Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vinyl record hunting equipped with smartphone intelligence

There is an annoying trend in second hand record stores. Check out the picture below – I see it quite frequently now: Someone browses the vinyl, makes a pile of records and sets it aside. Then one checks out the records’ prices on Discogs. 
This behaviour has been common for books for a while now, too. There are websites that buy used books for a fixed price, for example Momox in Germany. Usually they pay close to nothing, esp. for paperback books, because these days few people buy used books. But some books are more valuable, and books have the advantage of having a unique ISBN and a scannable bar code on the back. These online buyers have phone apps so you can scan the bar code and the app displays the buying price immediately.
My friends from TRUST Zine have just told me that there now is a record-equivalent to that, an app called MilkCrate which is available for iPhone only at this point. Y
ou just input the record info and it will give back the Discogs price. Unfortunately we live in a world where most used record buyers are not buying to listen and own, but to monetize by selling what they find in the stores. To me, this is another factor that takes the fun out of used record shopping.
So it is another factor that has ruined the experience of used record stores gradually in times of the internet:
  • A lot of used records are not ending up in stores, but go straight to Ebay or on Discogs in the first place.
  • Record stores have instore online access and price records according to Discogs asking prices. Mostly the record owner will choose the highest price, effectively making the record too expensive and hard to sell. This drives up prices and makes cheap finds more unlikely. It also means that the owner will sit on the records for a long time and as a potential buyer you keep seeing the same records for a long time.
  • In times of smartphones the record buyers in the store also have access to the same online databases to check out prices.
This means the knowledge about music and vinyl records moves from the individual into the cloud. Good deals get constantly harder to find and if they happen, someone with a smartphone is likely to discover it faster than you. To flip it on ebay. It does not take much to find the good deal if you can use cloud intelligence. 
This is a serious blow to the fun of record hunting and crate digging I think. 

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