Thursday, 20 October 2016

Odd Songs #007: Toast And Marmalade For Tea

As I've mentioned before, "Odd Songs" isn't really a very good name for this series - it's more just songs that I like for one reason or another - but I'm sticking with it, mainly because changing it would break the links that are out there in various places on the internet. However, this one truly is a real oddity - and I think the first that I've thus far written about that wasn't actually a hit in the UK charts - so "Odd" is a good fit on this occasion.

So here it is, one of (in my opinion) the best and most unusual examples of psychedelic pop ever recorded; the Australian band Tin Tin's "Toast And Marmalade For Tea":

Aside from it having a unique sound - certainly I've never heard anything else like it - it's got a really interesting backstory and links into the output of a bewildering amount of other artists. There's so much related stuff going on that I don't think I've quite got my head around it all, so this is going to have to be a pretty simplified version of its story. But prior to moving onto that, I'd like to look at the events - and there were a lot of them - leading to its eventual release.

Prior to becoming the band Tin Tin, Steve Groves (the writer of the song) had been in a number of bands in Australia with some mild success. To begin with, he formed The Kinetics in Melbourne in 1965, with a line-up of Groves (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Johnny Vallins (guitar, drums, clarinet), Ken Leroy (bass) and Ian Manzie (drums, piano, banjo). The Kinetics released a couple of singles in Australia, the largest of which was "Excuses", which hit #19 on the local Melbourne charts in 1966, but narrowly missed out on the national Australian charts:

Clearly influenced on the beat groups popular at the time, it's a fun song, but certainly a far cry from the later Tin Tin output. Two further singles followed (again, released only in Australia), but neither achieved even the minor success of "Excuses". Following their third and final single (which reached #29 on the local charts in July 1967, but did little nationally, Vallins left the band and the remaining members changed their name to The Trap, although no recordings were issued under this name and The Trap split in 1968.

This is where Steve Kipner enters the story. He was previously leader of the band Steve And The Board, another Australian band who had a minor pop hit in Australia with "The Giggle-Eyed Goo"). Written by Steve's father Nat Kipner (who also produced) and guitarist Carl Groszman, it was initially released in late 1965 but didn't achieve its success until it was later picked up by Spin Records in 1966; Nat Kipner was a big cheese at Spin Records, which almost certainly had something to do with this. It's another classic (although surprisingly spiky - almost garage-rock like - for its time) piece of beat-band pop:

It was at this point that perhaps the most significant piece of the Tin Tin story comes about. Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb (along with their younger brother Andy and older sister Lesley) had emigrated with their parents from the UK to Brisbane, Australia in 1958 and the three elder brothers had actually formed a band that same year as a three-piece tight harmony group (the BGs; the Bee Gees name not being coined until 1963). Depite sporadic appearances on Australian TV in the early 1960s and regularly releasing singles during the early to mid-sixties, they made little impact on the Australian market. However, Nat Kipner signed them to Spin Records in 1966 (and Steve Kipner subsequently became good friends with the three Gibb Brothers, often singing backing vocals on their recordings). On Spin Records, The Bee Gees had a major hit with the Barry-Gibb penned, Nat Kipner-produced "Spicks And Specks" (#4 on the national Australian charts in 1966, then - when released elsewhere in early 1967 - a #1 in New Zealand, #3 in the Netherlands, #28 in Germany and #56 in Japan). Even at this stage of their career, I think it's very much recognisable as a "Bee Gees tune":

(As an amusing side-note, the Bee Gees were disillusioned with their lack of Australian success and decided to return to the UK, hoping to build a career there. They only learned of the success of "Spicks And Specks" during their return ocean voyage in January 1967, a point by which they were committed to their return to the UK (in late 1966, Hugh Gibb - the brothers' father - had sent demos to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who subsequently passed them on to his then business partner Robert Stigwood, who was very interested in securing their services). On arriving back in the UK, the brothers auditioned for Stigwood, who secured them a five-year deal with Polydor Records in the UK and Atco in the US, so beginning their first period of worldwide success (Maurice, Robin and Barry having by this time been joined by younger brother Andy, along with Vince Melouney (guitar) and Colin Peterson (drums).

Meanwhile, back in Australia, Steve And The Board had split in May 1967 and Steve Groves and Steve Kipner formed a vocal harmony band, Steve & Stevie, in 1968. Just one single, "Remains To Be Seen", was released later that same year:

Shortly afterwards, the duo reunited with former member of The Kinetics, John Vallins to form the short-lived Rombo's World. If Rombo's World released any output, I can't find it; sorry about that.

