Vinyl and Ebay: A Fascinating Relationship (Volume Two)

Chunklet to Go Go

By Andrew Earles | Feb 27 2013

At some point last year, an acquaintance made me aware of  RecordFlipper, a blog that aims to serve as an investment tip sheet for the release and future releases of hyperlimited vinyl titles. Before providing a special subscriber’s service (known as “The List”), the information provided on the site was of an experiential nature, or was presented as predictive advice combined with real enthusiasm about the records and releases covered. It is mostly limited to brand-new releases or records that have been released within the last year or two. Let’s say a label's site or blog still has a few copies of a title for sale, and it is out-of-print everywhere else and going for good scratch on eBay... these sorts of tips can be found on RecordFlipper as well. And the HFIC (or “Head Flipper In Charge”) has damned fine taste in music, especially in the heavier stuff that dominates my own ventures into new music.

When I was clued in to the blog’s existence, it was done through vitriol and general negativity. As in, “Have you heard about this asshole’s blog...?” The nonflipping record consumer’s hyperreactionary approach to the idea and practice of flipping records is one of almost unanimous knee-jerk hatred and criticism. While I myself see both (intensely imbalanced) sides to the whole affair, and have flipped a record or two in my day, the immediate poo-pooing of record flipping and selling on eBay (plus the resulting stigma attached to it) is cultural fallout that I find to be a little ridiculous. It’s almost become another “Saturday Night Live sucks these days” or “Fuck Pitchfork!” or “Steve Albini Is An Asshole!” for people who want to make an incendiary gesture but don’t want to deal with all that troublesome stuff like being passionate about your viscerally delivered opinions or, most importantly, being able to back them up with facts and personal reasoning.

So, upon perusing the site, I wasn’t surprised to notice that several of the posts were based on the blog’s receipt of criticism and hate mail. I thought that some interview potential was there, seeing as how I had conceptualized this series of writing by that point.

As for “The List," well, after months of posting tips and seeing how much people were making off of them, the mind behind RecordFlipper decided that a $100 annual subscription was in order. Nowadays, subscribers get the sort of content that used to flow freely on the site, and despite a promise to continue posting at least some of what used to constitute all of RecordFlipper, it appears that the focus is now entirely behind the consultant-to-subscriber curtain. RecordFlipper has not featured any new posts in 2013.

Head dog “RF” in response to my interview inquiry…

Hi Andrew.

Sorry it's taken me a little while to get back to you. I'm NYC-based, and there was that little storm that passed through a few days back. LOL.

Anyway, we all read your recent piece on VICE.com about Ebay and record selling and got a chuckle out of it. Do you post to Waxidermy and/or Termbo? A lot of the expressions you use in your writing remind me of things written on those boards. And I am not unaware of what has been written on those boards about my blog. Anyway, an email interview would be cool. But to let you know up front I will most definitely be using a pseudonym (RecordFlipper or RF). Since launching the RecordFlipper blog I've had people trying to gather/spread my personal information (name, address, where I work, what name I sell on Ebay under etc), to what bizarre end I can only guess. I've also had people threaten/try to hack into my email account, my PayPal account and into the private message board we set up when we launched The List. I also had some guy claiming to be a music industry professional buy up the .com, .net, and .org URLs that go with RecordFlipper; then write to taunt me about it. Crazy, right? The blog gets some pretty vicious hate mail: I'm used to & over it. The very idea of flipping records seems to drive some folks completely insane. How sad for them. So, sure, whenever you want to start, go right ahead. I'll try to respond sincerely and quickly. But please note that I have a serious full-time job, a part time job (selling records), a second part-time job (advising a roster of clients on what to buy and how/when to sell it), and a family. In other words, I don't have too much free time. But it's all good, as the kids say.

Looking forward to your first question.

-RF

Coming away from my first installment with the assumption that I might post on Termbo or Waxidermy, it appears that some of my goofing around didn’t really sink in, but that’s OK. To clarify: I do not post to Termbo or Waxidermy. More importantly, I do not write pseudonymously. Anything. Anywhere. At any time.

[PLEASE NOTE: the blog’s “Jake” answered my interview questions. I am aware that it could be the same person as “RF”, for my purposes and that of the reader, this doesn’t really matter....]

VICE: First of all, in your opinion, why does the act of flipping records carry such a stigma? I have witnessed the suggestion of the act or the subject itself getting reactions that I would have otherwise reserved for the usage of hard drugs or other societal taboos. For instance, if one is clearly a consumer of personal copies and a huge fan of music, then what is the problem with flipping records as a source of supplemental income?
RF: I think a lot of the negativity has to do with seeing someone become so successful at something that, at first, seems trivial or easy. But when an individual tries to jump into the whole “flipping” game, he realizes it involves a huge investment of time, and is a huge gamble financially. Speaking for myself, I would say that it took me almost a good year to figure how to do it the “right way.” So I think the negative stigmas attached to flipping have evolved from jealously, or because some people imagine they feel some kind of personal, moral obligation to stop “wrong-doers” from making a profit off the backs of artists and labels. I for one could care less what someone does with his own property after he legally owns it. As we all know, “flipping” happens in various other industries and businesses where you have a very fragile balance between supply and demand.
 
