I have only 1 Dire Straits CD (no not that one!) & 4 of their studio LPs so jumped at the chance of purchasing the new 6 box studio CD set for a few pence over £15. I was going to buy from Amazon but saw the same set in my local HMV for just 50p more so I purchased from them.
The point is the first CDs in 1982 or so, & for many years after, were about £15 each. I was then earning close to the national UK average salary which is now about 7 times more. If my maths is correct the 6 CD set, if prices had risen 7 fold, should have cost £630 (15x6x7). I probably would have passed on the purchase!
How have prices fallen by such a colossal amount compared with other consumer non-essential goods? I assume the record company aren’t selling the set at a loss?
For comparison, my company car in 1982 was £2,500 & todays comparable model would be around £15/18,000 so very little change over time. My first Naim amp (32.5/Hi Cap/140) was about £1,500 when my salary was about 25% of the current national average. My current Nova & Core were £6,000 so again, no great change when compared to average earnings.
Anyone have any thoughts/insights?
I particularly wondered if @TheKevster would have any opinion as he seems to be involved with the record business.
any further sales now are all profit - costs were recouped a long, long time ago…
Using an inflation calculator (the Bank of England’s is very good) is fascinating. Back in the 80s and 90s, we were buying CDs for the equivalent of well over £30 in 2020 money.
I’m no economist, but my take is that CDs were horrifically overpriced for many years because the market (i.e. we) were prepared to pay for them. They’ve been so cheap to make for years that we’re now paying much closer to what they’re actually worth. How much the artist makes out of them is a separate but important question.
@Canaryfan – Dire Straits were huge in the 1980s and so all their albums would have made a profit for everyone many times over by the time they called it a day in 1995. Everything that’s been put out since then – rereleases, compilations, this latest box set – represents almost pure profit. There are no recording costs, no design costs because all that was done and paid for ages ago. The only costs are mechanical royalties (a small percentage of sales rather than a fixed cost), manufacturing (nowadays fractions of a penny for CDs) and distribution – and there are far fewer places to distribute to.
Sony and Universal (Dire Straits’ label) in particular have been pursuing a strategy of selling good-value box sets in the supermarkets, where they attract casual buyers and they must be selling enough of them to make a profit. Also, the concentration of power in the hands of a few big retailers - supermarkets, Amazon, HMV etc – favours the big record companies, who can distribute large quantities of proven sellers (Dire Straits, heritage/nostalgia acts, themed compilations, Xmas hits etc) to a small number of selling points and watch the cash roll in!
So I reckon that even at £15, retailers and Universal are making a decent profit…
I was in Waitrose the other day and fancied a baked potato so I bought a pack of 4 for £1 and quickly did the maths to work out each potato was 25p then converted that into old money at five shillings or two half crowns.
Now when I was a kid in the mid 60’s and my mum sent me on an errand to buy 2lbs of potatoes for a few old pence and you said in 2020 a single potato would cost five shillings I would have said you must be completely mad, absolutely insane.
That got me thinking is anything cheaper these days - so page forward to 1978 and my first job - getting a suit from Hepworths cost a whopping £175 now I can buy a suit from M&S for about £100.
I guess we always knew the price of CDs was a con just like the price of Hi Res nowadays.
@AndyP - the price of mainstream consumer electronics – fridges, washing machines, freezers, DVD/BR players, cameras and especially TVs – has fallen massively, particularly since the rise of China as a manufacturing power. In fact, the price/cost of most things have fallen: the percentage of wages/earnings spent on food is much smaller than it was, say in the 1970s. A few things have become more expensive – public transport, gig/theatre tickets spring to mind – but most things are proprtionately cheaper. It’s one of the reasons we have more stuff than we used to.
The worry is that we’ve now forgotten how to repair things as well as the fact that a lot of things are so poorly made that you have no choice other than to replace them every couple of years.
I recently had a debate about this topic with a friend who works for Apple. He pointed out that despite being mid lockdown, they had 400 click and collects for the new iPhone in one store location alone on a single day.
I certainly cherish the fact I know how to fix a lot of stuff still, something I’m always keen to share with my children.
The one cost that seems to have gone through the roof* everywhere is housing, both to rent and to own.
