There’s a shop in Birmingham that stocks photography, illustration, t-shirts, tote bags, jewellery, books and CDs that have been Created by artists living In Birmingham. Artists can set the price and sell their products through the shop, with a generous 75% of the sale going to the artist. I took a stroll there on Saturday 25th April so that the shop could stock my latest album The Broken Family DaySaver.
I filled in a delivery note, pricing 5 CDs at £80 each, and handed it to a member of staff. He was taken aback at the price I’d put on my music. He said that £80 was too much to charge for a CD.
He then took me to the section of the shop that sold CDs and used them as an example of how CD pricing in the shop worked. The range of pricing was between £5 and £10. He said it was unlikely that anyone would buy a CD for £80. Funny that, because there’s a shop around the corner that sells polo shirts for £250 that could sell for a tenner, and people buy those. As we discussed issues of potential pricing, I said that I’d be willing to lower the price to £60. No. £40? No. £20. No. £15? Please? Yes. The staff member said if I had one copy of the CD that was in a frame, he’d consider stocking it for £40.
As a songwriter who depends on music sales for income, this was most disheartening. If the attitudes of the member of staff reflected attitudes of a music-buying public in general, I’m royally fucked. Here’s how:
An artist working in two-dimensions can price an A4 print at £10. Another artist can price a A4 print for £80. They are both working in the same medium with a piece of art that is the same size. Both artists will have reasons for their pricing. It will reflect the expense and time taken to produce the item. This is an accepted practice in 2-D visual arts. But, it seems that where CDs are concerned, a self-released home-made CD-R, stuffed into a jewel case, apparently has the same value as a limited edition CD released on a record label that was recorded and mixed in a professional studio, packaged with a lyric sheet and original artwork in a digipak, with a barcode and shrink-wrapping, with all the songs assigned with ISRC codes, PRS song codes and registered with Millward Brown for chart qualification. So, the expense and time and artistic integrity involved in producing a work is not taken into consideration with the art form of music on a CD. CDs or CD-Rs with music on ’em are all apparently worth around £7.
It’s not enough to frame a CD in a digipak with a lyric sheet and original photography for it to have added value. The frame must be made of wood and glass. This framing adds immediate value on a piece of art, whatever the medium.
Does this attitude to the pricing of CDs as shown by the shop reflective of general attitudes to buying music today? Are CDs all worth about £7-£10? Maybe All CDs should be made free? Maybe with current trend for music sharing, that musicians don’t have a right in the 21st century to make money from music. Maybe a highly-crafted and well-packaged CD is worth £80. Let’s put it to the test by offering you, the listener, my album at a variety of prices:
To get The Broken Family DaySaver for free, then send an email with the title: ‘Ben Calvert I Don’t Believe In Paying for Music, So Send Your Album To Me For Free’ to firstname.lastname@example.org, and leave your address. I’ll post a copy of the album to the first 100 responders.
To buy The Broken Family DaySaver for £10 (+ £2 postage and packaging) go to the Bohemian Jukebox Shop
To buy The Broken Family DaySAver album for £80, click here:
Whichever option you take, you can buy safe in the knowledge that inserting the album in a frame of wood and glass will add around £25 to the piece’s value.