It appears that some insane situations have arisen due to your blog and your general participation in the selling of records online. Can you run through or elaborate on a few of these situations for the readers?
RF has covered most of the negative experiences we have dealt with, but I wanted to share one more story: To avoid calling out a specific record label, I will be referring to it as “Hypocrite Records." Hypocrite happened to be releasing a beautiful, limited-edition record, which we caught wind of. The first thing we did was post the on-sale info for our subscribers at the List, tell them to buy it, and then let the fun begin.

Sure enough, the record sold out in under a day, and from reading his social media communications, I could tell that “Hypocrite” was a little suspicious about how this all went down. Our subscribers began to try to flip the album on Ebay at a highly inflated price, because, hey, that’s what we do! Anyway, “Hypocrite” noticed this and started laying down the “justice hammer” the only way he could. It seems like “Hypocrite” matched up information he found in these Ebay listings to people who had pre-ordered the record from him. So apparently “Hypocrite” did manage to find out who a couple of these flippers were, and he cancelled their pending orders.

Now here is where the story gets juicy! About a week later we noticed that someone had put up an auction for the SOLD OUT limited edition record that “Hypocrite” had released. Guess whose auction it was? It was listed by the one and only “Hypocrite Records,” who’d cancelled multiple orders straight from his label, obviously so he himself could sell the record at a highly inflated price, all the while saying it was sold out and complaining that flippers had bought up all his product! You can take away what you want from this story, but I wanted to at least explain some of the nonsense that we encounter on our side.

I’ve personally found that the negative reaction to reselling records can be broken down into several types, or is multifold:
A) You have your “buddy” who always complains about being broke, and he has this giant collection, but recoils at the notion that he take 30–50 titles that he’ll never listen to again, or doesn’t give a fuck about, and pop them up on eBay to make a quick grand or more. “No, no… I would never do that!”
B) Then there’s the punk rock mindset, or ethical ambulance chaser, who has strong opinions about the act itself…that true music fans should not be participating in this capitalist venture, etc.
C) The brick-and-mortar merchants who act as if they’ve been ripped off when they learn that someone has purchased a record from their store (or however they sell records person to person) and flipped it on eBay for a profit.
D) And the online merchants who add a vigilante stance to their limiting of purchases to one per customer. I understand why a label head would limit each customer to one color or copy so that the widest array of buyers gets to own a copy… that makes sense, though I don’t know that I’d do it if I ran a label.
Experiencing all of this on a daily basis, you start to figure out who is on your side, and who is not. We have multiple record labels write to us, wanting us to promote their records, and we also have multiple record labels sending us hate mail. You would think that “any customer is a good customer,” but, like I said in one of my previous answers, I truly feel like some of the guys running these labels feel this personal, fictitious moral obligation to uphold what is “right” in their minds. It’s like they think they’re saving the public from a bunch of capitalist monsters!

Now, using a sample from our own subscribers, I can tell you that we have a whole array of different people using our services. I would say 75 percent of the people subscribed are in it purely for the money, which is what we expected; then we’ve got financially stable individuals who are just looking to add some rare and unique collectibles to their collections. And lastly, we have some who are solely into it for the music. They just have that need to find and explore every musical genre and get that thrill of finding the next great album.

What is your stance on the criticism that record flipping contributes to overpricing on a general or wider scale?
Inflation is a tricky thing. Regardless of your market, products rise and fall in price, and there isn’t just one factor that determines why. I personally feel that blaming flippers for any change in a label’s pricing scheme is ridiculous. It’s just another way to use us as a scapegoat. If you’re selling an item, you get to set the price for it, and an item is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.
 
One thing I’ve noticed about your blog is that you always try to point buyers to the direct source of the record, meaning, the label releasing it, rather than go on about a distro site that happens to have some out of print stuff or one of the handful of larger merchants online who happen to sell new and used vinyl. Was this a conscious decision?
I wouldn’t say we discriminate against distros on purpose; a lot of the imports we buy are from American distros, who import some rare, international albums and keep the retail price here in US down. The reason we normally link to a band’s site, or directly to a label’s site, is because more than likely that’s the only place to purchase the most “limited” or “exclusive” edition of an album.
 
How many people are involved with RecordFlipper?
I was in awe when I first found out about RecordFlipper. Collecting and flipping records is something that I’ve been very passionate about for a long time now, and when I saw that there was someone else willing to go public with the idea, I knew I had to be a part of it. Soon after the blog was launched RF, and I started exchanging emails and phone calls, and that’s how this whole partnership came about. We soon started “The List” and things have been going smoothly ever since.
 
How long were you active before transforming “The List” into something exclusive to paying members? Can you explain “The List” in simple terms for the readers, and how many subscribers do you have at the moment?
I clearly remember the day we decided to take things private. We announced a very limited record drop, and that record sold out within minutes, most likely via a link from the RecordFlipper blog. We realized that we’d created a problem: It seemed like all the copies of that record went to flippers, so we then were all competing with each other to sell it as quickly as possible and for as much as possible. Picking records that will flip well and quickly is a very time intensive process, and we felt that giving our tips out for free was no longer feasible or worth it for us. So we decided at that point that it seemed fair to ask to be compensated for giving out hot tips, and to limit the number of people we gave them to. But how to do that? We couldn’t just take in a handful of our favorite readers and tell the others to get lost. So we took things private, and it’s worked out wonderfully!
 

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