2020 – The Year In Buying Music [part 1]

Has there been a year this awful? It easily surpassed 2016.

I don’t have to tell anyone how awful this year was. Let’s just say that it managed to make 2016 look like some bygone golden era in comparison. I don’t need to elaborate too much on the details of 2020. We all have eyes. Let’s just say that the human race and its capacity for stupidity and malfeasance rarely disappoints my baked in negativity.

As usual I had reviewed last year’s purchases and thought that I would like to spend less money but enjoy what i did buy a little more. As we entered 2020 I was curbing my purchases in advance to a planned trip to the UK in the middle of March to see Heaven 17 play a rare set of the first two Human League albums. So I was spending almost nothing the first four months of the year. I was not actually planning on a buying spree in England. I felt that the records I wanted would be priced out of my comfort zone, and in any case, I was more interested in spending my time with people I had not yet met but only interacted with over the ether and wanted to know better. So unlike my trips to most places, I was not planning a big blow out of sales. I think I tried to get Echorich interested in a trip to Sister Ray in London, or was that the other way around? No matter now, as we all know that my trip, or anyone else’s, for that matter, didn’t happen.

Days before my departure time the foreboding nature of the pandemic stopped me cold in my tracks, though I had been waffling for a few weeks prior. My employment also became more tenuous, and that stayed my hand as we negotiated the lockdown and Capitalism. As it turned out, my company produced products deemed “essential” so while my wife and I contemplated living on her salary [it was possible, with severe cutbacks] my employment was never on shaky ground after all. That might have promoted me to splurge on the first of two Big Boxes O’ Records last spring with over 20 titles ordered for the pittance of $61.

The biggest change this year were zero Record Store Road Trips®. Zero trips to any record stores. Zero concerts! But the latter’s nothing too new. It’s feast but mostly famine in Western North Carolina where I live. I’m used to no gigs for over half a year worth attending. We mostly worked and stayed home. An upside was that I finally went into hock for a spindle [100!] of archival gold, printable CD-R media. Like anything involving gold this year, the already high price catapulted upward. Ouch.

We now look at $2.50 per CD instead of the merely expensive $2.00 cost of the past. Given the state of the CD/CD-R, I wonder for how long I may indulge in my beloved of making the CDs The Man won’t sell me in a world where The Man only wants to rent me music…of his choosing!. I like making my vanity label discs, and this year I actually made a few more than normal. It’s taken me several years of buying new computer/software/peripherals but the pieces are in place now, and I finally turned some attention to making this happen. Before it’s too late.

Some of my usual favorites were active and there were occasional titles by John Foxx + The Maths and OMD that got bought on principle. The new Maths album had been simmering for years before finally appearing just when it could not have been more appropriate. Their “Howl” album was an entirely appropriate response to the new now. And this year there were four BSOGs of super deluxe releases that contributed to the highest yearly average per release that I’ve ever experienced. But we’ll dive into those details now.

Buying Stats

Total titles purchased: 89 [↓13%]
Total expenditures: $864.95 [↑36%]
Average cost: $9.72/title [↑60%]

CD: 54
Vinyl: 47
– LP: 5
– 12″: 32
– 7″: 9
Cassette: 1
DVD: 5
– bundled: 4
Downloads: 17

If you attempt to add all of these numbers up you’ll find discrepancies. This is down to treating purchases as “titles.” That could mean a single DL track, or it means a boxed set of 8-10 CDs. CDs are counted numerically, even if they were from the same purchase, so there’s 54 CDs but not that many CD “titles.” Capish?

So that was the overview. Tomorrow comes the details of interest [and some graphs].

Next: …Those Graphs!

