Posted: April 20, 2011
Last Saturday was Record Store Day. Being something of a vinyl geek, I found myself in line outside a record shop, hoping to get my hands on a short wishlist of special releases, limited pressings offered just for this event. The mood in the line was amicable. People talked about music and about the cold rain and about beer. But there was this undercurrent of paranoia, too. Somebody asked What's on your list? And nobody said anything. We all looked uncomfortable for a couple seconds and then everybody laughed. But it was still there, this undercurrent of desire leading to entitlement and then competition. You ever feel that way? I'm guessing that if you're on the Binny's blog, you have felt the knot in your stomach that goes with desire. What was it? Hot new bourbon? Wine of the year? Rare beer? The last time I felt it was when I was waiting in line at Dark Lord Day a year or two back. What drives this impulsive desire? Bragging rights? The chase? Cash value of the thing? The fear of missing out? An elusive sense of completion? It has to be about investing some sense of the self, right? We convince ourselves that we must have it, and forget alternatives. I know I don't actually need the limited vinyl pressing I can listen to the music in other formats for cheap, even free. I know I don't actually need that one special Russian Imperial Stout there are aisles of other beers that will bring me as much satisfaction. But I want it. And because I want it so badly, I deserve it. Unlike wine and spirits, beer geeks still have the luxury of affordability. The model of supply and demand doesn't seem to apply. A single cask Scotch might yield a few hundred cases and sell for $80 a bottle. A cult Napa Cab might yield the same and cost a couple hundred bucks more. A first growth Bordeaux will produce tens of thousands of cases in a vintage, and some futures sell over a grand per bottle. Considering this, beer fans are lucky, at least for now. A special one-day, brewery-only release might go for ten or twelve or even fifteen dollars per. Last year saw one beer release at $40/720mL, a price that was less a barrier of entry than I expected. It sold well and then it was gone. Back to me and Record Store Day. I got all the records on my wishlist except the one that I wanted most of all. I had to remind myself that my hands were full of great new releases, but it was tough to shake the disappointment that came from missing out on that one special piece of plastic that I didn't get. How childish of me. So what is it that drives collectors? Why do we allow scarcity to be a desirable trait in a product? Why put so much focus not on what we have, but instead on what we can't get?