Surviving for many decades in this fickle industry when others have long faded away into the distance is, in many ways, an impressive achievement. This is one of the reasons that Ears To The House has a certain respect for Defected – it was founded in 1999 as a record label selling vinyl and has been totally transformed into an events company within that time.
That said, respect does not mean the same as deference – and we believe we ask questions when necessary. Which brings us onto another thing that has somehow survived for a long time, albeit by not changing quite as much as Defected – it’s none other than Discogs.
The site was opened all the way back in the year 2000 – a time when few yet understood how the music world was about to change immeasurably. Back at the turn of the millennium, Discogs was a database compiled by its users of music releases – initially specialising in electronic music before later opening up to almost anything else.
Over the past 23 years, surprisingly little has changed about the operation – indeed, its biggest change was the opening of the Discogs Marketplace in 2005. So what prompted their founder and CEO Kevin Lewandowski to post a message on his own website explaining some future plans last week?
Much of what he writes refers to technical matters – pointing out that the technology underpinning Discogs is essentially ancient and colourfully compares “migrating the marketplace, database, and other site elements to separate, modernized platforms” to “remastering a song recorded on a single track into multiple stems”.
But the statement itself is not only interesting because of what’s in it – but also what isn’t. Why would the founder of a company, just weeks before the Christmas holidays, feel the need to publish a letter on his own website explaining the changes going on in his company?
A clue comes from a story published by The Verge back in October. It reveals how in May 2023, Discogs raised its fee on marketplace sales from 8% to 9% – and also started charging that same amount on shipping fees for the first time. The result? Buying and selling through the website has become a lot more expensive – and that’s not all.
Add to this the fact that several delivery companies have raised their own prices over the past year, on top of the fact all transactions on the site are now done through PayPal – who also take a fee as well – and the result is sellers seeing their profit margins squeezed down to nothing.
Discogs defends the increases in its cut, claiming it’s had to invest significantly to ensure “compliance with various regulatory programs, including tax support and privacy protection”. Lewandowski’s letter has little to offer in the way of Christmas cheer…