Romance In Stereo is one of the 'lost' Dan Sartain albums. Though a lot of the tracks later appeared on the Sartain Family Legacy CD, even that is getting harder and harder to find these days. Aside from its original and extremely limited 1st and only pressing on CD, Romance In Stereo has mostly just existed as a record that people heard about but few actually had. I was a lucky one and managed to snag a copy of the CD on eBay a few years back, but I had always wished it had come out on vinyl.
It seems that wishes do come true and finally this lost gem is back and on vinyl. Some of my favorite Dan Sartain songs are on here such as "Boy She Knew, " "Walk Among The Cobras Pt. 2," and "Carry Weight." Dan's crooning on top of the lo-fi and sparse instrumentation captures a certain kind of magic. Although I think my favorite Dan Sartain record will probably always be Join Dan Sartain; Romance In Stereo and Dan's other early self released album Crimson Guard will always hold a special spot for me.
When I was originally looking into buying this record from the record label that released it, Shed House, I got really pissed off. I was going to write this whole big article about record labels screwing over record collectors and what BS it was. I've calmed down a lot over the past few weeks and the label did actually lower their album prices at their website, so I guess he's trying. But I wanted to bring up a few things that I think are wrong.
1. There was a pink splatter variant of this record limited to 25 copies. The only way that you can purchase it from the label is by buying a pack of 4 copies of this album. The pack contains one copy on pink splatter, one copy on solid pink, one copy on black and a copy of the test pressing. The cost of this package is $200. I think it is completely and utterly absurd that you are forced to drop $50 per record if you want to get all of the variants.
And $50 per record is being generous since 2 of the 4 versions in the pack could be bought for way less than $50 bucks each, you end up paying a simply gigantic amount for the splatter variant and for the test pressing. That is, of course, assuming that you have any interest in test pressings.
There have been labels in the past that have offered the opportunity to buy several variants of a single release in a bundle, sometimes even offering exclusive versions in that pack (Tiny Engines and their recent Beach Slang 7" comes to mind). However, these labels typically offer a discount to the buyer for purchasing multiple copies of the same record, they don't jack up the price. Isn't the fact that you're willing to buy several copies of the same album enough? Why try to get more out of your most hardcore buyer?
I realize no one is forcing anyone to buy this pack, and as you can tell, I didn't buy it. But, I think it's pretty lame that I have to give up on my Dan Sartain variant collection because the guy at the label wants to charge high end eBay prices for his own records.
2. The standard version of this record is on pink vinyl limited to 250 copies. The label was selling it for $20 plus shipping (which for reasons I don't fully understand they will only ship priority mail so that's another $9.50 in shipping costs). While I think that's a little steep, it's not out of this world and I wouldn't call it unfair pricing for a small label in today's world. I am not picking up the pitchfork over that. But the next limited version is on black vinyl and that is limited to 50 copies. When this was put on sale, the cost was $25 for this version. Why is it $5 more than the pink vinyl version? Because it's more limited.
I contacted the guy at the label to ask why on earth a black vinyl version would cost $5 more than a colored vinyl version and he gave some vague answer about circumstances dictating it being necessary and concluded "With only 50 copies made, it's not a bad price. I would pay it and I don't expect others to pay prices I wouldn't pay." Black vinyl traditionally costs less than colored vinyl to produce, so the only thing I can come up with is that Shed House records is trying to get more money out of record collectors by creating an intentionally limited and higher priced version of this version. I just think that's nuts.
There are plenty of labels that charge a buck or two more for the more limited colored vinyl version of their releases. Fat Wreck Chords, Dirtnap and Goner all do this. I have never once complained about this practice and regularly (and happily) pay the extra money to own the more limited version of the record. I am totally fine with this because colored vinyl costs more to make and it's only one or two dollars. But to gouge someone for five extra dollars simply so they can have the privilege of buying a rare version of your record (which isn't even the rarest version) just doesn't sit well with me. Now in fairness, since these records went on sale, the label has dropped the price of both versions and the pink vinyl is now $15 while the black vinyl is $20. I assume because they weren't selling at their original prices. But he's still going after that extra five bucks. It just makes me crazy.
I spoke with my wallet. I wasn't comfortable with the record collecting/punk rock ethics of the label. So I was thrilled when Dan Sartain himself started selling some copies of the pink vinyl version of Romance In Stereo on his Bandcamp page. I happily paid the $20 for the pink vinyl version to Dan (only $5 for him to ship it) and I feel great knowing the money has gone right to the artist.
I'm honestly not trying top start shit. I, more than a lot of people, know the costs of running a label. That's why PopKid records has been dormant for the past 10 years. It's an expensive hobby and I applaud anyone who is out there trying to get music they love out to people. I am also ecstatic that someone put out Romance In Stereo out on vinyl. But all of the weird pricing and overcharging for variants leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.
At the end of the day I'm mostly just complaining because I can't afford to buy them. I want them, I can't have them and I'm annoyed. I don't mind missing out on a rare record because I wasn't paying attention or didn't get my order in quick enough. That's the law of the jungle. If I then have to over pay on eBay to get the record in my collection, so be it. At least other collectors are setting the price. I just don't see how a small indie label can arbitrarily decide how much their 'rare' record is worth. I would never do that with my record label. But that's just me.
This wound up being way longer than I meant it to be. Apologies to Dan if this bothers him. Apologies to Shed House records if this causes anyone to not buy the now very fairly priced $15 normal version of this record. I'm happy the record is in my collection, and it really should be in everyone else's too.
Dan Sartain - Romance In Stereo: