Feast your eyes on this messy stack of boxes under the stairs—that’s (most of) my CD collection. You can also snoop the spines of some of my old DVDs and books. (Joe Sikoryak, I have your Major Mars!)
When our twins were born, in 2014 (fortunately, an easy date to remember), we were living in a townhouse in Los Feliz. I had my CD collection on towers and racks that I had hauled through the previous FSM offices and my apartments.
But, you know—babies. So I spent several weeks (before their arrival) ripping all of my discs into iTunes, after which I separated the collection roughly into thirds:
One third was the good stuff, which I kept. (Jerry Fielding Film Music from Bay Cities? You’re a keeper!)
One third was stuff I didn’t care about, which I sold in bulk. (Silva Screen’s umpteen re-recorded collections of overexposed themes? Goodbye!)
One third was composer demos and stuff nobody wanted, which I gave to somebody who, god bless him, seemed excited to sort through it. (Fine with me—no backsies!)
The good stuff I packed into boxes (except for the FSM CDs and a few others—for pride and sentimental reasons, they’re still “on display”) and kept in the warehouse space at La-La Land Records (a great favor from M.V. and Matt, the owners).
After a few years, they needed the room, so I brought the boxes home and shoved them into closets and under the stairs.
I thought maybe from time to time I’d have to pull out a CD to check the liner notes.
It has yet to happen.
Thanks to iTunes, I listen to this stuff all the time...but the physical media, well, it just sits there.
Like many people, I always assumed these albums were valuable, and could be worth a lot of money one day.
One of the great perks of publishing Film Score Monthly (I mean, the greatest perk) was that I got a free CD collection out of it. With rare exceptions (the Varèse CD Club didn’t do promos), I was able to get onto the labels’ promotional mailing lists very early on (like 1991–92, while still in high school) and wow, did the swag come rolling in!
Ford Thaxton hooked me up—I met him (by phone) through composer Fred Mollin, a summer resident on Martha’s Vineyard who my dad met. Fred had produced his Friday the 13th TV Series soundtrack with Ford for GNP/Crescendo, and told me, “Call this guy Ford Thaxton, he does a soundtrack radio show, and he’ll hook you up with promos.”
I have a lot of fond memories of meeting Fred, and talking with Ford over the phone (well, somewhat fond!) in the early days of FSM.
Curiously, I met several composers on the Vineyard over the years who were part-time residents or vacationing, including Laurence Rosenthal, Jay Chattaway and Craig Safan.
So I have had a charmed life, no doubt about it. And I have been incredibly fortunate to get all these fabulous CDs, pretty much for free (!!!)...
...which are now in boxes.
In recent years, I have been contacted every so often by somebody selling his collection, or a family member asking how to monetize the collection of a loved one who has passed. (It seems to be happening more frequently, which is natural.)
Selling this stuff for a decent price has become harder, and there are no easy answers. I recently asked for help on our message board and got some useful replies.
Alas, the secondary market is so glutted that the boutique stores that used to do very well selling CDs online (via their own site, eBay, Amazon, discogs.com, et al.) are so backed up, they can barely process the material they already have on hand.
I don’t know if the albums will ever be as valuable as we hoped they would be.
The biggest reason is, of course, piracy. You no longer need the physical item in order to access the music. That’s a game changer.
It’s easy to forget this didn’t used to be true! In fact, the opposite: the physical media were holy because they were the only way to hear the music in pristine form. (We used to pass cassettes around of our favorite scores, and unreleased scores, and make “mix tapes” for friends. After a few generations, the hiss got unbearable.)
Then CDR machines came along and I remember being blown away by the fact that you could make a perfect digital copy. But the first machines were expensive and finicky.
But one thing led to another, and now the day has arrived where we have these digital files on our computers, wifi at home...and the physical media is solely for the sake of having it.
It’s a decorating choice.
On the one hand, it’s fabulous, having all this stuff so accessible and widespread.
And on the other hand, the piracy has destabilized an entire business (to say nothing of its moral ills) and made our investments into the physical media extremely...dicey.
The truth is: the things that become high-priced collectibles are the ones that we all had as children (baseball cards, Star Wars toys) which got lost/destroyed in the journey to adulthood (thanks Mom!).
Then, as we have midlife crises, not to mention disposable income from being the prime of careers, we try to reacquire it.
But there’s only so much of it, and thus high demand coupled with low supply = high prices.
But collector’s edition CDs are different. These are things we acquired as adults, that were specifically produced for our consumption, that we packed away safely.
Over time, people lose interest, pass away, and their collections get put back into the secondary market...but the people who want this material already have it.
And there aren’t new ones entering the market looking for it, because they’re looking for stuff unique to their generation and experiences—not ours.
It’s a lot like all those overpriced comic books that people bought speculatively (what a joke!), that got put into plastic bags (or never opened in the first place). In the early 1990s, the comic industry nearly imploded over this kind of silliness.
Remember: if it SAYS “collectible” on it—it isn’t and never will be! I think that’s advice from our old columnist friend at FSM, “Recordman.”
So...I don’t have a great point or prediction to make. It just seemed to be the state of where we’re at. If you want to discuss it, hop back onto that thread at the FSM board.