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General Music Collecting FAQs



MUSIC COLLECTING FAQs

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::: Questions Answered In This FAQ ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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General Questions

G001	How much is my collection worth?
G002	I have a record/CD/tape with a drill hole/notch cut in the cover.
	Why are records/CDs/tapes "cut out"?
G003	I have some items marked "Promotional - Not For Sale".
	Is it really illegal to buy and sell these?
G004	I want to buy records from someone outside the US, but I don't want
	to send cash -- how can I arrange payment?

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CD Questions

C001	Is "CD Rot" for real?
	Some of my CDs are turning a bronze color.  What's going on?
C002	What was the first CD ever?
C003	I have a mispressed CD -- it's supposed to be by Artist X but it
	plays a completely different album.  Is it worth anything?
C004	Why is it illegal to rent CDs but legal to rent out videogame
        CD-ROMs?
C005	Where does my money go when I buy a CD?
C006	What's the longest CD ever pressed?

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Vinyl Questions

V001	What is an RCA "Shaded Dog" record?  Why are they so valuable?
V002	What is a test pressing?  Are they collectable?
V003	Why is the Caine Mutiny soundtrack worth ten thousand dollars or
        more?

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::: General Questions :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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G001	How much is my collection worth?

    Any item has two values: how much someone is willing to pay for it,
    and how much someone would have to pay before you'd be willing to
    sell.  Therefore the only people who can really determine the real 
    "price" of an item are the buyer and seller.  

    It may or may not help to consult a price guide.  Guide authors use
    all kinds of techniques to derive the prices they list, but they can't
    take into account local supply and demand, market fluctuations brought
    on by reissues or changes in people's tastes, or retailer whim.  Supply
    and demand always trumps the price guide.  Some really high guide prices
    are the highest price that item brought at auction somewhere; just 
    because there's one person crazy enough to pay that price for the record
    doesn't mean you can expect to find another.

    If you're trying to sell your collection to a dealer and expect him to
    pay you guide price on it, forget it.  Even if he can sell the records
    again for those prices, he's typically only going to want to pay you 
    half that price for them -- otherwise he's not making any money in 
    selling them.  You can almost always do better in selling your collection
    to other collectors than in selling to a dealer, but then you have to do
    all the work (writing up and placing ads, collecting payment, packaging
    and shipping).

    In other words, there's no simple answer to this question.  You won't
    know the answer unil you've sold it all and have time to count the money
    in your pocket afterwards.

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G002	I have a record/CD/tape with a drill hole/notch cut in the cover.
	Why are records/CDs/tapes "cut out"?

    The short answer: items are "cut out" (physically damaged in some way)
    to prevent record shops from returning them to the labels for credit.
    Itmes are marked as cutouts by slicing a notch or drilling a hole in a
    corner of the sleeve or jewel box.

    The term "cutouts" generically refers to discontinued or overstock
    items that were marked as cutouts by the record label, then sold in
    bulk to a cutout distributor.  The cutout distributor then sells them 
    (usually in "grab bag" form -- pay a flat price per unit, you don't get 
    to choose what you get) to record stores, who sell them on the cheap.
    Artists don't get royalties on these sales, which is part of why they
    can be let go for so little.

    To confuse things slightly, some labels will mark promo releases in
    the same way they mark cutouts -- by notching or drilling the case --
    instead of using a "For Promotional Release Only" stamp or sticker. If
    you run across a "cutout" of something that's been released in the
    last couple of months, it's really a promo.  Some promo CDs have a
    hole punched (not drilled) in the UPC code on the tray insert, but leave
    the jewel case intact.  In general, ragged drill holes or slices mark 
    cutouts, and "clean" punch holes, clipped corners, etc. mark promos.

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G003	I have some items marked "Promotional - Not For Sale".
	Is it really illegal to buy and sell these?

