What happens to your records when you're cancelled?
Asking the questions that no one else is stupid enough to ask.
Hello sorry for no emails lately. I locked myself in the library for two weeks to work on MY BOOK and am proud to report that I finished another chapter and I feel FUCKING INVINCIBLE. Unless my editor doesn’t like it. Then I will stop feeling FUCKING INVINCIBLE and start CRYING IN THE SHOWER and looking for SUBSTITUTE TEACHER JOBS on the internet until my friends have to stage an INTERVENTION just to get me out of my house.
The only break I’ve been giving myself in writing sessions is when I go to the diner for lunch which is the highlight of my day because the waitress calls me honey and asks how my book is coming along. I’m basically just a walking Menzingers song at this point. Truly pathetic shit.
I haven’t much discussed what my book is about yet for ~reasons~ but I will just say that a recent Instagram post from Chris Conley was prompted by an interview that I did with him for it and I will say no more for now:
But in the pursuit of my book I have sadly been neglecting my beloved REPLY ALT, music’s only newsletter, and also the internet and the entire outside world really. So I’m resurfacing for a few minutes and here’s what I have to say today…
When you get cancelled, where do your records go?
It happens every time I start flipping through the used section at a record store. ABBA... AC/DC… and then: Adams, Ryan. I spend way more time than I should thinking about the journey a record must take to make its way to the bin of used records in front of me. Did its previous owner realize pop punk was just a phase and decide to palm off all their Lookout! Records releases? (In which case I will GLADLY scoop them up.) Was someone so scorned by a lover that in a fit of rage they sold all their ex’s screamo LPs while they were out at work? (I’ll take those too!) Or did someone really just need the cash?
But in the case of an abandoned Adams record, I’m especially intrigued. Adams, in case you were living under a rock rock in the year 2019, was accused of some pretty heinous shit in the New York Times. The headline, “Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price.”, grossly undersold his transgressions, in my opinion. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill case of famous rock guy flexing his fame to get women; he was Skyping naked with underage girls.
When an artist like Adams gets—for lack of a better word—cancelled, the internet ire that piles up often leads to real-world consequences. Tours get cancelled, management teams jump ship, labels kill album launches. In the case of PWR BTTM, for example, the band’s music was pulled from streaming services after stories of sexual abuse surfaced.
But I always wonder: What happens to the physical releases when someone is cancelled? After all that awful shit about Jesse Lacey came out, I remember seeing fans saying they’d be dumping their Brand New records. Maybe it’s the skeptic in me, but I couldn’t help thinking: Are you really, though? Are people really tossing their copies of Deja Entendu into a bonfire in protest?
So I got to wondering. Do record stores see an influx of used copies of records by Ryan Adams and Brand New and PWR BTTM when a story like that surfaces? Or does it have the opposite effect—do people start stocking up on them as if they’re about to become rarities? And how does that affect the monetary value? A cursory search on Discogs shows that Brand New records are still fetching over 150 bucks, so they’re not exactly priced to move.
Just to be clear: In all of these cases I’m referring to, there are obviously more pressing and grave repercussions from these artists’ actions that need addressing. The price/availability of their vinyl ranks somewhere at the very end of the order of importance. But someone needs to scrape the bottom of the music journalism barrel, and I believe that person is me.
For insights into this matter, I talked to Kristian Sorge, who owns Limited to One Record Shop in Manhattan, which deals specifically in used vinyl. He gets a lot of people coming in to sell rare, valuable records and in some cases their entire collections. Not only is it my favorite record store, the place is meticulous about pricings and print runs and pressings. So I figured he would be a knowledgeable person on the subject of the supply/demand of these records.
Below is our little discussion. Be sure to swing by the store if you’re ever in New York with $50 burning a hole in your pocket and you just NEED that Yaphet Kotto test press. Here’s a photo of the place I don’t remember taking but I guess I did.
When something bad comes out about an artist, do you see an uptick in customers trying to dump all of their records?
Kristian Sorge: Sometimes. There was an incident with the Smith Street Band about [frontperson Wil Wagner] being in a bad relationship. I didn’t read too far into it, but the day after it happened, I had a woman come in and dump all their records on me. I thought that was interesting, and I understand it to some extent.
We had a bunch of Brand New stuff in the store when their issues came to light. What I saw was that there were a lot of people who weren’t as interested in [buying their records], but I didn’t have a lot of people dumping their stuff. I’ve only really seen that once or twice ever, when a band has been cancelled, so to speak.
If someone had come in after the Ryan Adams news broke, I don’t think I would’ve bought the records, to be honest. I try not to promote the artist if there are issues there, if it’s pretty obvious that these things are true or if the crimes are pretty heinous. What was the name of that band in the UK that was molesting babies, Lostprophets? I would never in a million years carry their records.
Conversely, do you notice any difference in demand? Are collectors stocking up under the assumption that these records might become more rare in the future?
No, I really haven’t seen that. I had a few rare Ryan Adams records on my Want List from years ago, and I’d watch them on Discogs. There were records that were going for like 200 bucks. But I really haven’t seen a whole lot of people dumping that stuff online for super cheap. It feels like that value hasn’t dropped for collectors at all. They maybe dropped a little in price, but people weren’t getting rid of them for 20 bucks a pop or anything.
Does the level of the artist play any part there? Ryan Adams is a famous rockstar with a deep catalog. Would his records be more affected in price than a newer artist like the Smith Street Band or PWR BTTM?
Yeah, because they’ve been around longer, they have a larger catalog, and they’ve reached more people. People deal with these situations differently. There are some people who say the music isn’t the artist, and the artist isn’t the music, and they can separate the two. Whereas some people say they don’t want anything to do with an abuser, period.
I think it really is a sliding scale for each person and how they’re affected by it. But as a store owner, there are records I’ve purchased and then the artist got cancelled, and I’m not just gonna throw stuff out. I spent money on it. But I’m not gonna promote it, I’m not gonna put it on Instagram. If I spent $50 on a Brand New record and they’re cancelled, what am I supposed to do, break it or throw it out? I’ll price it down, maybe. I don’t mind if I lose money on it if I’d prefer that it’s out of the store. I’m still a business and I have to survive, but I have ideals. I’m trying not to support abusers as much as I can.
OK enough of that. How bout a music recommendation, yeah? Y’all heard this new Chubby and the Gang record yet? If you wanna start mucking around in pubs on the outskirts of UK towns called shit like Chestershiresworth and picking fights with football fans and saying things like, “you havin’ a laff innit?” and dressing like a 2020 version of Cock Sparrer I’d say this is your soundtrack right here:
Alright, I’m gonna crawl back into my work-hole for a while. See ya when I come back up for air. Oh, and speaking of life-consuming projects, my friend Dessie Jackson is a big-time artist and recently got hired to paint a bunch of stop-motion lyric videos for Halsey on a very quick turnaround. I don’t know much about Halsey but Dessie locked herself in her studio for two weeks and came out with these beautiful, kickass videos. I’m really proud and inspired! It rocks! She rocks!