Check out my latest feature for the Vice Magazine/Chunklet-To-Go-Go series…
[the feature I've pasted below was published by vice.com on the morning of 10/3/12...the previous link will take you to this official, original version]
Vinyl and Ebay: A Fascinating Relationship
By Andrew Earles
Hello and welcome to what I hope to be an ongoing series of features about one motherfucking gazillion-headed monster of a subject; a real blooming-onion of a feature idea…I state with fear and excitement. As the title makes obvious, the beast in question is actually a couple of bedfellows, vinyl records and eBay. My personal relationship and experience with this phenomenon will be unpacked gradually as the series moves forward, and at this juncture, I will only go so far as to claim my status as “retired but still fascinated”, with my hands-on participation existing within the boundaries of research.
What follows is a cursory look, in the form of a glossary, at the indirect and informal terminology and phraseology found in eBay auction/set-sale listings of vinyl records, or rather, in the title lines of such. Please understand that linguistically, many of the words below have been awarded a new life within the world of eBay record-flipping/hustling, much like Office Space or the Leprechaun horror series found their true calling via the post-theatrical rental/cable/Netflix act two. These are the “Now Meaningless Cultural Clusterfucks By Day, eBay Record-Hustler Tool By Night” that punctuate the following list; their existence as such will be obvious and immediate, so there’s no need for further flagging. Ok, before my post-intro, pre-goods reader drop-off reaches goes critical, I give you…
(WHAT THE FOLLOWING TERMS REALLY MEAN…)
“Minimal Synth” – Record most-likely sounds like warmed-over, low-rent O.M.D. or Yaz, but worse. This “movement” of the early-80’s was allegedly centered around Berlin, though I favor the rumor that it was fabricated by a certain group of dudes who run labels of the topical and tastemaker variety. Lacking the forward-thought, inspiration and genuine goods to build an influential and interesting roster/discography, they possibly dug up a bunch of bedroom no-talents from roughly 1980 – 1985 who only wanted to be the next Soft Cell or ABC, then used their findings as the basis for a mythical form of first-wave post-punk/DIY. Someone might pay WAY TOO MUCH money for this record. The acutely-tedious old stuff has inspired a quasi-movement of acutely-tedious new stuff.
“KBD” – By far one of the most abused title-line tags in the realm of eBay record-hustling (intake, output, flipping, desperation sales, etc). “KBD” is now utilized to draw attention to LP’s by The Cars, The Romantics early Duran Duran, Grand Funk Railroad and the MC5 at one end of the timeline, to Sugar or Ride reissue released this year. At this point, “KBD” essentially means that the music is rock-based and made by people who play guitars, basses, drums and to a lesser degree, keyboards. I will not waste your time with boring writing related to the origin and definition of the abbreviation, but for those who feel slighted by the absence of such information, I must issue an alienating inquiry: “Was the front door unlocked? How did you get in here? Who are you?”
“Private” or “Private Label” – A half-to-highly skilled record-peddler will use one or both of these to attract buyer/bidders who drop coin on fare featured in tattered, disgustingly-soiled copies of Acid Archives…sticking out of blown couches and being pee’d on by unhappy cats all over the land. Or those who don’t own the book but still collect titles given to the world in small numbers by the real private-label boom of the 60’s, 70’s and early-80’s. Get-rich-quick divorcees and “bless-their-heart” hardscrabble types use “private” or “private label” in an inappropriate manner simply because they are unaware of the 1985 – 1988 boom of tiny, small, midsized, medium-large, or disturbingly-massive independent or seemingly-independent labels that, of course, continues to this day. Call me a softy, but I suddenly feel as though I shouldn’t be making fun of these people. I just deleted a few sentences that would have ripped new assholes across the landscape of intensely-depressing post-1968 wall-to-wall carpet, sliding-glass-door, open kitchen apartment complexes. Did I just screw up and lose a lot of readers who just skipped the rest of this piece and are now figuring out different ways to call me a pussy in the comments section? Good riddance.