    No.  The record companies will occasionally rattle their sabres on this
    issue but in fact they have no legal power to prevent people from buying
    and selling marked promos.  In fact, they are well aware that most of
    the promos they issue end up being sold in the open market sooner or
    later, and often will send out "collectable" promos in bulk as a sort 
    of bribe to encourage record shops and radio stations to push their 
    product.  The "Must Be Returned To The Record Company On Demand" wording
    of some promo labels is meaningless; no record company has ever issued
    the demand.

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G004	I want to buy records from someone outside the US, but I don't want
	to send cash -- how can I arrange payment?

    Check with your bank first.  Most major banks should have a department
    or office that can issue checks for you in the currency of your choice.

    Unfortunately, in some areas this service is extremely expensive or
    simply unavailable.  If you live in the US and have difficulty getting
    international checks in your area, a company called Ruesch International
    can issue a check in any denomination for a flat fee of $2.00.

	Ruesch International, Inc.
	700 Eleventh St. NW
	Washington. DC  20001-4507
	800: (800) 424-2923
	Tel: (202) 408-1200
	Fax: (202) 408-1211

    Call their 1-800 number and ask for the "international department".
    Tell them you want an international check.  They'll need the name of
    the person you want it made out to, so have that ready when you call.
    They will issue a check drawn on a bank in the country you're sending
    it too, and will hold the check(s) until they recieve payment (you can
    write them a check and mail it to them -- they *do not* take credit
    cards).

    Ruesch is reliable, friendly, and cheap.  

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::: CD Questions ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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C001	Is "CD Rot" for real?
	Some of my CDs are turning a bronze color.  What's going on?

    In general, no, "CD Rot" is not real.  To date there is no evidence
    that CDs, if properly manufactured and stored, will gradually become
    unplayable.  Unfortunately there have been several occasions where
    *improperly* manufactured CDs have been sold to the public only to
    self-destruct in some way later on.

    One early problem occurred in the mid-to-late 1980s when a number of CDs
    were labeled with an ink that eventually migrated through the lacquer on
    the label side and caused the aluminum surface to lose its reflectivity.
    The damage is immediately visible by looking at the data side of the
    discs in question.  These discs self-destructed very quickly and were
    pressed in relatively small numbers, so you are unlikely to run across 
    any today.

    The best-known problem is with a larger number of discs pressed between
    1989 and 1991 by Philips Data Optical (PDO) in the UK.  Due to errors in 
    manufacturing, these discs are slowly turning a dark orange or bronze
    color, primarily on the label side.  This discoloration gradually
    propagates from the outer edge of the CD towards the center, and can
    eventually make such discs unplayable.  If you have such a disc, PDO will
    replace it for free.  You can contact them at the following address to
    arrange for the replacement:

	Dave Wilson, Marketing Services Manager
	PDO Discs Ltd. (UK)
	Philips Road
	Blackburn, Lancashire  BB1 5RZ
	United Kingdom
	Tel: +44 254-52448
	Fax: +44 254-54729

   By all reports, PDO have been very accomodating in their response to this
   problem.

   There *is* a real phenomenon called "laser rot" that affects 12" video
   laserdiscs, but it is caused by problems that occur when the two sides
   of such a disc are glued together.  CDs are one-sided so they are not
   at risk for this particular problem.

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C002	What was the first CD ever?

    According to the "Tenth Anniversary of The CD" supplement to the
    26 Sep 1992 issue of Billboard Magazine (thanks to Derek Nichols
    for looking this up):

    * 1 October 1982: Billy Joel - 52nd St.
	(First commercial CD released in Japan.)

    * June 1983: 12 CBS titles, 15 Telarc titles, 30 Denon titles
	(First US CD releases.  All CDs sold in the US previously had been 
	import titles pressed for overseas labels.  These were still
	manufactured overseas, but for US labels.)

    * August 1983: Polygram releases 100 titles in the US

    * September 1984: Bruce Springsteen - Born In The USA
	(First CD manufactured in the US.)

