Recently, I started buying CD’s online because there aren’t too many options in Canada where I can find what I’m looking for. Gone are the days of spending my Saturday afternoons browsing at the many record stores located in downtown Toronto at Yonge and Dundas Streets. And if you now try to do what the Barenaked Ladies sang about in their song, “Brian Wilson”, which was “Drove downtown in the rain, nine-thirty on a Tuesday night, just to check out the late night record shop”, you’d sadly discover that the record shop they refer to, Sam the Record Man, no longer exists.
However, it disappoints me that Canadians shopping online through American retailers are still getting ripped off when it comes to shipping. I’ve been asked why I still choose to buy CD’s when I could buy digital files online, stream through Spotify (now that it is finally in Canada) or download through torrents and Usenet newsgroups. I’m not ignorant when it comes to technology and being a cheapo doesn’t mean I don’t spend money at all. I make this choice because I want to support the artist, hear the music at the highest possible quality, and also have the option to convert to any digital format I choose. If I really enjoy what I hear, I want the artist and songwriter to get paid. Most of the time the songwriter is Kevin Griffin, which is how I’ve learned about a number of American artists that don’t receive any radio airplay in Canada.
When I tried to buy the discography of a talented singer/songwriter by the name of Graham Colton, the cost of purchasing 6 CD’s was $50, but the cost to ship was going to be $32. In that case, I boldly contacted the artist through Twitter and informed him of the crazy shipping charges. He kindly offered to accept payment through PayPal and he sent me the CD’s himself via U.S. postal mail. The shipping charge dropped to $15, including the cost of packaging. He even autographed the CD’s for me, the biggest bonus of all! If this guy was trying to make me a fan for life, he definitely succeeded.
Over the years, I had only ever heard one Matt Nathanson song played on local radio, “Come On Get Higher”. Last year, I saw him perform with Better than Ezra via a Stageit online concert. I was hooked after seeing him sing one of my favourite songs, “Long Lost” and I made sure to watch his solo show through the Yahoo! Live online concert series. Last summer, one of my vacation highlights was the day his new song, “Headphones”, competed against teen pop star Becky G in a radio station battle and I connected with his other fans to vote for “Matty N” all night long. The Twitter interactions were hilarious.
Check out “Headphones” for yourself. But grab some Kleenex first. The part when Matt turns on a little boy’s hearing aid gets me every time.
But it’s difficult to be a fan of an American artist when you live in Canada. Matt Nathanson CD’s are treated as imports and cost $20 each plus 13% sales tax in Ontario. During the month of December, the Matt Nathanson store was giving away a free CD with each item ordered, and the prices were incredibly low ($3-$10 per disc), so I seized the chance to build my collection and buy a comfy hoodie too.
I was willing to pay the $30 shipping fee, absurd as it was, because the total cost was cheaper than buying three CD’s through a Canadian retailer.
I placed my online order and my credit card was charged immediately. I received a tracking number a week later and after 2 weeks, there were no details other than the creation of the shipping label. I followed up with an email to Social Imprints, who was responsible for the order. They have a great concept, but their service leaves something to be desired. I finally received a reply, which acknowledged that my package had not been shipped. Some of the CD’s were out of stock by the time my order was packed, over 3 weeks since I placed the order. I was grateful that my shipping fee was refunded as an apology. However, I was disappointed that several CD’s that I ordered, including the one I wanted the most, “Some Mad Hope”, were sold out.
This is what I received in the mail, one month after I placed my online order. One of the CD’s, “Please”, was replaced with a cassette tape.
Yup, a partial order and a cassette tape. In the year 2015. I can barely listen to the music without reliving the aggravation. Surely this wouldn’t have happened to me if I lived in the United States!