Following this, Groves and Kipner relocated to the UK in 1969 to form the band Tin Tin. Maurice Gibb introduced them to Robert Stigwood, who signed them to a one-album deal with Polydor. At this point Groves was taking care of vocals, guitar and percussion, with Kipner playing bass guitar, harpsichord, mellotron, percussion, piano, electric piano, tambourine, as well as singing); they had no official drummer yet, so in addition to their other duties, both Groves and Kipner played drums on their first, Maurice Gibb-produced album (with Gibb also adding some bass, mellotron, harpsichord and organ on about half the tracks). This, their self-titled debut album was eventually released February 1970, but a (non-charting) single, "Only Ladies Play Croquet" was released ahead of the album in May 1969:

Also on the album was the song that this post was supposed to be about (I knew I'd get back to it eventually!), "Toast And Marmalade For Tea". Initially it comprised only nursery rhyme-like verses by Steve Groves, the intention being that he and Kipner would collaborate on a chorus to complete the song, although this never actually came about; the verses were simply repeated throughout with alternating backing and chord changes. A demo, consisting only of guitar, piano and vocals was recorded by Groves and Kipner in June 1969 prior to Maurice Gibb calling them into the studio the following month to re-record a version intended for the album.

The studio in which this version of "Toast And Marmalade For Tea" was recorded did have a drumkit, but it was apparently largely broken, so Steve Kipner created a drum track by manually pushing down on the pedals, as well as supplying vocals and piano. As with their other tracks, Steve Groves also featured as vocalist (completing their trademark harmonies), in addition to playing guitar and using various things found around the studio to add some odd little sound effects here and there. Maurice Gibb - with a broken arm, no less - provided the bass track and Gerry Shury - seemingly a hired hand for this track and a couple of others on the album - was responsible for the orchestral arrangement, thus completing the track.

Of course, that makes it all sound like a fairly straightforward piece of psychedelic pop, which it patently isn't, due entirely to the wobbly piano melody. It's this aspect of the recording that sets the song apart, giving it an entirely unique sound. And the best bit about it is that it was created by accident, due to a studio engineer accidentally leaning on a tape machine, so warping the piano sound as the final recording was being put together.

Although the album was not a success on its initial release, the band obviously had faith in it, releasing "Toast And Marmalade For Tea" as a second single. It got some airplay in the UK, but wasn't a chart hit here; however, it became quite a major single in the summer of 1971, reaching #10 in Australia and #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. At some point prior to this, Geoff Bridgford had been recruited on drums and in May 1971, John Vallins (bass, guitar, vocals) reunited yet again with Groves and Kipner, presumably for touring duties; the unexpected success of the single led to a support slot with the Bee Gees on their 1972 US tour.

A further album, "Astral Taxi", was released by the band in late 1971, from which Tin Tin's only other hit, "Is That The Way", was taken:

Whilst it obviously shares some of its musical DNA with their trademark hit, it didn't make such a big impression, reaching just #59 on the US charts.

Tin Tin eventually disbanded in 1973, but that's far from the end of the story, as unusually for such a minor, long-forgotten band, the major players all went on to greater success:

- Steve Groves returned to Australia as a singer-songwriter - and later leader of The Steve Groves Band - co-writing (with Brian Dawe) "On The Loose (Again)", which won the Australian Popular Song Contest (the Aussie equivalent of Eurovision, I guess) for the popular actor/singer Marty Rhone in 1976. Both the Rhone and Groves versions of the song were hits in Australia simultaneously in early 1977; here's the Steve Groves Band version:

- Steve Kipner went on to co-write several massive hits for other artists, including "Hard Habit To Break" (co-written with John Lewis Parker), a #3 US hit for Chicago in 1984 (#8 UK) and "Physical" (co-written with Terry Shaddick) for Olivia Newton-John (an absolutely massive smash in the US, holding the #1 position for ten weeks in 1981-1982). Much later, as one of EMI's most prominent songwriters, he also co-wrote "Genie In A Bottle" for Christina Aguilera, winning the Ivor Novello award for "International Hit Single Of The Year" in 2000.

- And finally, John Vallins teamed up with Nat Kipner (who, as I'm sure you'll remember was Steve Kipner's dad) to write "Too Much Too Little Too Late" for Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams, a #1 hit in the USA (also #3 in the UK, #2 in New Zealand, #6 in Australia, #9 in Canada) in 1978.

When I embarked upon this post, I thought it would be a nice, easy little curiosity that wouldn't take very long. I've left out a whole host of stuff (most notably the Brian Epstein/Beatles/Robert Stigwood connections, which probably warrant a whole book just to themselves) and it's still taken the best part of an afternoon to (attempt to) get the basic story down straight. And I'm not even sure I've succeeded in doing that!

