I’ve mentioned this in the past, but it bears repeating, I don’t like being negative here at Branded in the 80s. First and foremost this site is about celebrating the nostalgia of the 80s and all of the cool stuff that goes along with loving that decade. But I’m human and just like everyone else there is some stuff that just really grinds my gears. Typically when there’s something that really gets on my nerves I’ll force my better half to listen to me gripe about it for a few days, then I’ll focus on something positive and just get over it. But every once in awhile I just want to get all my thoughts out on paper (so to speak) and process the negativity in a slightly more productive manner. Can I get a decent article or editorial out of it? Well, let’s see.
This past week one of my favorite movies of all time, the Monster Squad, was suddenly trending in the news due to the announcement that Mondo would be releasing the film’s soundtrack on vinyl this October. To get people excited for that release the company decided to also release a vinyl single this May featuring the two pop songs from the film, Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” and the end credits “Monster Squad Rap”. Frankly, this is outstanding news as I’ve been dying for the soundtrack and score on vinyl for years. La-La Land Records had just recently released the Bruce Broughton score on CD (and it sounds amazing), but I was really hoping for a nice piece of artistic vinyl, something that I could put out and display.
So, considering this awesome news, why am I so bummed? Well, the Mondo single release is going to be made available in four variant editions, each featuring beautiful sleeve artwork by some really swell artists and different colored vinyl pressings. The releases include artwork by Gary Pullin, Randy Ortiz, Jason Edmiston, and the folks at Phantom City Creative (the latter two I featured during my Month of the Monster Squad a couple years ago.) Here’s a look at the four release variants…
Alright, amazing cover at and super cool colored vinyl, so far so good. While I’m not crazy about variants and the thought of paying for the same two songs four times, that’s totally something I’m willing to do as a huge fan of the Monster Squad. So what’s my problem? Well, two of these variants are going to be exclusives. Actually technically three of these are exclusives, I just happen to live in an area where one of them will be readily available. The Gary Pullin Wolfman variant will be exclusively available at Texas Frightmare starting this weekend and the Ortiz Gillman edition will only be available in record stores in the UK in May. The Edmiston Frankenstein edition is going to be exclusively sold in record stores in the US in May, and the PCC Dracula version will be sold online at the Mondo site also starting in May. So, for Monster Squad fans like me living outside of Texas in the US the Wolfman and Gillman editions are going to be a bit tricky to get our hands on.
Though record stores in the UK will be offering copies of the Gillman pressing for sale online (for instance Transmission Records and Norman Records), I’ve been hearing that they will be refusing or refunding orders coming in from the US to keep the European exclusivity intact. This is frankly (excuse my french), frustrating as shit. On the one hand I applaud the convictions of these record store owners for sticking to their guns, but on the other I just want to give them my money in return for a product they are selling that I really want to buy. Similarly, with the Pullin variant, from what I understand you have to attend Texas Frightmare in order to get a copy. So, I live roughly 1,400 miles from Dallas, TX and had pretty much zero chance of making it out to the show this weekend. If I want to snag a copy of that disc I have to crowd-source my shopping list and hope that I’ve made a contact on one of the social media channels I frequent who might be going to the show. I also have to hope that they don’t mind standing in line for me, hauling the record around all day, and then taking the time to ship it to me after the show. I’ve met a bunch of super gracious folks who have done similar “muleing” for me in the past, but I hate asking this of people every time there’s some exclusive I want at a show I just can’t get to.
Exclusivity. I’ll be honest, the whole concept just baffles and enrages me. It’s not that I feel a sense of entitlement or that I should be able to get everything that I want. Trust me, I learned at a very early age that not only do we not typically get what we want, but that it’s probably better for our moral character that we don’t. If these records were simply limited editions (which they are, on top of being regionally exclusive), and they all sold out in a matter of minutes I could deal with that. But being denied even the chance at getting them based purely on my geographic location is like kicking a wolfman in the nards when he’s down.
Hell, I’ve even been on the lucky end of this stick in the past having easy access to exclusives (like the Halloween Hot Wheels Ghostbusters Ecto-1 variants at my at-the-time local Kroger grocery stores) and I’ll be honest, it didn’t feel that great. Being a collector I was acutely aware that there were a ton of people in other states that wanted those exclusives that didn’t have access to them. I had to make the tough choice one year of either leaving these Hot Wheel toys on the store shelves, or buying them all up and sending them out to friends in other states for cost. Sure, I got to feel good about making sure collectors that wanted the cars got them at an affordable price, but I also was put in the position of a scalper, keeping other local folks from being able to buy them. It just felt crummy all around.
Bottom line. I’m a super fan of a cult film who already feels a little marginalized because there isn’t a whole of collectible merchandise available for said film. I’m already scouring the internet for rare items to celebrate my love for the Monster Squad (from Japanese movie pamphlets to rare publicity photos from the film’s premier.) So now, on top of that I have to basically be denied access to cool new collectibles, or choose to pay ridiculously inflated prices on eBay for those collectibles from the scalpers that will inevitably flood the market days after the release. That is the environment that exclusivity breeds. These records that sell for £12 at the UK shops will be bought up by bottom feeding scalpers that will turn around and sell them for upwards of £40 to £50 on eBay or the Amazon Marketplace. The sad fact is that this is a trend that I do not see ending anytime soon. The companies that release these exclusives are getting exactly what they want (which is selling through all of their product in a short window of time), so why would they change to a more fan-friendly model?
So, just as I figured two things happened. First, the Wolfman Texas Frightmare variant was next to impossible to get for all the reasons stated above. Not only was I unable to source a copy from the show by reaching out on social media, but the leftover copies were put online at Mondo and sold out in a few minutes. I’m not saying I have a huge reach on social media mind you, but I have a decent number of contacts and I even had both the cover artist, Gary Pullin, and Andre Gower from Monster Squad retweeting my call for help to no avail. Second, checking eBay only a week after these records started going on sale and we can already see scalpers reselling these Monster Squad releases for two to five times their suggested retail price!
This is after just one week! When folks start getting these records in hand I can almost guarantee that the Wolfman, Gillman, and Frankenstein variants are going to be selling for upwards of $100. In fact…
For a two-song, 7-inch single. I’ve heard arguments for both sides of this exclusivity game, and both have their merits, but I just can’t believe that this is the best way to go about marketing niche products aimed at fans, to fans. Again, I am a huge Monster Squad fan who is willing to drop the $60 plus shipping for the four variants, and yet, with cash in hand I am barred access from the get-go. I mean, I’m looking at the list of things required to pick up a release like this (money, awareness of the releases, checking availability the moment they go on sale, connections in areas where the exclusive releases are going on sale, etc.) and I check every box. Well, every box except the one that reads: “Willing to pay upwards of 700% the price to douchebags who want to price gouge because the item is exclusive.” Screw that check box. Like I said, these days it really sucks to be a collector.
What about you, where do you stand on exclusivity? Is there something awesome about this marketing concept that I’m missing?