Discogs scalpers are hugely inflating the cost of rare records, DJ Mag investigates
In September 2018, hardcore archivist label Ninety Two Retro released a double-12” comprising six tracks and versions from 1992 by Mystery Man and 1st Prodject. It was limited to 300 copies and was sold directly by the label for £20 a pop. Within days of release, sellers were asking for as much as four times the price on Discogs, pricing it at a cool £80. “Takes the piss a bit, doesn’t it?” sighs the label owner Dave Birch, a DJ, artist and passionate hardcore preservationist known as Elusive.
His frustration is understandable; Ninety Two Retro has existed since 2006 on the simple premise of bringing old hardcore records that regularly go for £50+ back to life with a remaster, repress and affordable price. “This music is meant to be heard and played! I didn’t want people to spend £50 on a record, I wanted them to spend a tenner. But then people start coming along and buying 10 copies, and they instantly hike the value.”
As a result, almost all good quality condition second-hand copies of Ninety Two Retro have trebled or quadrupled over the years. They’re not alone; this happens every week in every genre. Take ‘Bandulu Gang’; a recent release on Kahn & Neek’s much coveted vinyl-only label Bandulu, it was sold for £10 at record stores, but some sellers began asking £50 for it within days of release. The same can be said for jungle compilation ‘Point Of Origin’ on DJ Stretch’s AKO Beatz, when some sellers decided to double the price from £35 to £70 before the release was shipped.
Meanwhile back in the realms of hardcore, another multi-vinyl hardcore reissue had a similar price hike last July when the Music Preservation Society released the test presses of the long sought-after ‘Energizer’ series by legendary hardcore producer Dave Charlesworth (known best as After Dark). One seller bumped it up from £70 to £150 overnight.
Welcome to the dark art of record ﬂipping. It’s deﬁnitely not new — it’s why you often ﬁnd records limited to one-per customer, and it doesn’t just occur within vinyl collecting. Tickets, trainers, consoles, even bricks (thanks Supreme) have all been ﬂipped for turbo-charged price tags. Anything that’s sold as limited-edition is fair game for ﬂippers. Or let’s call them by their real title: scalpers. But perhaps we should talk about this situation in its real title, too; supply and demand.
“You can’t expect to sell something at a tenner and for it to stay at that value, that’s commerce for you,” says a man we’ll simply call S. He often buys copies of limited-edition records to purposefully ﬂip. “If you’re a label who has an issue with people buying records and hiking the price, simply make more. The record will only sell for the price people are prepared to buy something for. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.” It should be recognised that out of the many contacted sellers who habitually ask the highest price for records on Discogs, S was the only one who agreed to talk. Most likely because he’s not a ruthless scalper. Certainly not in comparison to serial ﬂippers, such as an ex-Discogs seller called Tanmushimushi.
One of the most notorious record scalpers in recent times, in 2015 Tanmushimushi was eventually banned from selling on Discogs after years of notoriously high price-hikes. When Tanmushimushi was selling on Discogs, they were asking ﬁgures such as £495 for Mala’s ‘Changes’ and over £800 for Skream’s ‘Midnight Request Line’ (records that usually go for more along the lines of £100). It was Tanmushimushi’s brazen £10 to £50 ﬂip of a Four Tet white label in 2013 that led to the artist taking to Twitter and asking fans not to buy releases on his label Text from Discogs full stop.
While S does ﬂip records, he’s nowhere near this brutal, and has his own reasons for doing it. “If I buy something and sell it for a high price, then happy days,” he says. “If it doesn’t sell, so be it. I don’t sell them for proﬁt. I sell them to buy more records. And I regularly spend in excess of £100 on a record because it’s something I want. It’s not a business, I’m a collector, that’s what I do.”
By re-investing any proﬁt he makes back into his record collection, S has justiﬁed ﬂipping to himself to the point he doesn’t actually see it as proﬁt, even though it blatantly is. But selling records to buy new ones? That’s one of the old tricks in the collector’s manual. In this way, S is just like many, many other collectors. Even collectors who are artists and labels owners have been known to do the odd cheeky ﬂip here and there.