Usually I end these things with some cover versions, but there don't appear to be many of them out there, but here's one from Stardeath and White Dwarfs which quite nicely captures the spirit of the original:

And - as I'm sure you'll be relieved to read, assuming you've made it this far - that's all I'm going to write about this curious song.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Amazon Selling - It's Singles Time! (2/2)

Following on from part 1, hopefully in this post I can shed a little more light on how Amazon's second-hand marketplace for CD singles (and albums) works and make a few observations about the pricing models of the big sellers (and the smaller ones, while I'm at it), the preponderance of certain - mainly international - sellers on all the major listings, the speed at which the market moves, and so on.

But before all that, let's look at the difference between reselling albums and singles. Albums are usually easy; enter the barcode, it'll be listed and you can (if you wish) enter that listing with the minimal of fuss. CD singles, on the other hand, present a whole set of difficulties (although it should be said that they do apply to some CD albums too, just on a far lesser scale):

1.  Promotional Copy - Not For Resale

This was my biggest obstacle in identifying a pool of 250 CD singles to check out. I reckon I've got about 750 CD singles, but more than half of them are promo copies. I'm really not sure of the legality of reselling these, although I know a lot of people do, particularly on ebay and at actual physical shops such as Record & Tape Exchange (I don't think I'm sticking my neck out too far to say that most music journalists offload their unwanted promos in this way). However, Amazon have probably got some rule about this sort of thing, so wanting to stay on the safe side, I chose only properly-released CD singles for this. Which leads on to...

2.  Barcode recycling

With barcodes being only 13 digits long, then there's only ever going to be a limited quantity active at one time. This seems like a lot (the logical guess would be ten billion, but there's more to it than that). And when you consider that more-or-less all items that can be purchased are now barcoded by convention (for more on the current system and its restrictions, etc. - EAN-13 - should provide more information is strictly necessary), from tins of beans to high-end luxury stuff and everything in between, then it's inevitable that barcodes are recycled after a certain amount of time.

This seems to be particularly pertinent to CD singles, what with them being a particular form of ephemera and that. For instance, companies go bust and their unique identifier gets assigned to another company, or a company deletes some of its back catalogue and re-assigns the codes to new products.  I'd estimate that about 50 out of the 250 I checked fell into this category - not a big problem, it just means searching manually - but it did add to the work required in getting the data.

3.  False barcoding

For some reason that I can't quite fathom, a lot of small indie labels don't even bother with official EAN numbers and seemingly just make up a 13-figure number that "looks right". Presumably, they do this because they mainly sell mail-order (yes, this sort of thing still goes on) and it makes their "product" look more "professional", so it doesn't really matter. But it does get a bit frustrating when your obscure early-90s rave CD is apparently a Tesco lettuce. Again though, this is no big deal really.

4.  Multiple versions

CD singles are usually released in a myriad of versions that are quite difficult to distinguish apart. For instance, there'll typically be one or more UK versions, one or more US versions, Japanese versions, European versions, slightly altered remixes and so on. All should be barcoded differently, but they aren't always. It makes figuring out exactly which version you've got quite difficult sometimes and selling in a specialised market like this, it's quite important to identify the right listing (assuming you want to sell).

5.  Fragility

Normally, CD singles are housed in a thin plastic jewel case (as opposed to the full size jewel cases that albums generally use). These thin cases are notorious for being easily damaged (especially if in a large stack, but I've only myself to blame for that) and it's not unusual to find that either the front or the back has cracked, which could take your "Condition - Like New" right down to a "Condition - Acceptable". That's a big deal to collectors, but fortunately replacement thin CD cases are very cheap and can be replaced easily, so it's a problem easily solved. A thing that presents more difficulty, though, is the preponderance of...

6.  Cardboard Sleeves

Obviously it makes sense to use these; it cuts down on shipping costs (at both ends; the record company saves money on shipping, as does the potential reseller. However, they accumulate dust, dirt and extraneous markings over time, no matter how carefully you store them, and it's almost impossible to restore the sleeve to its former glory. And as the sleeve is an integral part of the item (i.e. front and back are connected), it's rarely feasible to rehouse them into a proper case to solve the problem. So I tried to avoid them when choosing my 250. Also:

7.  Price tags

For some reason, some record shops still use non-peelable labels in their price guns. For CDs in a plastic housing, this is no big deal as you can remove the price tag quite simply, either with a proprietory sticker remover or a solvent (medicinal alcohol is particularly effective). But you can't do this to a cardboard sleeve without leaving an even worse mark, rendering the item pretty unsaleable (and this matters a lot to collectors, unless it's something super-rare).

