I got hammered last night. I mean, really hammered. I feel like dog vomit today. The day is half gone already, and only now am I able to touch the keyboard without causing shooting pains behind my eyes. And I won’t tell you how my stomach feels because it would be too disgusting, even for you.
Being unable to think straight, I had no good ideas for what to write today. And then Raven S. sent me a couple of links that gave me the idea for what you’re now reading. They’re links to what must be the most expensive digital albums on Bandcamp, and therefore probably the most expensive digital albums ever.
The first album is by a band whose name sounds like a noise I made a few minutes ago when my stomach turned a particularly nasty flip-flop. Vorbkt are from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Their latest Bandcamp release from April 2014 is entitled Tragedy, and it’s available on Bandcamp for free. But their first demo from January 2009 costs $1,000 for a digital download. The name of that one is La Mort d’echantillon. Its cover appears to be an altered version of a painting I recognized — The Suicide, by Edouard Manet. Which is fitting, because that’s what I’ve been contemplating all morning.
At slightly more than 25 minutes in length, La Mort d’echantillon costs about $40 per minute. That’s some pricey listening. Of course, you can listen for free because the album is available for streaming on Bandcamp, but if you want to carry it around with you wherever you go, that’s going to run you $1,000.
The next album is by a band from the UK named Writhe. Which, again, is fitting since writhing in agony is pretty much how I’ve spent most of the morning, while contemplating suicide.
Writhe’s latest release, from just a few days ago, is a single song named “The Shrouded Grove”. It’s about 10 minutes long, and it will cost you £666 for a download, which at current exchange rates comes to $1,105.53. That edges out the Vorbkt demo, and especially since it’s only a single song, I think we can all agree that it qualifies as a true luxury item.
Now you might think that Writhe and Vorbkt set these eye-popping prices because they wanted to stream the music but didn’t want to make it available for download — and they hadn’t figured out that it’s possible to simply disable the download option on Bandcamp. I, on the other hand, think they were shrewdly attempting to turn their songs into Veblen goods!
In economics, the law of demand holds that as the price of a product increases, the quantity demanded will fall (all other things being equal). But a “Veblen good” (named after economist Thorstein Veblen) is one that defies the law of demand. To quote The Font of All Human Knowledge:
“Some types of luxury goods, such as high-end wines, jewelry, designer handbags, and luxury cars, are Veblen goods, in that decreasing their prices decreases people’s preference for buying them because they are no longer perceived as exclusive or high-status products. Similarly, a price increase may increase that high status and perception of exclusivity, thereby making the good even more preferable.”
There must be other examples of Veblen goods on Bandcamp, but I’m feeling too ill to search them out. I’m also feeling too sick to listen to these spendy releases by Vorbkt and Writhe. Maybe you’ll tell me whether they’re any good. But please speak very softly.