people who charge staggeringly inflated sums for supposedly rare records on Discogs are irredeemable bastards. There they sit, rubbing their sweaty palms with glee as they bung an extra zero onto a record because DJ Harvey might have once played it in The Gardening Club in 1993. There they go, these dirty scalpers, scuttling through the door of Rough Trade on Record Shop Day, snapping up limited editions with the unctuous avarice of a wax fuelled Gollum, bunging them online a week later at triple the price in the knowledge that some poor sap is going to fork out a week’s wages for a record that will most likely be worth fuck all in a few short years.

There are plenty of examples of vastly inflated record prices on Discogs, and it doesn’t take long to find em – Escape From New York’s slow motion disco burner Fire In My Heart is going to set you back 250 Euro for a janky VG copy, and a frankly obscene 1000 sheets for anything actually playable. This is a record that has fully suffered from the aforementioned DJ Harvey effect, and the sad thing is, according to the sales history, some nutter at some point has paid £250 for a copy, thus encouraging money grabbers to try it on with the frankly stupid prices they’re currently touting. As the comment section under the release makes clear, this record is shortly going to be reissued by Isle of Jura Records, meaning the grubby thieves trying to charge 1000€ for the record aren’t only evil – they’re also stupid. If they want to make money on the record while they still can, they should drop it to 200€ and get rid of it before the reissue renders there prices as farcical as they clearly are.

In fact, when you take a look at the maximum prices charged next to the most anyone has ever paid for a record, you often see a glaring disparity. A few years back the single sided promo of FCL’s It’s You was being offered for over 300€ – to be fair, unlike most of the old records that go for silly Discogs cash, this was a genuinely rare record – there were only a 150 of them floating around. But still, the most anyone ever paid was £118. Inevitably that record got reissued numerous times, and there are now copies languishing on the site for around £70 – if you were paying this money as some sort of investment, you’re very bad at investing. And if you merely love music & want to own the track on vinyl, it would have literally been cheaper to buy the wav and get it pressed on dubplate…

This disparity between the top prices records are put out for, and the top price they sell for illustrates something though – those offering records for vastly inflated prices rarely sell their goods- all they do is drag the general price up far to high, and stop a 12″ from finding a good home whilst they do so. They’re cockblocking music, and this alone is enough to dislike em.  

We all know scalpers are bastards, the thing is, what’s to be done? It’s all well and good moaning about inflated prices – and I can understand why people do; music has an emotional pull that goes far beyond money, like, it’s genuinely painful for old skool junglists who want to relive their youth to see that Studio Pressure’s Jump is being offered for £750 – this a tune that was pressed in it’s 1000s. This asking price is a slap in the face of music lovers. And what of the artists? Rupert ‘Photek’ Parkes who wrote Jump is getting nothing from that sale. Not a sausage.

So I’m going to float a couple of suggestions that I’d love to see Discogs at least debate. Hand on heart, I haven’t thought them through from every angle, but there’s no harm in getting the conversation going. First off, surely there can be someone of rewarding artists for their work? A huge proportion of releases going for crazy money are recorded by people who’ve never seen a tap from royalties – so here’s a suggestion; how about Discogs make it possible for artists to register on the site. Once they’ve gone through a fairly rigorous registration process, they could then become eligible for a percentage of any sale of their music, should that sale cost more than 10 times the original unit price. Where a unit price is unknown or un-provable, we assume £10 as the original price (and obviously come up with a different formula for box sets/ special editions etc). So for example, say you bought out a 12” in 1994 and can prove it was being sold for £7 when it first hit the shops. Any time it now sells for over £70, the artist automatically gets 50% of all funds over £70 – so £15 if it sold for £100. It’s not a lot of money, and it’s only really going to pay out on the high end of things, but it does ensure that artists are seeing some kick back from an industry that wouldn’t exist without them. It’d also show that Discogs is a site that actively seeks to support the people who give it it’s life blood. I’d also like Discogs itself to start giving a percentage point off it’s fee to artists on record sales over a certain price point. With making money off music becoming harder and harder, it would seem fair that one of the places making huge amounts off the endeavour of musicians should give something back.

Secondly, and this one is a lil more controversial, I would humbly suggest that there should be a limit put on how much more than the maximum a record has previously sold for that it can be freshly listed at. Obviously whoever first sells a record will get to set this, but I can’t see any harm in some sort of ratio that says a seller can only charge, say, 4 times the most a record has previously gone for. For any Americans reading this, I know what I’m suggesting is CONTROLLING THE MARKET which is tantamount to saying I’m a socialist- ‘socialist’, as far as I can tell, being another word for baby eating Satanist in American-ese. Personally, I don’t have any problem with the idea of controlling the market – people act like market forces are some sort of God-Daddy who must be obeyed at all costs. Fuck that, why can’t we just make money work for us rather than the other way round? If a record has last sold for a fiver, why does it need to go for more than £20? Likewise, if it’s sold for £20 then £80 is plenty to be making. This would control the obscene sudden jumps in price, and ensure that expensive records were expensive because they have a long proven history of being desirable, not that some chancer is looking to rip people off on the back of an artificial boom. Obviously there would need to be checks and balances in place to stop anyone gaming the system, but y’know banking worked a lot better for the people when it was regulated – Discogs could handle the same.

I guess the argument against this policy is 1) people should be able to charge whatever they like- personally I don’t agree with this, because it removes any sort of acknowledgement of community, and we are, and should aspire to be, a record buying community and 2) there will be less people willing to sell if the prices are curtailed. You, I, and anyone who’s ever been into vinyl knows that this is rubbish – record collectors will always collect, and the only people who’ll be put off are the bloated chancers who love cash more than songs.

As I’ve said, there’s are only suggestions, and I’m sure they’re flawed. The chances of them being implemented by Discogs are low-to-zero, but I think it’s worth opening discussion about how the site can move forward to support musicians and record collectors alike. Ultimately the site is entirely made by its own community – we’re the ones filling in painstaking details about producers and session musicians, copying sleeve notes and uploading label shots. Without us, Discogs is nothing, perhaps it’s time to consider how it can better work for us.