8.  Minor scratches or blemishes on the CD itself

These won't stop the CD playing - they'll make no difference whatsoever when it comes to that - but such things devalue a CD like you wouldn't believe. A "Like New" CD with a tiny scratch on it will be brought down to an "Acceptable" CD. Again, this wouldn't seem to matter much normally, but in an increasingly-dwindling collectors' market, it matters a lot.

There's a few other things I could mention, but I they're the main ones I encountered. Most of them can be somehow circumlocuted or avoided, so let's put them aside for now.

So, as promised, some observations:

- Major resellers and their pricing models

As I repeatedly and tediously mentioned in previous posts about selling second-hand CDs, it's fairly apparent that most of the big players simply set their price as high as they can get away with, while still maintaining the lowest offer. You can hardly blame them, it's a standard business model, although it does seem a bit immoral when that price is nearly a thousand pounds for a single CD, in this case Joey Beltram's classic "Energy Flash". It'll be interesting to see what happens if I list my copy (although I don't want to sell it, obviously).

When two of the major players have the same CD for sale, it can get quite funny watching them undercut one another penny-by-penny. For common CDs, this leads to multiple copies ultimately being available at a penny each, which just depresses the market for everyone else. However, for rarer CDs, they must set minimums, as can be seen here:

- Disappointingly, the major players don't seem guilty of collusion

You might remember this from an earlier post:

Which then, after Ocelot Europe dropped out, turned into this:

I speculated at the time that these two companies - OnlineMusicFilmsGames and KELINDO³ were in collusion with one another (or may even be two sub-businesses of a larger concern). At one point the price was driven down to £45.16 (with KELINDO³ cheapest) but at the time of writing, the situation has returned to "normal":

Actually, looking at that, it does look as though they're in collusion! I don't think they are, though.

- For all the common penny CDs, there's loads of MUCH higher offers

Lots of common (i.e. CD singles that sold lots of copies on initial release) are available from a bewildering amout of sellers, with the cheapest offer almost always being a penny. For instance, should you want a copy of The Prodigy's "Breathe", there's 131 sellers offering it, 25 of them at a penny. This is where it gets curious; what are the other 106 sellers doing? I can think of a few reasons:

1.  Small private sellers unwilling or unable to compete with the big boys

This makes sense, as it's not worth their bother selling at a penny to realise a profit of - if they're lucky - a few pence, once fees, postage, etc. are taken into account. In fact, without the postage discounts available to the big sellers, it's more likely that they would actually lose money on the transaction. So it makes sense for them to price at a couple of quid or so, guaranteeing at least a small profit should the item sell.

2.  Sellers with copies in "collectable" condition (or new, sealed copies)

Again, this makes sense, as the penny CDs rarely go beyond "Condition: Excellent" and collectors are often willing to pay quite a premium for an unused copy.

Making less sense, though, are:

3.  Sellers who feature on most of the common listings, but at uncommon prices

There's at least two sellers (Japan-Select and japazon) that I can think of who seem to crop up with copies of extremely common CDs, typically priced somewhere between £8.00 and £13.00 (for instance on "Breathe", Japan-Select have a copy priced at £8.26). As their copies are rarely in especially good condition, I've no idea what they're doing, but they've got nearly 6,000 ratings, so some people must be buying from them.

4.  Sellers with "New" copies

To continue with the example of the Prodigy's "Breathe", you can - if you're daft enough - pay anything from £13.95 up to £46.88 for a copy. Granted, these are "New" copies, but that's one hell of a premium, especially considering that you can pick up a "Used - Like New" copy for a quid which is as likely to be in as good nick.

4.  Sellers who either have no idea what they're doing or are simply "trying it on"

These ones I just can't get my head around. Again, with "Breathe", there's a copy at £8.72 that is only "Used - Acceptable" (the lowest permitted condition), plus a whole myriad of "Used - Very Good" copies going for seemingly random amounts (£8.26! £8.72! etc.). Given that there's at least ten copies in the same condition going at a penny, this just seems nonsensical.

- Weird discrepancies in price

Why is the lowest price for Love Decade's "So Real" (which actually made #14 in 1991) £22.91, when the lowest price for Bizarre Inc.'s "Playing With Knives" (a far smaller hit, #43 earlier the same year) is just £0.23? Why £12.94 for Orbital's "Mutations" (#24 in 1992) but only £0.01 for Definition Of Sound's "Pass The Vibes" (#23 in 1995)?

And even more oddly, why only £0.09 for Islands' "Rough Gem" (not a hit at all) when the best price for La Roux's "In For The Kill" (a massive #2 hit in 2009) is £4.43?

