When at the beginning of last week the United States Post Office quietly but significantly raised its rates (yet again), small struggling music companies that depend on mail-orders to generate important cash-flow particularly felt the pinch. Among them was Washington DC's Dischord Records, the longtime, legendary, anti-capitalist label founded by Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye. As a result of the USPS rates hike, the label was forced to abandon its long-running, customer-friendly, postpaid policy whereby, until just last week, when someone bought, say, a mail-ordered copy of a Fugazi album or CD for $10, the price included all shipping and handling costs. But not anymore!
"For the first time in our 27 years we decided that we can no longer cover for the Post Office because we've always had a postpaid price. We always operated like 'this is the price including postage' but they keep raising the price at a maddening pace," said Dischord's Ian MacKaye who is equally known for his membership of such bands as Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Embrace, Fugazi, Pailhead, and most recently, The Evens.
"We were before just barely breaking even," said MacKaye in an interview with me on WFMU last week (archived on MP3 here), in which he suggested that something even criminal is afoot with the latest USPS price hikes. "This most recent increase, I think, is completely insane and it is a crime. Someone from Time Warner and similar kinds of corporations has gotten involved and they've managed to create a situation in which their rates have not gone up or they have gone up insignificantly and yet the smaller publishing companies, and that includes Dischord and other labels, our prices for shipping went up 30%, so if we were selling a CD for ten bucks and charging a $1.60 to ship it, it's now gone up to something like $2.20. It's quite an increase."