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  • Writer's pictureShane

The story of Taylor Swift and the missing The Tortured Poets Department

Did you notice that the new Taylor Swift album "The Tortured Poets Department" was not available in indie stores for Record Store Day? The point of this blog post is to simply ask why?

What will no doubt be the biggest album of 2024 was released on Friday 19th of April at 2 pm Australian time, but if you visited an indie record store in Australia you would have found it was not available.

However, if you visited a JB Hi-Fi store on Friday afternoon it was available for purchase.

On April 5th an email was sent out stating a different ordering procedure for the Taylor Swift LP and at the bottom of the email it was stated.

"Finally all Taylor Swift formats will be delivered at the earliest Monday 22.04.24 due to international embargo!"

At first, I didn't think this was out of the ordinary. Because of the Embargo they would be shipping Taylor Swift separately.

After a couple of days, it dawned on me that the biggest album of the year would not be available for April 20th aka Record Store Day 2024. The busiest day of the year for indie record stores. A day when music fans and record collectors converge on record shops to buy not only limited edition releases but other albums new and used in the shop.

I queried the decision with my representative at Universal Music Australia (UMA). I never received an answer. Disappointed, I moved on.

Last week I started receiving deliveries for Record Store Day and the UMA new releases for 19/04/2024 including new albums from Pearl Jam and The Melvins, no Taylor Swift, but there was an embargo sheet stating that "The Tortured Poets Department" is not to be sold prior to April 19th at 2 pm. I started thinking that's not what we were told. We were told April 22nd.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I checked out the JB Hi-Fi website, they were saying it would be available from 2 pm April 19th. I again queried with my rep at UMA, no response. I am in contact with some other store owners in Melbourne and they were also wondering what was going on.

After my shop closed on Friday April 19th, I visited a JB Hi-Fi in Waurn Ponds and sure enough they were selling the new Taylor Swift LP.

Why one rule for JB Hi-Fi and a different rule for Indie stores? I have my suspicions on the reasons but it is pure speculation on my part. But one thing is sure this will affect the charts for Taylor Swift. But no doubt am sure Taylor Swift will still be Number 1.

The boxes for Taylor Swift arrived on Monday 22nd of April as "scheduled" The boxes were marked to be delivered on that day. The label was printed 6 days earlier on 16/04/2022. Generally deliveries from Sydney take 2 days.

I know what you're thinking, first-world problem, and will it affect indie record stores much? In the end probably not, so why restrict the sales in the first place? But this is just the tip of the iceberg with other things happening with major label distribution.

But if this isn't anti-competitive behaviour I am not sure what is.

As an indie record store owner since COVID times we have seen major labels increase LPs by around 50% on their wholesale prices. When I began the business almost 15 years ago, an LP was between $20 and $25. To put that into perspective, the new Pearl Jam LP is $88. Let that sink in, a four-fold increase in less than 15 years. The same band who went to war with Ticketmaster over ticket prices in the 90s and are now charging $300 for their concerts.

The humble LP was a regular household item, as common as a knife and fork, but in recent times has become a luxury item. While Pearl Jam is an anomaly, huge prices seem to be more and more common. This directly affects sales. Most indie artists LPs are priced between $40 and $50.

There have also been large increases in freight and distribution fees (a fee that is only charged in Australia) to the point of ridiculous. Major labels sell direct to consumers at the same price they sell to stores through their own websites including exclusive titles that indie stores do not have access to. Some Australian titles are even cheaper to import from Europe than get from Australian distributors.

I am still yet to get a response from UMA.

Are you starting to get the picture?

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1 Comment

Apr 24

Thank you!! Totally unacceptable and disrespectful to Independent Record Stores. Happy RSD!? Disgusting behaviour from UMA. Plenty of Swifties would have tried to purchase TTPD on RSD…they were all looking for the special notes Taylor had written, bet hardly any stores received those either.

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