Undoubtedly, a lot of this sort of thing comes down to the big resellers getting lucky and happening upon an obscurity, but not all of it. I really have no idea.

- Some CD singles aren't listed at all

Of the 250 CDs I checked in part 1, I found eight that weren't available at all on CD:

Altern 8 - Everybody
Altern 8 - The Vertigo EP (Infiltrate 202)
Finitribe - Ace - Love - Deuce
Frankie "Bones" & Lennie "Dee" - The Looney Tunes EP
Shades Of Rhythm - Homicide/Exorcist
Tekno 2 - Psycho
Unique 3 - No More
Wishdokta - Bannana Sausage

However, all eight were available on vinyl, which kind of makes sense as they were all techno/dance/club records and probably more vinyl copies were pressed at the time of release. Presumably though, it means I could list my copies and - were I less scrupulous - choose my own ridiculously high price for each. That said, I sincerely doubt that there's many people out there crying out for a CD copy of Unique 3's "No More".

In fact, I think most of the twenty most expensive items listed in part 1, pretty much all of them were available at a cheaper price on vinyl.

- Conclusions

After all that, disappointingly, I don't think I've learned anything that I'd not already worked out from dissecting Amazon's albums market. The singles market might feature a slightly different set of "major" resellers, but they seem to operate along much the same principles. Still, it's nice to know that I've got a good number of CDs that I could conceivably sell if I wanted to make a few quick quid.

So (assuming you've made it this far - in which case must be bloody mad, or bored, or both! - apologies for not unearthing anything particularly interesting. However, I've enjoyed writing these pieces and if you've found them in any way informative, then that'll do me.

Now I'm off to listen to some more Klubbkören! I would advise you to do likewise, not that I'm the boss of you or anything.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Amazon Selling: It's Singles Time! (1/2)

All my adventures with the large resellers of CD albums on Amazon - yer Music Magpies, Momoxes, Dodaxes and the like - are handily summarised in this post, just in case you're bored or masochistic enough to want to read them. Anyway, at the end of that post I hypothesised that - as I thought at the time - the big resellers don't seem to be interested in buying them, then this might be a more promising market in which to sell. Now, I could have sworn when I embarked on this epic adventure, all four of the big resellers - Music Magpie, Zappit, Ziffer and Momox - stated explicitly that they purchased only CD albums. No singles, please, thank you very much, please come again.

But it turned out that I was wrong; some of them do accept singles. Not as high a proportion as they buy albums - while Music Magpie will take pretty much any CD album off your hands, for instance, they only accept about 25% of CD singles - but they're obviously interested in certain items. Now, I've not checked exhaustively for two main reasons: (1) it quickly gets frustrating to get prices when only about 1 in 4 are accepted and (2) they are all rip-off merchants anyway. Therefore, I'm done with them and their ilk; I've no doubt that provide a service for certain people, but not for me. So for my CD singles survey, I've simply noted down the lowest prices that they command on Amazon's second-hand marketplace.

Before moving onto the nitty-gritty, let's have a

- - -  SUMMARY STAT ATTACK!  - - -

Of the 350 CD albums considered in the previous posts:

The sum of lowest prices was £901.43 (about £2.58 each). Now, that doesn't sound too bad until you consider that there some significant outliers, reaching right up to £48.12 (I found 15 which had a cheapest price over £10.00). But then again, this is offset by the enormous number that command only a penny each (you can pay more, of course, but I'm looking only at cheapest offers for this whole "thing"). 99 of the 350 (28.3%) are penny CDs, mainly sold by Music Magpie.

So by removing the top 25 and bottom 25 and considering the middle 300 only, the sum of lowest prices is £446.36 (or about £1.49 each, i.e. even worse).

So let's do the same for singles. Selling CD singles is a bit more complicated than selling albums for a number of reasons (the main one being that I'm unsure whether you're allowed to sell promotional copies (marked "not for resale"), plus some others which I'll go into in more detail in part 2).

Anyway, I thought I'd stick on the safe side and found 250 that I thought I could legitimately sell in the usual manner, i.e. all original barcoded copies, legitimately bought new (although therein lies an interesting story, detailed in part 2; let's not get sidetracked here).

Of the 250 CD singles I looked at:

The sum of lowest prices was £1,572.91 (or about £6.29 each). "Blimey", thought I. However, there was one significant outlier that skewed the whole thing; removing that reduced the sum of lowest prices for the 249 remaining to £574.17 (so about £2.30 each), or slightly less than the average price commanded per album.

Performing the same exercise (removing the top 25 and bottom 25, considering only the 200 that constitute the middle of the list, the sum of lowest prices is £208.10 (about £1.04 each). This was a bigger fall than I expected, but 89 of the 250 (35.6%) were penny CDs, a higher proportion than was found with the albums, so it sort of makes sense.