Label owners such as DJ Shepdog, the well-known London-based selector and collector behind soundsystem primed label Nice Up! “I collect records, I buy records and every now and again I do just buy certain things to ﬂip,” says Shepdog, real name Jon. “Not often. But I have, in the past, got two copies of an album, sold one and got mine for free. Or I’d trade it for something else. I’ve sold things for way more than I bought them for, so I can’t be too preachy about this. But if you’re buying 10 or 20 copies just to ﬂip when the price peaks? That’s the same as ticket touting.”
Jon explains how he seldom buys doubles to ﬂip or trade now, because they are less likely to increase in value due to the culture becoming so commonplace, and the bandwagon is starting to bulge. He also explains how he’s made a lot more from selling older records that have naturally gone up in value, like his old collection of hip-hop 45s, some of which he’s sold for ﬁve or six times the price he paid for them in the early 2000s. “I’d had my fun with the record, and was happy to let them go to someone who will continue to enjoy it, everyone wins,” says Shep. “If they wanted it when I bought it, they’d have paid less, too.”
What Shepdog is talking about here is what vinyl collecting has been about since the gramophone was invented, and has been known throughout the ages as ‘knowing your shit’. Whether it’s your dad poring over old prog rock records or you digging old jungle records: there’s a discipline and serious level of knowledge required to clock a bargain record and know you could sell it for a much higher value.
“These moments happened a lot more before the internet. People can just look things up, but you’d be surprised how many don’t,” says Zaf Chowdhry. A known digger, selector and record seller who founded London’s Love Vinyl record shop, he can recount tales of spotting a record for £25 and being able to sell it for £500 weeks later. He can also recount just as many times when he’s bought something and made no proﬁt at all, or even a loss, but he agrees it’s about being able to identify rare and collectable records and knowing the value of the music.
He also explains how having records and selling them are two very separate things. “People think every single record in their collection will sell for the same price they see on Discogs or Popsike, which lists all record sales, from eBay and auctions,” he continues. “This doesn’t actually reﬂect the true value or actual demand for that record, it could just be the result of two mad geezers going at it on eBay because they really want the record.”
This is more of a reﬂection of the deeper, darker end of collecting vinyl, which goes way beyond ﬂipping.
DJ Fryer, whose label Athens Of The North is known for unearthing rare gems and democratising the price, explains how collecting at this level becomes obsessive. “The value and that need to have it becomes much more important than the music,” he says. “They forget the fun stuff, the social stuff, all the cool things that got them into this. They’re just pandering to their greedy monster side. It becomes a mental health thing. Personally I’d rather have a holiday with the kids than have a £2,000 record sitting there on my shelves.”
Clearly other collectors wouldn’t, however. Let’s take the case of Ron Wells. One of the pioneering producers behind the jungle tekno movement of the early ’90s, best known as Jack Smooth, Discogs sellers ask for staggeringly steep sums for Ron’s old releases.
One of his records, a Fast Floor album that never got past test press stage in 1994, called ‘On A Quest For Intelligence’ has been sitting on Discogs at £1,300 for several years. “It’s excellent publicity when somebody decides your album is worth £1,300,” laughs Ron. “I often say these scalpers make me look cleverer than I am, but I would love (just a little) share of their gains.” After 20 years away from the industry running an IT ﬁ rm, Ron has now returned to the game, and it’s largely down to Music Preservation Society (MPS).
Through their crowdfunded projects, MPS have remastered and reissued hundreds of rare, unreleased and triple-ﬁ gureprice-tagged tracks, and their model convinced Ron to return to production and to relaunch his cult jungle tekno label Sound Entity. This was music to the ears of anyone interested in the roots of UK jungle and drum & bass… but it wasn’t received quite so well by certain collectors. “I’ve received many angry exchanges from so called ‘record collectors’ who do not want me, or others, to re-release any of our works,” Ron says. “These people, who would gladly have me unable to exploit my back-catalogue, preventing others from (hopefully) enjoying my music, simply cannot be music lovers. They are either traders or mere ‘stamp collectors’. And it is that selﬁsh arrogance in particular that I intensely dislike.”
