As I continue slowly ingesting the 900 classical LPs I inherited, I’ve developed a relationship with Discogs. It’s a good place to track your collection (here’s mine, in-progress). This is the story of my first attempt to use it to buy music, a laughable failure. It’s by way of public service, just leaving a marker, a warning others to be careful about charging into the marketplace.
There’s a lot to like about Discogs. The screens are unfussy and fast and their coverage of everything ever recorded is just awesome. The LP collection I’m working my way through has plenty of obscurities by no-hit wonders, but I’ve been through a couple hundred records now and only hit one that it didn’t already have (for your amusement: Music from The Golden Age of Silent Movies played by Gaylord Carter at the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ).
Also, they’ve apparently taken a mere $2.5M in venture investment, show the world a human face, and seem to genuinely care about old recordings in a tone that’s enthusiast rather than unicorn-wannabe.
Fast Freight · Back when I was doing Songs of the Day, I wrote about Fast Freight, a standout on a generally-pretty-corny 1958 mono album by the Kingston Trio that I inherited from my Dad. It’s a lovely performance which I also use as an audio showpiece; when a technical friend looks at my audio setup and snottily wonders why I still play LPs, I use this to show what the technology can do. Which usually works pretty well
Only Dad’s copy’s getting kind of ratty, and it occurred to me that maybe I could use Discogs to replace it. Sure enough, there were plenty on sale, so I picked one on the basis that it was advertised as having “near-mint” surfaces and was offered by a seller with a good rep.
So here’s my sad story:
I jumped through the Discogs hoops, not terrible at all, and placed the order.
Almost instantly, the site came back saying the status was “Invoice sent”. I didn’t see any invoice on the screen or in my Discogs account or my email in-basket. I decided to wait, on the assumption it would show up.
A few days later, Discogs popped up a notice saying that payment was due and unless I did so within a day or so my reputation would suffer.
I fired off a barrage of messages to Discogs support and the seller saying, in effect “WTF, I want to pay, how do I pay?” Discogs was pretty prompt getting back, said “probably best to reach out to the seller.”
The seller eventually got back to me and said if I wasn’t set up on Discogs’ internal payment system, he could take PayPal. I poked around Discogs.com and couldn’t figure out how to set up to use their payment system (still can’t). He asked me to send it marked “friends and family” so “PayPal wouldn’t hold it”.
I sent him the money and PayPal did indeed put it on hold, and had deducted a big service fee. So he refunded it to me. This led to a hilarious, where by “hilarious” I mean “really irritating”, sequence of attempts to pay him, by splitting the payment up, by marking smaller amounts “Friends and family”, and I forget the rest. None of it worked, PayPal was determined not to let my money get through to him. This leads me to wonder how he’d got himself on PayPal’s hold-the-payments list.
The seller also said that somewhere along the way I’d accidentally left negative feedback, could I please remove it? I couldn’t find any feedback anywhere.
Finally, by routing PayPal to a different email address, he got the money and let me know he’d sent the record.
A reasonable amount of time later, the record showed up. It was all scratched to ratshit and there was a big cut in the middle of Fast Freight so that the needle kept skipping back.
My Discogs account still has a permanent notification that payment is outstanding for this order and my reputation is in danger.
I’m Doing It Wrong · That’s the only conclusion I can draw. I need to go and research how to buy things on Discogs without getting taken for a ride. I suspect it’s possible but it should be easier.