Actually, this post is pretty much all stats, but let's not get bogged down in semantics. Here's that all-important Top 20 (I feel like Bruno Brookes!):

1.  Beltram - Energy Flash:  Cheapest offer £998.74 from Revival Books Ltd (1 other offer)

There's something very strange going on with this one (see part 2)

2.  Jam & Spoon - The Complete Stella:  Cheapest offer £79.99 from xyxxxx - International (sole offer)
3.  Prince - Black Sweat:  Cheapest offer £29.50 from Audioland (3 other offers)
4.  Pet Shop Boys - So Hard (David Morales Remixes):  Cheapest offer £27.94 from momox co uk (5 other offers)
5.  Project One - Don Gorgon Comin':  Cheapest offer £24.99 from Wolfman Music & Games (1 other offer)
6.  Love Decade - So Real:  Cheapest offer £22.91 from Revival Books Ltd (3 other offers)
7.  The Aphex Twin - Digeridoo (Analogue Bubblebath 2):  Cheapest offer £17.99 from brettfree (4 other offers)
8.  LFO - What Is House EP:  Cheapest offer £14.99 from shardiko (1 other offer)
9.  Orbital - Mutations:  Cheapest offer £12.94 from momox co uk (5 other offers)
10.  Depth Charge - Legend Of The Golden Snake EP:  Cheapest offer £12.48 from pulserecords (3 other offers)
11.  Felix Da Housecat - Ready2Wear:  Cheapest offer £12.25 from Greener_Books (6 other offers)
12.  The Crimea - Lottery Winners On Acid:  Cheapest offer £9.99 from hippocrates69 (2 other offers)
13.  Fierce Ruling Diva - Rubb It In:  Cheapest offer £9.73 from MediaClearance (sole offer)
14.  Rumer - Into Colour EP:  Cheapest offer £8.73 from OnlineMusicFilmsGames (1 other offer)
15.  Unique 3 - Rhythm Take Control:  Cheapest offer £8.70 from Bahamut Media Group (6 other offers)
16.  Metric - Monster Hospital:  Cheapest offer £8.59 from momox co uk (4 other offers)
17.  That Petrol Emotion - Abandon:  Cheapest offer £8.32 from Bahamut Media Group (3 other offers)
18.  M83 - 0078h:  Cheapest offer £7.69 from Revival Books Ltd (7 other offers)
19.  SL2 - DJ's Take Control/Way In My Brain:  Cheapest offer £7.42 from Revival Books Ltd (3 other offers)
20.  Dinosaur Jr. - Freak Scene:  Cheapest offer £7.00 from Round3 UK (10 other offers)

(Prices all correct @ 13/10/16, although the speed of this market probably means that there have been some moves whilst I've been writing this).

As can be seen, a similar pattern emerges. Certain CDs are out of the hands of the big resellers - in the singles market these seem to be Music Magpie (cheapest on 131 of the 250), Bahamut Media Group (cheapest on 20 of the 250), Brit-Books (cheapest on 12), Greener Books (10), Momox (8) and Revival Books (7) - and these are the ones that mainly command the higher prices. However - as with the albums - if the big resellers price do have copies, they will price them as high as they can, almost always undercutting their next best competition by a penny.

Or, as I like to call it, price-gouging.

So that's the figures out of the way. In Part 2 (hopefully I should get this done by tomorrow), I'm going to detail the myriad problems in selling CD singles as opposed to albums; also I'll take a look at some inexplicable differentials in price between ostensibly as-obscure-as-each-other singles and go into a bit more detail on some of the wild outliers. Bet you can't wait, eh?


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Amazon, Second-Hand CDs - Update 12/10/16


I'm writing so much about this it's getting a bit unhealthy, but I find it fascinating. Regular readers (are there any?) may recall that I had a group of 350 second-hand CDs - all albums - and ranked them by the lowest price each commanded in Amazon's marketplace. Actually, it might be a good idea to do a quick link to each of the previous posts, just in case anyone is insane enough to read them again (and anyway, it might be handy - for me - to have them all in one place), so:

1. Before looking at Amazon, how much would the big resellers be prepared to pay?

2. An attempt to figure out the business model of each reseller;

3. An afterword to the above, in which I thought I'd got a pretty good idea of the reselling model;

4. Fun With Music Magpie, in which we play a game of cat and mouse over a CD;

5. An update, expanding the number of CDs, particularly contrasting Music Magpie's buying/selling prices;

6. A look at the individual CDs commanding only high prices on Amazon, since updated.

To recap, here's the top 20 as they initially stood on 1st October 2016. Due to my rank incompetence, I didn't get all the details at the time (and in my defence, the prices move around so quickly that it's almost impossible to pin them down):

1. Cats And Cats And Cats/This Town Needs Guns (Split album):  Cheapest offer £1,426.19

That one was the obvious standout!