    According to Clinton Heylin in his book Bootleg: The Secret History
    Of The Other Recording Industry:

    * 1987: The Beatles - Get Back acetate, BBC sessions, and Sessions
	(Probably the first genuine bootleg CDs; a young entrepreneur 
	convinced the Technotronics pressing plant in Philadelphia that
	he worked for EMI and needed these three CDs pressed in quantities
	of 500 each as "promos".  They did it!  He sold most of them for 
	$100 each at the 1987 Beatlefest.)

    * Late 1987: Bob Dylan - The Gaslight Tapes
	(First "protection gap" bootleg; i.e., an unauthorized release legal
	in some countries but not in others because of differences in
	international copyright laws.)

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C003	I have a mispressed CD -- it's supposed to be by Artist X but it
	plays a completely different album.  Is it worth anything?

    As mentioned elsewhere, any item is worth pretty much what you can
    convince someone else to pay for it.  At the moment, there doesn't seem
    to be any real collector interest in mislabeled or mispackaged CDs --
    among other reasons, they're far too common.  In most cases you're
    better off taking it back to the store for a new copy.

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C004	Why is it illegal to rent out CDs but legal to rent out CD-ROMs?

    The law doesn't say anything about CDs per se, but rather about "sound
    recordings" and "computer programs".  The relevant section of US
    copyright law is 17 USC 109:

      [A person who owns a particular copy of a sound recording or
      computer program is not allowed] for the purposes of direct or
      indirect commercial advantage [to] dispose of, or authorize the
      disposal of, the posession of that phonorecord or computer program
      (including any tape, disk, or other medium embodying such program)
      by rental, lease, or lending...
					-- 17 USC 109 (b)(1)(A)

      This subsection does not apply to [...] (ii) a computer program
      embodied in or used in conjunction with a limited purpose computer
      that is designed for playing video games and may be designed for
      other purposes.
					-- 17 USC 109 (b)(1)(B)

    In other words: 

    * Renting out sound recordings is a violation.
    * Renting out CD-ROMS for home computer systems is a violation.
    * Renting out CD-ROMs for home videogame systems is not a violation
      (there's a specific exemption).

    The law prohibiting rental (17 USC 1101 as far as I can tell) applies
    to sound recordings -- the format doesn't matter.

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C005	Where does my money go when I buy a CD?

    The Washington Post ran a report on this subject on February 15, 1995.
    Based on information from the RIAA, Billboard Magazine, and elsewhere,
    they broke down the $11.99 street price of a typical hit new-release CD
    as follows:

	$ 2.00	Record-label profit + Executive salaries
	$ 1.40	New artist development
	$ 1.15  Distribution
	$ 1.10	Manufacturing (CD + artwork + jewel case)
	$  .85	"Other"
	$  .80	Performer royalties
	$  .65	Songwriter royalties
	$  .65  Advertising and promotion
	$  .35	Producer
	$  .30	Recording costs
	$  .25  Music videos
	$  .20	Managers and lawyers
	$  .10	Artist pensions
	------
	$ 9.80	Wholesale cost to retailer
	     +
	$  .95	Miscellaneous retailer expenses
	$  .90	Store personnel salaries
	$  .75	Rent
	------
	$12.40	Total cost to retailer
	$11.99	CD price at retail
	$  .41	Loss to retailer

    These figures make it clear that everyone but the label is getting a
    royal screwing.  Label profit, salaries, distribution (usually label-
    owned), manufacturing (label-owned again), and "other" (a.k.a. "hookers
    and cocaine for the label VPs") add up to $6.50/disc -- or more than half
    of a CD's retail price.  The people who actually make the music (the
    performers, songwriters, and producers) get less than a third of that.

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C006	What's the longest CD ever pressed?

    To date, the longest CD reported is "Gridlock! CD-2", a DJ-only
    remix compilation issued by the US DJ label Razormaid.  This CD
    clocks in at 80:16.  In future issues of this FAQ I'll try to list
    the next five or ten runner-ups.