* pun not intended
The most important question Ebor - evidently a lot of artists/ bands were completely ripped off (more than usuals) at the height of CD production. Or should I say it was a huge issue here in Australia to be more specific
Its a sad fact that even now I still convert back to old money.
It’s ridiculous that a loaf of bread is now 66 groats.
Thanks for a very informative reply, containing many things I didn’t know or wouldn’t have considered, such as low manufacturing & distribution costs & the concentration of selling power in the hands of a small number of large record companies & sellers.
When all put together it (the very low price) all makes more sense than I could see initially, hence my original question.
To my mind this does beg a further couple of questions. Is £19.99 to £29.99 for a vinyl album a fair price or a rip-off using your criteria & should new pressings of old albums be cheaper than artists totally new vinyl material due a lot of the original costs having already be absorbed years before?
Hi @Canaryfan - vinyl is now seen as the premium format, and unlike CDs, downloads and streams, is not commodified so is subject to enormous price elasticity. Retailers (but also record companies) will charge whatever they think the market will stand. For example, I have seen the vinyl version of Tony Visconti’s 2019 remix of Bowie’s Space Oddity LP on sale at a number of price points – £19.99 being the cheapest and £38 being the most expensive! Some retailers – HMV is one – will get away with charging a premium as long as punters are willing to pay it. Amazon is the same – they rely on customer inertia, the desire for convenience and the (incorrect) consumer assumption that Amazon is always cheapest for everything, to operate an increasingly capricious policy when it coms to vinyl pricing.
Personally, I think £15-£20 for a single LP is reasonable (£21-£30 for a double). If an old LP has been well-remastered and well-packaged, then you can charge more for reissues. Blue Note Tone Poets and Universal’s new all-analogue audiophile issues of Verve, Impulse!, EmArcy, Philips and Decca jazz albums sell for £30-£35 each, but they are done with such love and care, and sound so good, that they represent reasonable (or even good) value. The same’s true of Speaker’s Corner, Resonance and Pure Pleasure reissues. They are usually 100% analogue and sound great. Therefore £26 for a single LP or £38 for a double doesn’t seem too bad, especially when weighed agains the costs of a mint, clean first pressing. Many of the labels I have just mentioned go back to the original master tapes, remaster them carefully, and manufacture to high standards. Manufacturing vinyl, especially if you’re doing it to a high standard, is an expensive business. Especially now that demand is outstripping supply (the best pressing plants in Europe are booked up until Spring next year, unless you’re lucky and can squeeze in a short run into some factory downtime).
However, some of the vinyl reissues of public domain jazz and classical LPs are grossly overpriced - especially as some of them sound as if they have been sourced from CDs.
Not here, more like £3-4 for a standard brown pre-cut loaf.
Again, thanks for the illuminating reply.
I wish I hadn’t asked the question now as I haven’t purchased any vinyl since I bought my first CD in 1991 & now feel an urge to spend some money on new vinyl as you don’t consider all prices to be outrageous & do consider some products to be rather good!
I will take a look at some of the labels you mentioned, at least half of which I have never heard of.
Again, using the inflation calculator, in real terms vinyl is generally more expensive than it was, but not by much:
In the late 80s, I was buying LPs for about £6 each which is £17 in today’s money. Up to £20 for the equivalent today (especially if it’s 180g or otherwise spiffed up) therefore looks pretty reasonable. When they’re charging north of £25 for the same thing is when it gets dodgy, because you won’t convince me that, in such cases, the artist reaps any extra reward.
What the market will bear is almost always the biggest factor and there’s a similar situation with 4K discs at the moment. There’s no way I’m paying £25 for a single Star Wars film, as I saw a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, it looks like early winter sales are pushing prices down very quickly - I just bought the classic trilogy for £31 all in!
I tried to find out what CD prices were in 1990 in Norway as a comparison to the UK then, thinking that they were probably extremely expensive as most were imported. No luck yet though.
That’s interesting about the vinyl pressing. I did a lot of work with Nimbus Records on their CD production lines mainly the lacquering of discs, anyone remember the CD line in the basement of Virgin Oxford Street? When I first went down to Monmouth to see them in about 1983 they were in the process of stripping out their vinyl presses and scratching their heads as to what to do with them, they asked me if I’d like one, if only I’d had the foresight…or the space…
Yes men and women in white coats. Happy days.