2. The Soul Searchers - Salt Of The Earth:  Cheapest offer £34.97 (discrepancy as the price kept changing as I was writing)
3. Sheila & B. Devotion - King Of The World:  Cheapest offer £40.15 (discrepancy as above)
4. Escort - Escort:  Cheapest offer £39.96 (which fell to £18.95 as I missed a listing)
5. Tap Tap - On My Way:  Cheapest offer £20.85
6. The Delfonics - Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics:  Cheapest offer £20.11
7. The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra  - The Benevolence Of Sister Mary Ignatius:  Cheapest offer £19.99
8. The Concretes - Boyoubetterunow:  Cheapest offer £17.95
9. Stereolab - Sound-Dust:  Cheapest offer £16.58
10. Josef K - The Only Fun In Town/Sorry For Laughing:  Cheapest offer £14.68

I didn't note the cheapest offers for 11-20, but they were as follows:

11. The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers
12. Pablo Augustus - Original Rockers
13. She Wants Revenge - She Wants Revenge [US Import]
14. The Blood Arm - Bomb Romantics
15. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
16. Stereolab - Dots And Loops
17. Slow Club - Complete Surrender
18. Mayer Hawthorne - Where Does This Door Go
19. Shaun Escoffery - Shaun Escoffery
20. Metro Area - Metro Area

So today I thought I'd take a look at what changes had taken place within the list in the last eleven days. As I've mentioned previously, a lot of them seem to change price according to some sort of algorithmic process (largely when the big resellers decide to compete with one another over an album, or when a new seller enters the market), whilst some just change price in a seemingly random process that I still can't figure out.

All that said, I was expecting some changes, but wasn't quite prepared for some of the enormous moves. For instance, there's a newcomer at no. 1, because the Cats And Cats And Cats/This Town Needs Guns split album had been reduced from its ridiculous £1,000-plus price.

So here we go with the Top 20 as it stands (previous position in brackets):

1. (2)  The Soul Searchers - Salt Of The Earth:  Cheapest offer now £48.12 (2 other offers)
2. (1)  Cats And Cats And Cats/This Town Needs Guns (Split album):  Cheapest offer now £45.16 (2 other offers)
3. (115)  The Peppers - Pepper Box:  Cheapest offer now £42.53 (1 other offer)
4. (4)  Escort - Escort:  Cheapest offer now £39.96 (1 other offer)
5. (3)  Sheila & B. Devotion - King Of The World:  Cheapest offer now £35.58 (2 other offers)
6. (11)  The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers:  Cheapest offer now £23.20 (2 other offers)
7. (6)  The Delfonics - Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics:  Cheapest offer now £21.58 (5 other offers)
8. (5)  Tap Tap - On My Way:  Cheapest offer now £19.61 (7 other offers)
9. (8)  The Concretes - Boyoubetterunow:  Cheapest offer now £17.95 (3 other offers)
10. (9)  Stereolab - Sound-Dust:  Cheapest offer now £16.58 (6 other offers)
11. (19)  Shaun Escoffery - Shaun Escoffery:  Cheapest offer now £14.75 (13 other offers)
12. (10)  Josef K - The Only Fun In Town/Sorry For Laughing:  Cheapest offer now £14.68 (11 other offers)
13. (14)  The Blood Arm - Bomb Romantics:  Cheapest offer now £13.95 (2 other offers)
14. (13)  She Wants Revenge - She Wants Revenge [US Import]:  Cheapest offer now £10.99 (10 other offers)
15. (12)  Pablo Augustus - Original Rockers:  Cheapest offer now £10.79 (9 other offers)
16. (18)  Mayer Hawthorne - Where Does This Door Go:  Cheapest offer now £9.43 (30 other offers)
17. (16)  Stereolab - Dots And Loops:  Cheapest offer now £8.89 (2 other offers)
18. (15)  Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma:  Cheapest offer now £8.75 (23 other offers)
19. (143)  Hardfloor - TB Resuscitation:  Cheapest offer now £7.99 (8 other offers)
20. (32)  The Soul Searchers - We the People:  Cheapest offer now £7.94 (18 other offers)

Aside from the newcomer in the top spot, there are two other obvious big movers, the Pepper Box album, up 112 places to no. 3 (as I recall, someone had it listed at about £2.00 back on 1st October, but that copy was obviously snapped up) and Hardfloor's "TB Resuscitation", up 124 places to no. 19. The other new entry, "We The People" by The Soul Searchers, didn't actually move much in price; it was more to do with the previous best (about £6.99 @ 01/10/16) having been sold. And as with the top ten involved in the previous "Outliers" post, Music Magpie aren't selling any of the 20 above.