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::: Vinyl Questions :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
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V001	What is an RCA "Shaded Dog" record?  Why are they so valuable?

    RCA's "Shaded Dogs" are their LSC-series (Living Stereo Classical) LPs
    from the late 1950s and early 1960s -- the term "shaded dog" refers to
    the painting of Little Nipper on the label of these records, which has
    a shaded background on a red label.  This series was very exactingly
    recorded and is in demand primarily among audiophiles who actually
    want to listen to these excellent-sounding performances.  The mere
    presence of a "shaded dog" on the label doesn't automatically make it
    valuable; since these are sought out for listening purposes, condition
    is extremely important and some pressings (identified by the matrix
    number in the runout groove) are in higher demand than others.

    This is definitely a specialist's market.  If you're interested in
    dipping your toes, a book by Jonathan Valin called The Living Stereo 
    Bible describes the series in more detail.

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V002	What is a test pressing?  Are they collectable?

    [David A. Pearlman answers:]

    Test pressings were issued for many albums issued from the late '60's
    through the early '80's.  Typically, a small number (very rarely over
    a few hundred, frequently fewer) test pressing copies of an album
    would be pressed.  These were obstensibly for use only by record
    company personel, the artist, and/or for advanced promotion.  The
    exact numbers of test pressings issued varied both with the particular
    release and with the label.  By the mid '80's, the vinyl test pressing
    had generally been replaced by advanced copies on cassette tape.

    Test pressings are generally identical to their commercial
    counterparts except that the label is different.  In some cases, the
    label will describe the contents.  In most cases, it will simply list
    the pressing plant where the test pressing was made.  Most test
    pressings were originally issued in generic white sleeves, usually
    with a Xeroxed copy of the track listing, label information, producer,
    publishers, etc. included.  Over the years, these Xeroxed information
    sheets tend to get lost, so many test pressings are found without
    them.

    Although most test pressings simply replicate commercially available
    material, there are occasional test pressings which correspond to
    music that was pulled from issue at the last minute (but after the
    test pressings were distributed).  These tend to be much more
    desirable.

    The value of test pressings vary widely.  Test pressings for albums by
    groups of little collectable interest can usually be obtained for
    between $2-10.  Test pressings for collectable artists/albums can cost
    much more.

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V003	Why is the Caine Mutiny soundtrack worth ten thousand dollars or
        more?

    The soundtrack album for the film The Caine Mutiny is extremely rare,
    with possibly less than a dozen copies in circulation.  The album was
    pressed but never released; extant copies probably slipped out through
    label executives and other label employees.  Author and playwright Herman
    Wouk explained the circumstances behind this release's scarcity in the
    following letter to a collector, Mr. John Clark:

	Dear Mr. Clark:

        Here's the approximate story on LOC-1013 seen from a memory
        perspective of a quarter of a century:

        My play THE CAINE MUTINY COURTMARTIAL made a great hit on Broadway
        while the film was still being completed.  Columbia Pictures
        hastily rushed out this record to cash in on the play's success. I
        never saw the record or its slipcover, but I was warned that they
        intended to feature the "courtmartial scene" from the picture
        soundtrack; the shoddiest possible piggyback ride on my play.

        I am a man of peace, but this annoyed me.  I telephoned the
        brutal, crafty, able head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn, and
        warned him that the issue of this record meant that Columbia
        Pictures would never again have an opportunity to bid on one of my
        novels for filming.  Cohn looked into the matter, called me back,
        and said in his tough gravelly voice,"I've got you beat on the
        legalities, but I've listened to the record and it' no goddamn
        good, so I'm yanking it."

	Thus was born your collector's item.

	Cordially,

	Herman Wouk (signed)

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     This document is Copyright 1995 by Ernie Longmire (Lazlo Nibble).
Permission is granted to download/print out/redistribute/establish WWW links
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     Please ask for permission before publishing this document (in print, off
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