With enthusiastic backing from the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, "Florida and Utah have passed (and Rhode Island is considering) second-hand goods legislation, sometimes referred to as pawn-shop laws, that could make the buying and selling of used CDs much more onerous to stores and less attractive to customers looking to sell music they are no longer interested in owning."The intent is clearly to make used CD sales impractical or impossible. As a music lover/consumer, I've got some thoughts:
Among the impediments, a requirement that those who want to sell their CD's through second-hand shops must be thumb-printed and provide identification.
First, many music retailers make ends meet by selling used CDs. Used CDs have a much higher profit margin and, in effect, subsidize the retailer's ability to carry new product. By undermining this business model, the music industry is all but guaranteeing a reduction in the number of music retailers selling new CDs.
The corporate music industry may not think that this matters, but if their CD sales move exclusively to giant retailers -- Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon -- those mega-retailers will gain incredible leverage in determining the price, wholesale and retail, of the product. Especially as the corporate music industry's traditional business model is undermined by the internet.
Second, although used CD sales may not put money in the pockets of the music industry multinationals, they do help the record labels' business model in a couple of ways.
First of all, used CD cultivates a culture where loving music means purchasing music. Buying popular music has traditionally been something quite different from buying a bag of cat litter or a washing machine. Popular music is marketed as a product that has a deeper meaning and as a signifier of membership in a group of persons who purchase similar music. Popular music is as much about identity as it is sound.
The stores that sell used CDs -- as opposed to electronics and department stores where music is just category of product for sale -- have been central to creating the culture(s) of music consumers. Sure, the sales people at Reckless may occasionally make me feel a bit clueless about my music purchases, but they never make me feel that my music purchases don't matter. (The Reckless staff at the new Loop store is top-notch, by the way.)
Secondly, used CD sales help create and foster habit of purchasing music in individual music lovers. When a music lover buys a used CD, the music corporations don't make any additional money. But that used purchase does keep that music-lover thinking about music in a particular way, i.e. that popular music is a tangible good -- an LP, a tape or a CD -- for which you pay money. The music corporations all depend on music lovers thinking like this. And if used CD sales end, music lovers who feel the retail price of new CDs are too expensive won't suddenly start buying $16+ CDs.* They will go on the internet and, in just a few clicks, download the music for nothing.
And those music lovers, who had previously been willing to pay for a physical manifestation of popular music, will be one step closer to thinking of popular music as information that is available for free.
The end of the corporate music industry due to music lovers expecting popular music to be free information may be inevitable, but the industry's latest actions will only hasten that day.
*Personally, the knowledge that my purchase of a new CD would help finance the industry's attack on the owners and employees of local record stores makes me even less likely to pony up the cash for a new disc.