A recent article in The Village Voice considering Urban Outfitters addition of vinyl to their inventory encourages supporters of music to "for the love of God, go buy a record there." However Urban Outfitters has a well-documented history of ripping off the work of independent designers. If you're a musician or music fan who supports indie musicians, then you'll recognize why buying vinyl at Urban Outfitters is a bad move.
Arguing the Case for Buying Vinyl at Urban Outfitters
Chris Chafin, writing for The Village Voice, presents a number of reasons why it's ok to buy vinyl at Urban Outfitters even if you're concerned about CEOs donating to right wing causes, national chains competing with local record stores and the work of independent designers being blatantly plagiarized by corporate entities.
To the first he simply says, hey, other companies someone like you probably support have right wing connections. Which isn't very convincing but, then again, not all lovers of vinyl are on the left or take a liberal stance, whatever that means these days.
To the second, he turns to individuals with indie cred, I assume, from Sub Pop Records and Redeye Distribution who say, hey, we're making money off Urban Outfitters and they're as legit as any other record outlet. Since Urban Outfitters is said to be big buyers of vinyl, then the "work they're doing to support artists and labels likely offsets any harm they're doing to small record stores."
I imagine many would find that line of reasoning acceptable while others would strongly disagree. Here in Asheville, NC, where I currently reside, we have three indie record stores featuring vinyl in a city of less than 90,000 and, given the apparent demographic makeup of local shoppers at Urban Outfitters, one could make the case that Urban Outfitters is expanding the market for vinyl.
Urban Outfitters' History of Ripping Off Indie Designers
But, if you feel that vinyl represents something more than a revenue stream and that indie designers deserve to make a living as much as indie musicians do, then you should consider Urban Outfitters' history of ripping off such designers.
I first wrote about the topic a couple of years back for a local fashion blog in a piece titled "Boycott Urban Outfitters for Ripping Off Indie Designers."
In that blog post I shared the tale of a designer whose necklace, item name and copy were all blatantly ripped off. I also linked to a number of other examples from 2010 and 2011 that establish a clear pattern:
A Google search for urban outfitters rip off artists limited to the past year shows that this topic is an ongoing theme.
Go For Self or Take Responsibility for One's Actions?
Over the weekend I checked out the modest vinyl display at downtown Asheville's Urban Outfitters. It held a combination of classic albums from such artists as The Beatles and The Fugees as well as contemporary albums from Justin Timberlake and The Civil Wars, among others.
While one might argue with individual selections, overall it was a smart mix of classics and contemporary albums that might or might not become classics but would probably register as such to Urban Outfitters' clientele.
It wouldn't surprise me if sales are good. These are the kinds of albums many might choose to display whether they played them or not.
So I can see why distributors of such products are happy about this development.
But I believe that if one feels that indie musicians are worth supporting then one should extend that same support to artists in other fields.
Where do you stand?
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.