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Grey Music Matters Part 1

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

In the music industry, the physical media or even the band mercy has played a significant role in income for an artist. These days have brought chaos to this slice of this income stream, with covid, digital sales, and streaming taking a direct hit to physical media. It is no doubt that direct sales of physical media puts money in the pocket of a band member, but what about the Amazons, EBay’s, and other resale sites like Discogs that are selling used physical media? While it is not illegal to resell these items (that would make it a black market), this is the grey market - others reselling the art of another for their financial gain. And so the question is, “Is there a way that the grey market can benefit an artist?”

For a while, I noticed the records of a particular band skyrocket on eBay. I had joined a fan club on Facebook that revolved around this band and saw multiple posts every day on this band. The fans were alive and well! I decided to test the water and put up an old band shirt on eBay that was slightly stained, had a hole in it, and was over 20 years old. The shirt sold for $50. The records themselves were going for hundreds. Then it hit me, although the band isn’t making any of the money from the transactions, it keeps the fans connected and involved. The community was flourishing. I hypothesized that if a fan community is flourishing and vinyl and merch were skyrocketing, then it is a good sign to the label that there should be some reprints! If people are willing to spend $250 on used vinyl, would not many people want to spend $30 on a reprint? If people are paying $50 on old shirts, wouldn’t they also be willing to buy the new shirt for $25? Every new piece of merch sold would benefit the artist!

Little did I know, the record company was thinking the same thing. The artist teased a new album on an Instagram post, and the fan community erupted! What was coming? Little did I know that the record label had crafted a journey for my friends and me, leading us to spend over $60 on the new album, and I was in all the way! Did I know I would be spending this much on the new nine-song album? Of course, I didn’t - that was part of the journey and mystery.

The first single dropped, and it was announced to the fan community that the new single would be released on a limited edition single with a bonus track. Of course, I had to have the bonus track. So I ran to Bandcamp and purchased the cd for $11 (6.75 + 4.25 shipping). Then the second single was released, to my knowledge, only vinyl and cassette, neither of which I collected, so I was left to buy the single (still not knowing when the whole album would drop) for $1. I was frustrated that this one didn’t come in cd form! The third and final single came, and it did have a bonus track. Like the first single, the third single came in many different forms, including a deluxe cd option with many fun add ons. I gobbled it up despite the steep two-song price of $19.84 (Deluxe Cd 14.59 + 5.25 shipping).

As the album artwork was being announced, it was more of a tease. Little information was given other than the packaging was to be a work of art. A magazine was going to be offered along with it, and the well-respected record company had always delivered when it came to throwing in extra goodies with any mail order. The community talked and theorized on how good this new album was going to be. The three singled were like kindling to the fire. Then came the email that outlined the package release details. The vinyl flew off the “shelves,” the cd packages gobbled up. Some people reported that they bought every variation, spending hundreds of dollars. I went with the modest CD deluxe packaging with the magazine and a couple of other goodies. For a deluxe nine-song album (one of the songs is just an intro, BTW), I spent $30.58 ($22.59+ 7.99 shipping) even though I already owned 3 of the singles.

When that package came in the mail, I had to say I was beyond excited. I was like a kid on Christmas. I opened it up to find that I had also “won” a pin, poster, and sticker. I couldn’t believe I had gotten all of this merch. Of course, in total, for a nine-song album, I had just paid $62.42. But I didn’t care; the band and the record company were getting their money, I was helping fund music, and I felt like I was part of the inside crowd. Way to go, Starflyer 59 and Velvet Blue Music. Way to make the grey market work for you. I’m still waiting for some repressing of your older stuff! And now I’m on the same track with Ronnie Martin’s new album!

Stay tuned for part two on how your used music purchases or sales can help artists!

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