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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A little rant about CD shipping prices

As someone who has been selling my music on CD's by mail-order since 1991, I think it's finally time for me to write a few words on my frustrations with the ever increasing Postage prices. :-(

I don't know if Norway have the highest postage prices prices in the world, but it would certainly seem that way to me. Every year for as long as I can remember (and sometimes twice a year) the Norwegian postal service have increased their prices, to the point where it now costs the absolutely ridiculous amount of -- wait for it -- about US$ 12.75 !!! in stamps, to send ONE CD to USA and other non-European countries. Yes, you read it right. For a small packet with a weight between 100 grammes and 350 grammes, I now have to put 70 NOK (US$ 12.75) in stamps on the package. And that's only the actual stamps. I haven't included the bubble-wrap envelope which is another $1 approx when purchased in bulk. Plus maybe $0.25 in labels, ink, stickers that are needed on the envelope.

So really, when a customer orders a CD on my website for $15, I actually have to pay about $14.00 to ship the CD out to the customer! Stupid, or what??

And this is for completely normal, NON-registered, NON-tracked, bog standard air-mail postal delivery. Want "Registered" service? That's another 180 NOK (US$ 32,75) on top of the normal postage cost!

Unfortunately, one normal CD in a regular jewel case, with a small bubble-wrap envelope, comes to just over 100 grammes in weight. Now, if you put 3 CDs in the package, it's just under 350 grammes, so a shipment of 3 CD's costs the same amount as 1 CD, as they are both in the "100-350 grammes" weight class.

But if you come up to 4 CD's, then you are up to the weight class "350 - 1,000 grammes" which costs an incredible 160 NOK = US$ 29.10! Again, that's completely normal, standard, non-registered postal service. And again, that does not include any bubble-wrap envelope or anything else. It's only for the actual stamps I have to put on the package.

Now. Of course, before I can even send the CD to you, I have to get the CD's sent to me first, from the CD-factory.  I can probably get this done, with shipping costs and import duties, for around US$ 2.50 per disc.

All in all, this means that by the time I've had ONE compact disc sent to me from the factory, and sent to one customer in USA who wants to buy my CD, we have spent a total of approximately US$ 16.50 in shipping and shipping-related costs.

And of course, that does not include the actual cost of manufacturing the disc in the first place!

My friends, this is some of the reason why I'm trying to get away from the physical disc, the CD, and trying to sell my music as downloads instead. From my download-shop I can sell you a FLAC download of almost all of my albums for $12 per album. FLAC files are completely lossless; they have exactly the same sound quality as the physical CD. Or if you prefer MP3 downloads, I sell my albums at $10 per album, and that's for high quality, 256-kbps MP3 files. All album downloads (both FLAC and MP3) contain high resolution graphic files of the cover images, so those who want to "build" themselves a real CD at home can do so by printing out the cover artwork and mounting it in a jewel case.

It's with a heavy heart that I've had to once again increase the postage costs that are added to the shopping cart total when you shop for CD's in the CD-shop on my website. You may not like it when it says: One CD: $15. Shipping: $11.90. This may seem high to you, but the fact is, after Paypal have taken about 5% of the amount before paying it to me, that's not even close to paying for the actual costs involved with shipping out that CD.

I will continue to offer my albums as CD's, for as long as I have stock. But really, the writing is on the wall for the whole "physical products in the post" as far as music sales are going.

I had a little chat with someone about my frustrations over the postage costs, and she said "It just goes to show that vital services like this shouldn't be privatized. Because where there are private shareholders, there are people who want to make as much profit as possible, and that means prices will go up". She may have a point, but I don't entirely agree. I don't think the problem with the Norwegian postal service is the fact that they are privately owned. I think the problem is that they have NO competition. Private ownership and private business ventures must always be followed by competition. If there is no competition, they can do whatever they like and the customers just have to take it. Either way, I believe a State owned postal service wouldn't be any better. Perhaps it would be a little bit cheaper, but I believe the only way to a better and more affordable postal service would be competition.

One thing is for sure: The way it is now, people do anything to avoid having to send something by post.

Ok, this rant turned out a little longer than I had planned, but it felt good to get it off my chest. The real reason I wanted to write this was to explain to you that when you see $15 for one CD and $11.90 for shipping charges in my CD-shop, that's not out of greed on my part. In fact, I make a loss on those $11.90. It costs me considerably more than that to ship out the CD; at least to non-European countries.

Thanks for listening! :-)

- Bjorn

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Blogger Steve Beck said...

I have to admit.. that's pretty steep prices to pay just to send a CD to someone! I sent a CD of my band with a couple of badges to a friend in Australia from the UK and it cost me no more than £3!!!
I think that digital distribution is the way forward on this issue. Maybe have a few limited CD's pressed every couple of years or so.

(PS. listening to Bass-O-Matic tracks on Milkytracker... Man, I've not heard this music is AGES!!)

January 28, 2010  
Anonymous Counterpoint said...

What about moving the physical CD sales exclusively to other distributors? (eg: CD Baby)

It does lose the personal touch of ordering CDs from you directly, but it would probably help keep the shipping costs down a bit.

Still... FLAC is a nice option for downloadable content.

Personally I would miss the physical package though. I think it's much nicer to have the CD label and cover art (despite the digital versions being available as part of the download, it just doesn't "feel" the same).

Sending CDs here seems to be a different price every time I go to the post office (Canada Post). Sometimes it's around $5 CAD to send to Europe, and other times they seem to want to charge more than twice that. More often than not, I end up losing money on physical CD sales too, so I feel your pain.

March 03, 2010  
Anonymous Frans Huijbers said...

Da's geen kattepis die prijzen (that's no pussycat'spee) this we say here when something is really a serious issue!!

I don't want you to saddle-up with those ridiculous prices but I too prefer the physical cd with the original artwork.
So, when I order a physical cd from you (I've a lot of cd's from you so there will not be much left to order :-)))) you can send me these without the jewelcase.

I began in Dutch and will end in Dutch... ;-)
'Ook al is het maar een druppel op een gloeiende plaat, het is in ieder geval iets'.
(It's not much, but it's still something.)

Keep up the good work

March 03, 2010  

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