Published Jul 22, 2008With music retailers facing increasingly harsh financial realities, a few have concocted some pretty creative ways to get by like, for example, selling music to prisoners. One Los Angeles business in particular is making more than $1 million a year by hooking up inmates with some much-needed Floyd and Lil Wayne, because, after all, they need their tunes too.
As a recent Billboard article revealed, among the 2.3 million locked-up Americans, retailer Pack Central operates a mail-order company for about 50,000 of them. Currently, it carries about 10,000 CDs and 5,000 not-as-obsolete-as-you-thought cassettes, which account for 60 percent of the operations sales.
Apparently, CDs are banned in many U.S. prisons, according to the Billboard article, mostly on account that they can be used for dubious means (like serving as a shiv or ninja star, depending on your aim). In fact, even with cassettes, Pack Central owner Bob Paris has to manually remove all the screws from tapes because of similar concerns.
Another problem Paris faces with cassettes is it isnt so easy to find tapes these days, on account that most major labels have discontinued them, leading him to stockpile as many as he can find. "People thought I was nuts when I invested tons of money in analog prerecorded music on tape," he told Billboard.
And just what are cons grooving to these days? Paris said his current bestsellers are Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, Nickelback's All the Right Reasons, Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad, Usher's Here I Stand and Mariah Carey's E=MC2. (And we thought prison was supposed to make you hard.)
He also added that albums like Michael Jackson's Thriller, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and Al Green's Greatest Hits are always in demand.
If a prisoner wants to get in on Pack Centrals action, the company mails out catalogs twice a year and he or she can then just cut the company a cheque preferably a good one or pay with a money order.
"I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers," Paris said. "I don't have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don't have internet access and never will."
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