Most new album releases get two different vinyl versions these days; a basic black copy, and a deluxe, limited record which comes with a whole bunch of bells and whistles. If you’re a fan of the artist then you’re probably going to justify buying the rarity where possible because – isn’t that just human nature?
What is it deep inside that makes us want to collect rare records with such love? Is it for bragging rights years down the line? Is it to be part of a certain club of fans? Or would you buy it simply for the love of the artist? There’s also the point that these aren’t simply pieces of music as they were in the past. Now they’re physical artifacts in a digital world. Something real and something you can hold onto.
Major record labels realise that it’s in our nature to devoutly collect the music we love, and they’re producing these rarities to almost guarantee them a certain amount of sales. Making something so sought after also means that they can happily drive up the price of the product knowing that collectors must have it regardless of the expense. All of this could be alienating the average teenager coming into a record store who probably doesn’t have over thirty pounds to drop on an album.
So what might the solution be to all this? Well, what if we go back to the premise of what used to matter about vinyl? Buy it perhaps for the sound, beauty and aesthetic, rather than how much of a rarity it is? It’s easy to say that now, but I know that when they do the next colour-splash, limited edition Elliott Smith release, I’ll probably be the first one to grab a copy.