Let’s Go Shopping!

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Part Two: Let’s Go Shopping!

Firstly, let’s arm ourselves with the appropriate tools. To take advantage of globalisation, you’ll need to know the currency conversion rates. A Universal Currency Converter will provide you with rates for every currency you can humanly think of, and this is what we’ll be using to work out the rates as we examine today’s prices. Rates vary, and you can use that to your advantage. The current strength of the pound against the US dollar is to our advantage, as is the weak Australian dollar (or Pacfic Peso as some have taken to calling it). Remember, there is a customs limit of £18 for personal imports, and while most CDs fall under this threshold you should be careful when ordering box sets. In the figures below we’ll take account of any customs charges likely to be incurred when making comparisons.

Firstly, we’ll take a look at singles. In the UK, singles are a declining market. They’re declining in more ways than that, however, as the number of tracks on a single has been declining consistently for the last five years. Where singles used to contain 4 tracks as a maximum, it is now three, and the BPI’s plan to rejuvenate the singles market includes two track singles, marketed at the princely sum of £1.99. The exception is remixes, where there is a time limit set instead of a number of tracks limit.

So let’s take a trip down under, chums, to HMV Australia and the web home at www.hmv.com.au where we can see a very different picture emerge. Here, singles can be 4 tracks (or even more in some cases) and the prices tend to be a lot lower. We’ve chosen comparable products in terms of track listing and popularity in each case.

Our shopping basket here:

P!nk – God is a DJ
Kelis – Milkshake
Black Eyed Peas – Shut Up

Let’s take P!nk first. The Australian single costs just £1.93 at today’s exchange rate and contains four tracks. Those are:

1. God is a DJ
2. Trouble (acoustic version)
3. God is a DJ (D-Bop Mix)
4. God is a DJ (Spider Remix)

In the UK the single is split into two parts. (source : www.hmv.co.uk)

Part 1 (£2.99)
1. God is a DJ
2. Trouble (acoustic version)
3. God is a DJ (D-Bop Remix)

Part 2 (£1.99)

1. God is a DJ
2. Trouble (hyper remix)

Total cost for the Australian version is £1.93
Total cost for the UK version (as you have to get two parts to get the same number of tracks) = £4.98

Now let’s look at the Kelis single:

HMV Australia want £1.16 at today’s exchange rate.

1. Milkshake (clean)
2. Milkshake (x-press 2 triple thick vocal mix)
3. Milkshake (DJ Zinc remix)
4. Milkshake (Freq Nasty’s Hip Hall Mix)
5. Milkshake (Tom Neville Remix)

HMV UK was £3.99 for

1. Milkshake (clean)
2. Milkshake (x-press 2 triple thick vocal mix)
3. Milkshake (DJ Zinc remix)
4. Milkshake (Freq Nasty’s Hip Hall Mix)
5. Milkshake (Tom Neville Remix)
+ an enhanced video portion.

And finally, an identical single, Black Eyed Peas

HMV Australia want £1.93 for

1. Shut Up (Album version)
2. Tell Your Momma Come (Live from House Of Blues, Chicago)
3. Karma (Live from House Of Blues, Chicago)
4. Shut Up (Video)

HMV UK want £3.99 for the same thing.

“Aha!”, you say, “but they’ve got to be shipped half way round the world, and then customs will want their cut.”

Wrong. The shipping for those singles would be just $7 Australian, or 3 UK pounds.

So :

HMV Australia (with shipping) = £8
HMV UK (without shipping) = £10.97 – and that’s if you only buy one part of the P!nk single.

This is below the customs limit and would not incur any charges.

These examples were chosen because of their current popularity, and the retailers chosen because they are the same store in a different country. The same is true of the vast majority of CD singles, and online stores.

Unfortunately, albums are a different story. Australian albums tend to work out at around £11 via an online retailer, so there’s no point in looking there when we’re trying to make globalisation work for us. Let’s instead look at North America, where Universal Records has just slashed CD prices and other labels may well follow suit. This, combined with the strength of the pound against the US Dollar and Canadian Dollar should mean that we’ll find some deals.

Let’s take Canada as an example, and www.amazon.ca

Here we buy:

Nelly Furtado – Folklore $12.99 Canadian
No Doubt – Singles $12.99 Canadian
Sarah McLachlan - Afterglow

How much *is* $12.99 Canadian, then?

Yup, damn those pesky foreigners - it’s £5.50 at today’s market rate. Now even when you factor the shipping in at nearly £2 if you only order one disc, you find that we’re undercutting www.cd-wow.com’s old prices. Better still, if you order two of those albums, you’d be paying just $32.96 Canadian - £14.

www.hmv.co.uk want £9.99 for each of those albums, and that’s before shipping.

However, one of these titles does bring up a good point. The Nelly Furtado album has a bonus track, exclusive to the UK market. Could this indicate that someone out there has realised that offering better value to the consumer might stop them importing? We can only hope.

There are yet more options – the second hand market is another good way of getting cheap CDs. Stores such as www.djangos.com and www.secondspin.com in the US tend to offer good value for money on good condition second hand products and are worth considering.

When it comes down to it, options are what this article was all about. The option of choosing where to buy a CD and choosing where that CD is sourced. It’s about the consumer getting the best value, and in the case of independent musicians, the middle man being cut out altogether. It’s also about not being dictated to by companies that exploit and approve of market forces when it works in their favour, but disapprove of others doing the same.

This is an industry where on the same day as they force a music retailer to increase prices, they have a pop up on their site explaining how they are campaigning for cheaper music and asking visitors to sign a petition to help them do so. There’s a word for that. Hypocrisy.

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