Of the three that have fallen out of the top 20:

22. (20)  Metro Area - Metro Area (now £7.49; I think this was due to me accidentally selling my copy, as detailed here;

24. (7)  The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra - The Benevolence Of Sister Mary Ignatius (now £6.99 from who else but Music Magpie);

51. (17)  Slow Club - Complete Surrender (now available at £4.02 from inandout-distribution).

In the wider sample of 350, there were a few other interesting movers:

42. (88)  Metronomy - Love Letters (£4.58 from dodax-online-uk)
43. (119)  Ladytron - Witching Hour (£4.53 from Music Magpie)
57. (111)  Super Extra Bonus Party - Super Extra Bonus Party (£3.90 from marzi)
68. (179)  Dum Dum Project - Desi Vibes (£3.45 from Music Magpie)
86. (210)  (Mixed By) David Holmes - Come Get It I Got It (£2.98 from The Monster Bookshop)

And the ten biggest fallers; every single one of these has fallen because Music Magpie have either obtained a copy, or reduced their price to match a rival seller; either way, they now have the cheapest price for each of these:

99. (38)  Caro Emerald - The Shocking Miss Emerald (down to £2.48)
102. (35)  Best Coast - Crazy For You (down to £2.39)
113. (39)  Haim - Days Are Gone (down to £2.14)
114. (52) Rumer - Into Colour (down to £2.11)
119. (47)  Stereolab - Margarine Eclipse (down to £2.03)
124. (34) Hecuba - Paradise (down to £1.98)
131. (41)  Caribou - Swim (down to £1.62)
219. (54)  The Cribs - In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull (down to £0.28)
294. (110)  La Roux - La Roux (down to £0.01)
297. (63) Mains Ignition - Turn On (down to £0.01)

I'm biased (particularly against Music Magpie), but it shows how readily the big resellers can just stitch up the market; it doesn't matter if they only get a penny per CD, as they make their money mainly through their bulk postage discount. I'm aware of constantly banging on about this, but it can't really be stressed enough that this is the only way to make money selling second-hand CDs through online marketplaces such as Amazon, ebay and the like, unless you're into the "serious collectors" market (good quality and/or unusual vinyl will always rule supreme here).

When I began writing this post, it was my intention to make it the last one; after all, I think I've pretty much covered the subject as exhaustively as I'm able to...but then it occurred to me that the major resellers tend not to buy CD singles, so presumably don't compete in that market (although I'm willing to bet that Music Magpie get in on the act somehow). And I've got absolutely loads of them, including a lot of obscure early-90s rave/hardcore stuff that must be pretty rare. Whether anyone would want to buy any of it, however, is a story for another day...

Monday, 10 October 2016


Klubbkören are an a capella (although often augmented with live bass, keyboards and percussion) vocal group/choir from Malmö in Sweden who I think deserve much more attention than they seem to get. I first discovered them a few years back, via their cover of Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" (one of my favourite songs from the last ten years or so). Everything they do is amazing. Here's Janelle's original, which is also amazing of course:

And here's Klubbkören's awesome version:

There's so much to love about it, from the bandleader's camp stylings, the super-cool bassist, the tightness of the whole thing and - most importantly - they all look to be having so much fun! I play it to cheer myself up quite often.

They've done some other awesome stuff too; here's their version of Pharrell's "Happy":

As good as - if not better - than the original, which I think's a damn good song in itself.

And their version of Nicki Minaj's "Bottoms Up" definitely improves on the original (in my not-so-humble opinion):

They do Little Dragon's "Little Man" too:

And Parliament's "I've Been Watching You":

They really "get" the spirit of the original; it's just superb.

And their version of the Commodores classic "Easy" is equally awesome, a really good rearrangement of the original:

They've done loads of other stuff too (many in Swedish, so possibly Swedish hits that I'm not familiar with), but these are the main well-known ones that I can bring to mind just now.  Their arrangements are just so good. Their very existence makes the world a better place, I think. I just wish they were more well-known. They deserve it.

But I always go back to their version of "Tightrope", so much so that here's another version:

Sufficed to say, I love Klubbkören! Search for them on Youtube for more Klubbkören goodness (tip - Klubbkören rather than Klubbkoren brings up more results).

Basically, I think they should do more. I want them to cover every song ever...I'd certainly give anything they do a listen.