By Steve Oppenheimer
As you have probably noticed, all prices published in our articles are manufacturers’ suggested retail prices (the MSRP, or “list” price) for the U.S. market. A manufacturer’s representative recently contacted us to complain about our policy. He pointed out that his company discounts off the list price, so that the street price of his product is well below the list price. In contrast, his competition’s list price is lower, but they do not discount off their list price, so the street price and list price are the same. As a result, the street prices of the two products are nearly the same, but their MSRPs differ significantly. The rep felt that our policy of quoting only list prices was unfair to his product. He was concerned that our readers would make purchasing decisions based on illusory list prices.
The rep had a good point, as far as it went. If you want to find out the best price for a particular product, you won’t get a completely clear picture from the MSRP. So why doesn’t EM quote street prices? Because there is no such thing as a single “street” price. The same item could sell for one price at a music store in Los Angeles, cost a bit more direct from the manufacturer, sell for a third price via mail order, and go for yet another price at a music store in Cleveland.
Street prices vary for several reasons. Some companies sell direct to the public at list price, others sell through dealers at discount prices, and a number of manufacturers do both simultaneously. Small dealers don’t always get the same wholesale discounts offered to huge megastore chains. Furthermore, even if two dealers buy a given product at the same price, that doesn’t mean they will sell it at the same price.
Given all these variables, publishing street prices as the bottom line in a national (and increasingly international) magazine is meaningless. The only way we can give EM readers something that even resembles a common frame of reference is to rely on the MSRP. That’s why every price you see in the magazine—in features, columns, reviews, and “What’s New—-is a list price.
A few closing notes: This summer we published a pilot issue of a small but promising new live-performance magazine, which we tentatively titled Performing Musician. Now we are revving up this mini-magazine in earnest: in January we’ll begin producing it quarterly.
We have renamed our new live magazine Onstage, which pretty much tells you where we’re taking this project. Much to my delight, EM associate art director Tami Needham has agreed to direct the new project. You’ve seen her designs monthly in EM, and she’ll be ably assisted by her colleagues in our art department, so you know Onstage is going to look great.
When Home Recording and Guitar executive editor Mike Levine agreed to join our staff, we knew the stars were aligned in our favor. We have been trying to get him on our team for quite a while. So Mike will join EM as a full-time associate editor—and the editor of our Onstage supplement—in time for our January issue.