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How We Price

Everything you need to know about pricing in the vinyl record industry and how Comeback Vinyl prices its inventory

An Intro To Vinyl Record Prices

Vinyl prices, for both new vinyl and used vinyl, can vary dramatically from retailer to retailer. Some record stores price their inventory above manufacturer suggestions, so their prices are higher than average, while big-box retailers such as Amazon sell vinyl well below average. At Comeback Vinyl, our goal is to provide fair prices for both our new vinyl and used vinyl inventory. We don’t price gouge on new vinyl, and we’re up front with how we pay for and price used vinyl. Below is a guide on how pricing generally works in the vinyl record industry along with how we price our inventory. We aim to provide transparency to our customers in everything we do, which is why we’re shedding light on this side of our business.

What do we mean by "new" and "used" vinyl?

New vinyl are brand new records that have recently been manufactured. They are both new music that’s being pressed onto vinyl for the first time and reissues of older music. We purchase these titles from wholesale distribution companies and directly from record labels. Used vinyl are pre-owned records that we purchase from an individual seller. They’re mostly vintage, but some are recently pressed as well.

Why New Vinyl Prices Can Be Different From Retailer To Retailer

Within the vinyl record industry, prices are not fully standardized

Sometimes vinyl record manufacturers give suggestions for retail prices (”manufacturer’s suggested retail price,” or “MSRP” for short), but sometimes they don’t. Additionally, unlike some other retail industries, there are also no rules or regulations regarding pricing. Manufacturers for some types of products will provide a minimum advertised price (also known as a “MAP” policy) that restricts how low a retailer can set the price for that product. Others will sometimes restrict retailers from pricing above MSRP. These standards do not exist for vinyl records, so record stores can price the records they sell as low or as high as they want.

Margins on vinyl records are significantly lower than other retail items, leading some stores to raise their prices

The margins between wholesale cost and MSRP for vinyl records are significantly lower than those in other industries—such as clothing, electronics, and home goods. Because of this, some stores choose to use a “cost-plus” pricing strategy, which means they determine their selling price by adding a fixed percentage onto their cost—even if it raises their selling price above MSRP—in order to maintain a specific profit margin. This is another factor that can lead to a wide array of prices when comparing one store to another and can lead to some stores having significantly higher prices than others.

Big-box retailers can source their inventory at a lower wholesale cost, allowing them to have lower prices

Because larger companies (like Amazon, Target, Urban Outfitters, etc.) buy in higher quantities than independent record stores, they have negotiation power with vinyl distribution companies to reduce their wholesale costs. Also, labels and manufacturers commonly set minimum order quantities, which prevent some indie record stores from purchasing from them since they don’t buy in the same large quantities as big-box retailers. This means that record stores frequently have to buy from secondary distributors that sell other products as well as vinyl records. These are known as “one-stop” distributors, and since these distributors are purchasing from labels and manufacturers, their wholesale costs for record stores end up being higher. Because of all this, big-box retailers are able to buy their inventory at a lower cost than independent record stores, allowing them to have lower prices and make the same profit margin. It is not unheard of for a big-box retailer’s selling price to be lower than an independent record store’s wholesale cost for the same title.

A product on Amazon with a selling price lower than our Wholesale cost. The "List Price" for a product on Amazon is the product's MSRP.
The same product on our site with the same selling price as Amazon's List price.

How We Price New Vinyl

We always price our new vinyl at MSRP

Regardless of our profit margin or how we’re able to source our inventory (i.e. from the label/manufacturer directly or a one-stop distributor), we always price our new vinyl at MSRP. Since there aren’t any industry-wide rules for price, we self-regulate based on manufacturer suggestions in order to keep our prices as fair as possible for our customers. In instances when we’re not provided an MSRP, we compare all of our vendors’ wholesale costs and other retailers’ selling prices to make sure our selling price is fair—even if we make a smaller profit margin than we usually do.

We only raise our prices if the manufacturer raises the suggested price

Manufacturers raise their wholesale costs and MSPRs occasionally due to inflation. Because of this, we perform quarterly checks to make sure that our prices match current MSRPs. When MSRPs are raised, we adjust our selling prices to match new MSRPs. On the occasions when MSRPs are lowered, we lower our prices as well. Furthermore, if our costs get raised but the MSRP doesn’t, we keep our selling price the same since we only price new vinyl at MSRP. We also will never raise the price for products that are limited edition and are expected to sell out quickly. Instead, we limit these products to one per household in order to get music into the hands of as many people as possible and to try to prevent these items from going straight to the second-hand market.