“Emo”– this one’s in decline, but during its salad days, it could be found throughout wide stylistic, aesthetic and demographic spectrums. We’re talkin’ everything from The Misfits to Simply Saucer to Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine to the OST of Bette Midler’s The Rose to Greg Kihn to Boyd Rice’s Non project to Alien Sex Fiend to John Zorn to Bunny The Bear and I haven’t even toe-dipped into the waters where the usual suspects swim. And I didn’t give a chronological framework for the aforementioned “salad days” due to a desire to include The Bunny the Bear, but I did see “Emo” used to assist in the selling of an album by this duo. And no, I did not see it affixed to someone’s listing of Bette Midler’s The Rose OST, such is my questionable way of making a point sometimes.
“Test” or “Test Pressing” –Many older test pressings, such as Shiner’s The Egg (went for $150 because it was one of five copies) or the gold-medal winner of late, a Chain of Strength test pressing made someone $1,600 heavier (the What Holds Us Apart 7” EP, released in 1990 on their own Foundation Records). But oozing from the multi-genre explosion-on-top-of-an-existing-explosion small-label explosion of the early-00’s, was (and still is…to a lessening degree) is the short-con of loading up pressing-plant order forms with at least 20+ test pressings and squirreling away the majority for future eBay action. Please note that band involvement is probably a case-by-case thing, but is a part of this sitch that remains unknown out of general disinterest in the overall scam.
On a lighter note, “test pressing” is sometimes used as “code” for bootleg or any otherwise unauthorized pressing of a record. But what has me hunched-over with painful guffaws is the poor saps who use one or both incarnations when selling promos. Do these sellers actually believe that the eBay po-po are out in large numbers, ferreting out title lines containing “promo” or “WLP” or other versions thereof? Or are they unaware of what constitutes a proper promotional release and figure that a blank-label with handwriting on it must be a label freebie? Oh shit, there’s that “bless their hearts” feeling again…
“180” or “180-gram” – a reissue that has, since its appearance in the bins or on the inventory lists, cock-blocked any of the sky-reaching final bid amounts/BIN’s previously associated with the original incarnation.
‘#’d’ or ‘?/500’ or ‘numbered’ – could mean just what it says, or could be an exaggeration of reality, otherwise known as “bullshit”…use and fall-for at own risk.
“DIY” – Unlike “indie-rock” or many of the other word-corpses that have been butt-fucked into nothing by the promotional sector, ‘DIY’ still means something (really bad) and it isn’t finished doing its noxious damage to our surrounding culture. Keeping it short and sweet, the ‘DIY’ mindset and beliefs have brainwashed and converted untold millions of idiots worldwide, especially in the last five to seven years. It continues to infect underground music to an acutely-negative end. The ultimate truth is that just because everyone can, doesn’t mean everyone should. ‘DIY’ has eliminated many of the crucial growth, struggle and financial obstacles that used to weed out tons of mediocrity and flat-out shit, so the use of “DIY” as an eBay record-flipping tag is fucking tennis elbow compared to the CREATIVE AIDS now found to be symptomatic of this awful religion. Go ahead and use it to bring attention to your Dream Theater auction for some subtle culture-jamming if confusion is your weapon of choice. Then again, you can always take an album with garbage-collage cover art and break it over the creator’s head for more visceral gratification. You know, if you really want to do the latter…only if you really want to…
“Rare” – indicates a seller who operates behind an antiquated pre-1990 mindset that assigns rarity and grossly-inflated worth to anything and everything pressed on vinyl. It might also flag a record that is genuinely hard to find, but that’s not as entertaining.
“OOP” – 1. “Other Ogre’s Pussy” in abbreviated form and the root-origin of the title and theme in the Naughty By Nature mega-hit, “OPP” 2. The record is now unavailable from the label’s own site, but can be easily found elsewhere online for a comparable price. 3. A inclusion that should be an exclusion listed below with the other inspiration-eluders. I felt that this feature needed one consciously bad joke, so it stays.
“Etched Art” or “Etched” – Might mean that the band or artist doesn’t have the goods to make to fill an entire LP or EP, so side 2 or side 4 suffers a band member’s etchings. Motivated by the very real problem of paying fans accepting some laughably-useless and barely-visible “art” as a suitable substitute for what the band is supposed to fill a release with. Do you want a small bowl of human feces with your slap in the face? It will be out momentarily, sirs and ma’ams.
