Whither Shipping Costs?

It’s hit me, being into bands from across the pond who don’t have large distribution deals, that there’s something rather strange implications about it. I remember not being able to find DIY records in the UK or Italy in the late 1990s, when I was a teenager. When my parents went off to the US, they’d go armed with a list in which, I’m told, would make the occasional record store type question whether they were responsible parents or not. It was frustrating, but it did make those records and the occasional visit more exciting. But, it also meant that the music scene’s were a mystery – where do you find things in a city you have metaphysical access to

Then, with the growth of the internet, that list disappeared. In the 00s – p&p from the US was frequently dirt cheap. You could access music from anywhere and buy it from anywhere and it was, I guess, cheap. But accessible.

Now, it’s back to being expensive. Just this morning, I was looking at buying the AUSTERITY PROGRAM’s new record Beyond Calculation (Controlled Burn Records) (I want to support the band in what ways I can), except that it costs more to ship a record than the record itself. I don’t want to give the postal people more money than the fucking band! I first noticed it with the Sargent House record label. To buy from them at the gig requires waiting for that gig (do Sargent House send out distro stuff with their bands? Have they thought about it?), and that’s not always the most convenient of gig, too.
If memory serves (and it occasionally doesn’t), this shipping cost saw a massive increase last year, making once quite happy purchases quite expensive. The bands hurt, the record labels hurt, the listeners hurt.
Listening to mp3s or streaming is not the same experience as the physical item. It just isn’t – materiality matters. I’m just wondering about the long term implications for the DIY scene(s), where music struggles to spread amongst (the) scene(s) that are still very much involved in physical objects to enjoy music. Will things become more insular, where foreign bands become more special? Will people look towards local scenes for something new? Will geography matter again?

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