Independent music depends on USPS
by Celia Jain @

Independent Music Depends on USPS

USPS vital to independent music eCommerce; Postal Service's imminent shutdown threatens the industry

We’ve all heard how important USPS is for delivering checks, prescriptions, and a number of other essentials to the American population. If the Postal Service does collapse, the independent music industry will also be affected in a major way. Independent music depends on USPS in a number of ways, and even more so during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here’s why.

Media Mail through USPS Allows Artists to Ship Merchandise for Less

As Trump threatens to block emergency funding for USPS, it’s possible that the organization could be shutting down as soon as this summer. While this does have a huge effect on American shipping in general, it will also impact independent music. Music-related shipping sites like Discogs, as well as record stores and independent labels have slipped into online stores, placing a heavier demand on shipping services.

These businesses largely use the Media Mail Service offered by USPS. Media Mail offers the absolute cheapest prices, available both at the Post Office or through online shipping software. Shipments like vinyls and cassettes, primarily, can be sent out through Media Mail for rates as low as $2.80. Media Mail is important here because vinyls, in particular, cannot be shipped cheaply through other USPS services. With vinyl record sales on the rise, finding shipping at cheap rates is important, since higher shipping costs can severely reduce profit margins. UPS and FedEx do not offer services at these low rates, since both carriers specialize in larger, heavier packages. Without USPS, the cheapest option hovers around $10 to ship the same package.

Independent Music is Already Suffering due to Coronavirus

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses in independent music are relying solely on online sales for profit. The co-owner of one of these businesses, Jim Henderson of Amoeba Music, predicts in a statement to Pitchfork that:

“Not having access to the USPS would certainly eliminate our ability to continue the free shipping offer, as alternate shipping options are dramatically more expensive and cumbersome to navigate, and would likely shut down the commerce part of our site entirely”

Tours and festivals have been shut down for the remainder of 2020, forcing many artists to look elsewhere for income. The majority are turning to online sales, and having a cheap shipping option is crucial for their struggling businesses. Amazon has also recently halted vinyl and record shipping due to Coronavirus, which threatens independent labels in a big way. This is notable because many independent labels and smaller artists rely on the sale of their vinyls and CDs, rather than streaming, for income. With this in mind, USPS becomes the sole option for shipping out music products affordably.

Especially in the face of Coronavirus, it’s crucial for USPS to stay open and operating for the independent music industry. Artists are struggling to find revenue, and Media Mail through USPS is providing some relief to their struggling businesses. With music shipping on Amazon down, the stress on the independent music industry is growing. The bottom line here is that USPS is crucial to a number of businesses in America. Along with many other industries, independent music will suffer if the Postal Service is no longer operational.

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