After 22 years on test press, last year Ron ﬁnally released his and Paul Clarke’s Fast Floor album. It sells for around £60, but the original test press copy is still on sale for just shy of £1,300. Ron explains how everything about the reissue is better sonically, and it includes more rare unreleased works of his. The original was unreleased and only got to test press stage for a reason.
“Over the years I’ve become acutely aware that humans obsess over the things they can’t have. This opens up a market to take advantage of”
“I would go as far to say that the original is worthless as a listening experience compared to the re-release,” he says. “Over the years I’ve become acutely aware that humans obsess over the things they can’t have, and quickly become complacent with the things that are readily within their grasp. This opens up a market to take advantage of. The value of this market is ultimately driven by a desire for rare things. It’s no different to selling antiques or artworks.”
Old records can certainly be compared to antiques and artworks, and their price will ﬂuctuate in the same way and can be inﬂuenced by context, current cultural reference points and, more importantly, whether a DJ drops it on Boiler Room. Such was the case with Escape From New York’s super sleazy disco oddity from 1984 ‘Fire In My Heart’, which, after a casual drop from DJ Harvey on Boiler Room a few years back, went from peanuts to upwards of £1,000 in months. Since the hype peaked and Isle Of Jura Records reissued it, it’s now settled at around £100.
However, the same antiques analogy for prices and perceived demand can’t be applied to limited-edition runs of new records. While these limited runs are calculated by labels in order to make sure the niche amount of fans who want a copy can buy one and they don’t end up with wads of unsold stock in their ofﬁce, there is an element of exclusivity that plays on those material desires Ron describes above.
“I don’t actually blame the scalpers,” says ZHA, DJ and producer behind the label and distribution company White Peach. A man who sees the record process from pressing to postage, he regularly spots ﬂippers trying to buy multiple copies of records. “It’s fundamentally a free market, and I believe in the ethics around supply and demand. As a record label, you’re releasing music, so it’s your job to get it out to people who want to hear it, right? By limiting the quantity, you’ve artiﬁcially created a demand. Why not press more in the ﬁrst place?”
Some labels who press limited runs argue that an extra 100 copies will break the bank if not sold. DJ Fryer argues that it wouldn’t, and that it’s the metalworks, mastering and test presses that cost the most in the release process, and that records are only 50p to produce after that initial outlay.
Other models, such as the Music Preservation Society, only press the release once a certain amount of orders have been taken. But even then, as Ron explains, the label is ﬁnding more and more of those orders aren’t coming from the fan and collector community they’ve built up, but coming from ﬂippers too.
“This is causing absolute uproar among a few of our members but, personally, I see it as a few extra copies sold, with the added beneﬁt of having those tracks ‘promoted’ via other channels,” says Ron, who remains pragmatic and philosophical about the culture of scalping. “I will always see the positive side of scalping as an artist. No artist wants their work to be valueless in the second-hand market. As much as buyers (and many artists) protest, I suspect most artists are quietly proud of their works commanding high asking prices. At the end of the day however, we have to come down to Earth and realise that these records are (usually) not expensive because they are good, they are expensive because they are rare.”
Whether it’s because they’re rare or that they are good records (or both), one thing is consistent: labels are monitoring Discogs all the time, and most will use information about the value their releases are being ﬂipped at. If a few inﬂated copies have been sold, then a repress is often on the cards. And if it’s not, then ask yourself… do you really need a record that’s marked up beyond belief? Investment in records should be nothing but emotional. “It loses the fun to save up all that money to have a record just to ﬂex,” agrees Fryer, who’s bought, collected and sold records since the mid ’90s. “Anyone can buy their way into this. But ﬁnding things through your own taste and making up your own mind and not letting prices dictate? Now that’s much more of a craft.”
Very rare promo copy of deleted album tops the record and then some……
An original promo copy of Prince’s lost Black Album has become the highest selling record on Discogs just a month after a David Bowie record had taken the title.
The very rare release from Prince sold for a price of $15,000, a value that likely won’t be topped for some time. The record never received its intended 1987 release and around half a million pressed copies of the album were destroyed, but a very small number of DJ promos survived the record’s shelving.