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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11 Responses to 2020 – The Year In Buying Music [part 1]

  1. You’re a good man! I had planned to emulate this sort of thing, but dropped the ball when the pandemic upended everything. Over the weekend, I shelved most of the vinyl I bought/received in 2020 – 17 albums – and put them into Discogs first. They’re at the top of the collection: https://www.discogs.com/user/jeremyshatan/collection?sort=added&sort_order=desc

    I also bought three cassettes (Ocean Music x Jerome Ellis, Elsa Hewitt, and Scott Hirsch) and received a number of CD’s, mostly review copies of contemporary classical music, that were worthy of shelving but haven’t cataloged yet! Looking forward to the rest of the series.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      JEREMY SHATAN – My incoming stream IS fairly large and the first thing I do when buying something is to update both my Discogs collection, and my website purchases page. I love the discipline, even though a Big Box O’ Records® can take a couple of hours. I used to do it in a notebook from ~1982-1993, but I got off the habit when I moved/bought my first computer [$4600…no, really!] and purchases stopped cold for most of a year. When they resumed, I was off the habit until I started blogging and thought it would be a great place to keep such notes. Wow! That “New York” BSOG slipped completely under my radar but that week of release it was vying for even higher value targets in the “Sign O’ The Times” and “Vienna” ultraboxes. It’s a fantastic album and a clear Lou Reed high water mark, but it’s one of those + 180g 2xLP box things that I’m less than enamored of. How I wish I had seen that tour when it came to Orlando at that time.


  2. Gavin says:

    A trip to Sister Ray in London would have certainly been worthwhile
    In the early 1990s,there must have been at least five good record/cd shops on Berwick Street,Soho,where SR was located. I spent most of my hard-earned at Cheapo Cheapo Records on Rupert Street, a continuation of Berwick. Vast piles of unordered vinyl and cd and a complete shambles,with unfriendly shopkeeper to boot,but I loved it.
    Sister Ray dealt with the more current alternative stock generally,but some good stuff to be had. There were also two great second-hand stores with bargains and an odd shop called Mister CD,which had some great deals on new/old stuff
    I look back on my first London period with great fondness,particularly the record shopping ,before The Great Downfall befell both me and it.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – Yeeeeah. I get the idea that even though the records I want most are probably still in England, I would not find them if I looked for them. At least not at my price level… and not 35-40 years after their creation. In America, many of these things are completely obscure and if they managed to find a niche in some store, they would probably be very affordable. My “music purchases” pages can attest to that. Unless the dealers were complete jerks. Or worse, the 12″ singles were dumped to make from for clear vinyl re-issues of albums I have detested for 43 years! I suspect that obscure cult items would be priced accordingly in the UK. Just a hunch.


    • Echorich says:

      Gavin – Happy New Year! I do so agree! Sister Ray was the first London Record store I went to on my first day in London, September of 1986. I remember Mr. CD and found a number of things there that were a surprise – Comsat Angels Land album I distinctly remember. I was wonderful, over priced and took much of my money. But I soon discovered so many other record shops on or off Berwick Street. Over the years I would find myself at Reckless Records and Black Market Records. In the early 90s there were shops that popped up one visit on streets like Poland St or Broadwick St. which would be gone 18 months later when I returned. Some were dance music focused, then even more specifically Jungle/Drum + Bass or Soulful House. Things moved so fast that it made sense that if the shop didn’t follow or predict the next trend they wouldn’t survive.
      I miss Soho in those days, when gentrification of the area was something cheap suited City Boys joked about standing outside pubs in the area with a pint after work. My last trip, at the end of 2018, I chose to walk down Denmark St and found it to be one bid construction zone, with nothing I recognized left. It was really sad.


      • SimonH says:

        I was at university in and around London between 84 and 87. Soho became a special place for me, both for record buying and gigs at places like the Marquee and even bumping into people like Adrian Borland!
        Up until Covid I would visit at least a couple of times a year, but it is shocking how much it’s changed. The ultimate irony was staying at the hotel that occupies the Marquee’s old site. Back in 84 it was a different world, very exciting for a shy 18 year old.


  3. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,

    glad to see your year end statistics and results coming up.

    this was a massive year for me, made a big push in the last quarter of 2020.
    i have at least 300 items from discogs along. and about a 6x budget increase
    from my average of $400 -> $2400+

    the vast majority of purchases were vinyl, 7 inch and 12 inch. concentrating on
    several bands. also, i hadn’t been purchasing boxsets in the last 4-5 years, so
    i had a lot to catch up on. especially with a lot of good ones coming out this year.

    will post more details, once i’m done analyzing them.



  4. My database of music has grown this year, but it has largely been CD SDLX boxsets, some individual gifts from friends, and buying CDs from people I actually know! Somehow, a few artist friends found a way to be productive in 2020!


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