“Limited” - Without an included pressing count (“Limited to ___” copies on dignity-erasing splatter vinyl”, etc), this word is totally meaningless and recalls other awesomely-vague consumer cons like “Each pair of green, free-trade sweatshop-free spirit animal flip-flops you purchase will create five jobs for unemployed Americans” or “A portion of your purchase will be donated to a someone who lives in a drainage ditch” and so on.
“Mint” – frequently utilized code for “opened, played a few times and maybe used in a domestic disturbance, but still shiny!”
“Unplayed” – Ok, so why did you open and handle the record with your big, fluid-gorged sausage fingers? Why can I see the record in your picture? Because you needed to check the color? Check this color, hoss (helps to visualize an extended middle digit right now).
“Sealed” – Can be a beacon that lures buyers and researchers to the jaw-dropping world of Final Prices That Caused A Violent Spit-Take Due To The Meat-And-Potatoes Nature Of The Auction/Set-Sale Item. Ever seen what a sealed original of the first Boston LP can go for? How about late-70’s Bad Company? Can also be the most depressing tour through unsold records that one is likely to find on eBay.
“Sealed w/ Cut-Out” – See last sentence in previous entry.
“C86” – gentle jangle from the first wave pussification that invaded British, Switss and American underground/independent/indie-rock scenes of the mid-80’s, or any man-wafer combo with a passing sonic resemblance to what was found on the series of free cassettes included with issues of NME from the same era. “Twee” is used for the same stuff but with its tentacles stretched into the 90’s.
“Nirvana” – any rock-based music released between 1990 and Y2K.
“Free Shipping” – 1. The seller is aware their BIN (‘Buy-It-Now’ for those raised by feral dogs) price is high for one record, and usage probably implies a “too-high-for-personal-comfort” feeling, thus activating a natural discount impulse…or… 2. The shipping charge has already been figured into the desired BIN price therefore its absence gives the illusion of a minor bargain. Additionally, if the listing is for a bundle or record lot, the seller has issued a false gesture of good-form by appearing to waive what would amount to an unwieldy shipping fee due to weight of the LP stack. The shipping has, more often than not, been cooked into the final price in this case as well. None of these situations apply to the considerable yet unknown percentage of cases that are desperation sales.
IN CLOSING, I GIVE YOU THE REJECTED, RETIRED, RACIALLY-CHARGED, RIDICULOUS AND NOW REMOVED FROM WHAT CAME BEFORE…
Some of the search-fodder that follows has a chronological or cultural framework that I find unsavory or I was generally uninterested in being the 4,567,981st ding-dong to enter various types of overcrowded waters during my days as a participant. Then there are others that I tried to define but failed for one or several reasons (not funny enough, not readable enough, didn’t inspire, not relevant enough, not irrelevant enough, went on a tedious rant that no one would ever want to read, etc). As to breaking the list down according to these three reasons for pulling the scrap-trigger, no, I will not do anything of the sort.
“Crust” & “Grind”
“HoZaC” & “Termbo”
“Random” or “Random Rap”
“MFSL” or “Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab”
“Green-Label (Warner Bros)”
“Vertigo Swirl” or “Swirl”
“Black Label Promo”
“Pink Label (Capricorn)”
“Pink Label (Charisma)”
“Pink Rim (Island)”
“Pink ‘i’ (Island)”
“2-Tone (Orange & Tan) (Reprise/Warner 7 Arts)”
“3-Tone (Pink, Yellow & White) (Reprise)”
“Plum & Red Label (Atlantic)”
“Green & Blue Label (Atlantic)”
“Un-Boxed (Decca) (London)”
“Lime-Green Label (Capitol)”
Until the next installment in this series (“Cast of Characters” or “Record-Flipping Etiquette” or “The Ones You Couldn’t Give Away Five Years Ago” or “The Community of No Community” or “Record-Flipping Stigmas”, etc), which has not been chosen at this time, happy digging to all and watch your fucking backs!