An original copy of David Bowie’s second album had previously held the record for most expensive item sold on the online music marketplace having fetched a price of $6,826
Via the Quietus
Find Prince vinyl, CDs, merchandise and more at eil.com
Record by near-unknown producer sells for $41,000 to become most expensive on Discogs
A virtually unknown track by a virtually unknown British electronic producer has sold for over $41,000 (£29,800) on the music marketplace Discogs, making it the site’s most expensive record ever, and one of the most expensive records ever sold anywhere.
Choose Your Weapon by Scaramanga Silk – who hails from London, and has seven listeners a month on Spotify – was self-released in 2008, and there were only 20 copies made of the edition that drew the high price. It was released as a promotional vinyl edition with an accompanying poem, art print and CD.
The listing originally read: “Mega-rare collectible. Unplayed, Mint Condition. Numbered 02 / 20. Contains info sheet, signed record, signed art print [plus CD].” The $41,095 sale to an anonymous buyer was completed in December.
It is the only time Choose Your Weapon has been sold on the site, and both artist and Discogs are baffled. “It is very difficult to understand why the release went for that kind of money, as I do not believe that any record is worthy of such a valuation,” said Scaramanga Silk, who earns nothing from the sale. “The individual who made the purchase must have had some kind of special connection to the work too … It means a lot that Choose Your Weapon is so special to somebody.”
He said the track, which is not available to stream online, “combined elements of breakbeat, electro and UK rave,” and was influenced by electronic artists including the Prodigy, Drexciya, DJ Hell and Dopplereffekt. He added that Choose Your Weapon was “a response to the issues around knife and gun crime at that time. Much of the media coverage appeared to be focused on blame rather than looking at solutions.” The producer has since released his only album to date, Designer Scribble, in 2016.
Discogs said in a statement: “By several accounts, the release drew attention from collectors shortly after it dropped [in 2008] when it sold on eBay for $654. How that price tag sky-rocketed to over $40,000 remains a mystery.”
The huge price overtakes the previous Discogs record of $27,500 (£20,000) paid for The Black Album, the 1987 LP by Prince that the funk star had deleted before it went on sale.
The third highest price paid on Discogs is $15,411 for a copy of Love Me Do by the Beatles. A copy of the band’s White Album remains the most expensive widely released record ever sold anywhere, with the 0000001-numbered copy selling at auction for $790,000 in 2015.
The single CD copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, an album by Wu-Tang Clan, was sold for $2m in 2015 to Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical company chief and hedge fund manager who has since been jailed for securities fraud.
Only a handful of records have ever sold for more than the $41,000 paid for Choose Your Weapon, and are generally by famous artists like Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.
The Cult’s ‘Electric Peace’ reissue due out next month in 2CD, double-vinyl releases
As we reported last month, The Cult is reissuing its third album Electric in an expanded set paired with Peace — the aborted Love follow-up the band abandoned in favor of the Rick Rubin-produced hard-rock album — and Beggars Archive has now confirmed that the release, titled, naturally, Electric Peace, is now due out in the U.S. and U.K. next month.
Although the band’s website indicates Electric Peace will arrive in the U.S. on July 30, Amazon.com is showing release dates of July 16 for both the CD and vinyl editions. The album — featuring Peace tracks that have been released over the years on the Manor Sessions EP, as Electric B-sides and on 2000′s Rare Cult —is due out July 29 in the U.K.
See final tracklist below.
In conjunction with the reissue, The Cult is embarking on a lengthy tour dubbed “Electric 13” that will find the band performing 1987’s Electric in the U.S. and U.K (see full dates).
Tracklist: The Cult, Electric Peace
CD 1: Electric
1. “Wild Flower”
2. “Peace Dog”
3. “Lil’ Devil”
4. “Aphrodisiac Jacket”
5. “Electric Ocean”
6. “Bad Fun”
7. “King Contrary Man”
8. “Love Removal Machine”
9. “Born To Be Wild”
11. “Memphis Hip Shake”
CD 2: Peace
1. “Love Removal Machine”
2. “Wild Flower”
3. “Peace Dog”
4. “Aphrodisiac Jacket”
5. “Electric Ocean”
6. “Bad Fun”
8. “Zap City”
9. “Love Trooper”
11. “Groove Co.”