We offer box sets at a discount

Almost all of our box sets are offered at a discounted price, all of the time. While box sets are awesome additions to any collection, a lot of folks overlook them due to the high price tag. We’ve decided to make these collectibles more attainable by discounting them, mostly between 7%-25% off and up to 70% off.

We add hundreds of titles to our sale collection twice a year

To coincide with Record Store Day celebrations in both the spring and the fall, we add hundreds of titles to our sale collection. These range from hidden gems to some of that year’s biggest titles, so we always have deals to discover. Titles in our sale collection are priced between 20%-30% off MSRP.

Our prices are the same online and in store

We’re regularly asked if all of our inventory that’s on our website is available in our brick + mortar store as well, and it is, and our prices are the same in both places. We do not have any “web exclusive” titles or any price differences associated with one channel over another.

How We Price Used Vinyl

On average we pay 30%-50% of our selling price for used vinyl

When purchasing used vinyl from their previous owners, we offer fair market prices for each item. Generally we pay a higher percentage for higher-valued items, and we also pay more in store credit. To learn more about our used vinyl buying process, click here.

We determine prices for used vinyl based on condition

We visually inspect the jackets and the discs for the used vinyl we purchase and consider their condition when pricing used vinyl. A record in better condition will be priced higher than a copy of the same record in worse condition.

We determine prices for used vinyl based on desirability

To determine desirability, we use Discogs, which is an online marketplace and encyclopedia for all music media and is the standard for most record stores when it comes to finding a used record’s value. More popular records tend to be more valuable since they are more desirable, but this isn’t the only factor to consider. Some pressings are limited edition, one-time runs, which can increase their value. Other social factors can have an impact too, such as if a group disbands or if an artist passes away or if a title has a sudden surge in popularity due to pop culture events. All of these can cause a record’s value to fluctuate over time, and different pressings of a certain title can be more desirable than other pressings of the same title.

We determine prices for used vinyl based on online sales history

Discogs also publishes sales history for each pressing of each title, including the price it sold for as well as how many users have indicated interest in purchasing it. We use this to determine the overall demand for a title. The sale price listed on Discogs doesn’t include shipping. Since we sell used vinyl primarily in store, we account for average shipping and handling charges as being part of a record’s value (i.e. how much people are willing to pay for a record).

An example of Discogs sales data

We raise and lower used vinyl prices based on our sales

It’s also necessary for us to take into consideration the specific supply and demand of the local market based on historical sales data from our brick + mortar store. Prices for the same title may raise or lower over time based on how quickly it’s selling at our store specifically, or if its general demand increases or decreases.

How We Price On Discogs

Some titles we purchase in used vinyl collections get sold on Discogs instead of in store

Occasionally, we sell certain used vinyl titles on Discogs for a number of reasons, such as if the item is highly valuable or if the title or artist has low in-store demand based on historical sales data. We do not keep these items out on the floor in our brick + mortar store, but they are still available to local customers (more on that below).

All sealed items in our Discogs store are pre-owned and are priced with the same method as other used vinyl

Sometimes we acquire sealed, mint-condition items in used vinyl collections that we purchase. While these are still sealed, they are pre-owned, so they are no longer considered “new”. This means that occasionally we will sell sealed records above their original MSRP on Discogs. However, if we do this, it means that we purchased the item pre-owned, from an individual, not from one of our wholesale suppliers.

All of our items on Discogs can be ordered for in-store pickup or purchased in store upon request

Customers local to our brick + mortar store can also purchase from our Discogs store. We offer the same shipping and pick-up options on Discogs as we do on the site, and if you’re visiting the store and want to purchase or see a specific item for sale on our Discogs store, we’re happy to bring it out for you. We do not change the price if a customer wants to purchase an item from our Discogs store in person or over the phone.

We price on Discogs using the same criteria as used vinyl

When pricing on Discogs, we consider the condition of the disc and jacket, the desirability of the title, the demand based on sales history, and the supply based on the number of copies available from other sellers. Discogs also provides high-level price data that can help us determine a record’s value in their marketplace. On a listing page for a title, they provide its Lowest, Highest, Average and Median (middle) selling prices for the last month. Furthermore, we mark down items in our Discogs store on a regular schedule in the event that their fair market value has gone down due to a decrease of demand or an increase in supply.

An example of sales history for a record on Discogs
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