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
Tags:Beggars Archive, Electric, Electric Peace, Love, Peace, Rick Rubin, The Cult
Discogs rare cult
THE CULT – Rare Cult(2000 Beggars Banquet box set with limited 7th remix CD)
Rare Cult is a feast of rare and unreleased Cult music, for the Cult connosoir only. If you’ve been a Cult fan for a while but have struggled to find those early singles, then this is your dream box set, my friend. They have a lot of singles and assorted rarities, and acquiring a complete set of them all takes money. Rare Cult secures a huge chunk of that music in one package.
I’m not going to bother cataloging all the different tunes and where they came from. They’re too numerous but I will say the following:
1. This set has an enormous number of unreleased demos and otherwise finished songs that nobody had heard before — not previously released on B-sides. The songs range from the Dreamtime era (1984) with some cool, unheard BBC performances. Over six discs, it spans over a decade to 1995 when the band broke up (for the first time). All tracks are of very good sound quality.
2. There is a humongous (80 page) booklet inside, with complete credits and details for every single song contained within. Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury provide commentary, and there are lots of photos too.
3. There are a lot of remixes here, as per normal for a band from this era. In fact there is an entire seventh limited edition bonus disc dedicated single remixes, called Rare Cult Mixes. I don’t know how many copies were released with the bonus disc, but be sure of what you buy before you buy it! Personally I don’t see the point of buying this set without the seventh disc. For example, the “Fire Woman” single had two excellent remixes: The “LA mix”, and the “NYC mix”. The NYC mix is included on the Disc 5 of this box set, but to get the LA mix, if you don’t have the “Fire Woman” single, can only be had on the limited edition seventh Rare Cult disc. If you’re a collector (which I think you are, because if you’re not you probably stopped reading this already) then there’s no reason to buy the version without the bonus CD. Wait it out and get the full package.
4.Peace. While astute fans had probably collected most of these tracks already, this box set contains the first ever official release of the Peace album, in sequence on disc 3. The Cult were working on Peace after the Love album, and even finished it, but scrapped the recordings for being too Love-like. They hooked up with Rick Rubin to revamp, re-write, and re-record the album, released as Electric. Many of the Peace songs surfaced as B-sides over the years, on singles and EPs such as The Manor Sessions. While Rare Cult was the first release of the full Peace album, it has since been reissued as part of the Electric Peace two disc set.
5.Warning! There’s more. If you really, really, really want it all, you have to shell out for the single CD Best Of Rare Cult which had five exclusive songs not included here. Oh, marketing. The five exclusives on Best of Rare Cult are: “She Sells Sanctuary (long version)”, “Spanish Gold”, “The River”, “Lay Down Your Gun (version two)”, and “Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles) (original mix)”. Some of these songs, such as “The River”, are B-sides, while some are unreleased.
6. There’s even more! Yes, there are demos here, but that’s not all of them. The masterminds behind this set cleverly left off enough demos to create a whole other box set. You’ll want to pony up for Rare Cult: The Demo Sessions (an even more limited edition 5 CD set of its own) which is interesting in its own right. Look at Rare Cult as scratching the surface.
7. Even with all this stuff available out there, The Cult liked to include live songs on their singles. None are present here. Be forewarned, you may still want to get those original singles anyway, if you care enough! Maybe they should do a box set called Rare Live Cult. (Are you listening Ian?)
As a listening experience, Rare Cult is long but rewarding. One thing about The Cult, they were a diverse band, and this set is very diverse. For example you’ll go from a very dancy 80’s remix of “Sanctuary” straight into “No. 13” which is more punk influenced. Regardless of what it is, or what it isn’t, I think this set is worth listening to. Even their demos are better than most bands’ album tracks. Like many bands who released numerous single B-sides, The Cult put effort into all their songs. Check out “Sea and Sky”, “Bleeding Heart Graffiti” and “Bone Bag” as ample proof.
The packaging is quite nice. It comes in a sturdy black box. The aforementioned booklet allows you to read through the whole history of the band up to 1995. The first six discs are housed in three double digipacks, while the seventh disc sits in its own sleeve tucked into the box.
You might not very often have the luxury of 8-9 hours to listen to the Cult, but if you’re a fan, think hard and consider your buying options.
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