Dead Letter Office
The Payback



dead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.


Jimmy:

So, did you get your check yet? You know, the settlement check from the giant class-action lawsuit against CD manufacturers for price fixing and antitrust junk or whatever that was?

Mine came on Monday afternoon. I am actually sort of surprised I didn’t throw it away, as it looked like a piece of junk mail or something. The return address was listed as “CD MAP Antitrust Litigation” with some P.O. Box in Minnesota (huh? Minnesota?) and a little boldface announcement reading “IMPORTANT: SETTLEMENT MATERIALS ENCLOSED.” The check was for the not-so-princely sum of $13.86.

Inside was a letter from our pal Jim Petro, the Ohio Attorney General, who was, according to his passionate form letter at least, “pleased to enclose payment” for my claim. Wow, old Jim must have delegated this duty to a really nice intern, eh? More like a member of his re-election committee, but whatever. Honestly, I am still surprised that a bigger deal wasn’t made about all of this, you know? I mean, this should have been bigger news than it was, in my eyes anyway. How did this not change the world? As it is, it didn’t even change anything in the industry, really—I’m sure the powers-that-be are already plotting how to get away with the exact same stuff right now, only without getting caught this time. Whatever—I won’t bore you with my tales of how awful and bloodless practically every higher-up at every single corporate label (and quite a few indies, actually) has always been to me. My point is that I was totally OK with taking this money. I don’t exactly feel like Clive Davis’ children are going to starve now, you know?

Now don’t get me wrong: normally, anyone sending me free money is a cool thing, and I especially liked this money because, if you’ve seen my house, you know I have been especially generous in giving my money over the years to the fat cats who run those major record labels, and I continue to do so on a fairly regular basis. But I feel like those fuckers owe me more. I mean, shouldn’t I get more than some jarhead with a CD wallet full of Toby Keith CDs and nothing else? Shouldn’t I get more than some pudgy kid who lives with his parents with nothing but free time and an iPod full of stolen music?

All of that aside, I suppose I’m happy enough with what I got. To be truthful, I wasn’t expecting anything—I thought for sure that everyone would have requested their piece of the settlement pie and that it would all total out to 43 cents for each of us and no one would really get anything. So, grouching aside, I was pretty pleased to get the money.

My brother emailed me the other day after he got his check and said, “Hey, that’s like getting a free CD,” and on the surface of it, I guess he’s right, as I think we both know it’s not like I’m going to take my $13.86 and invest it in stocks or give it to some worthy charity—I’m going to go out and buy another stupid fucking CD with it, aren’t I? And boy, won’t I be teaching those bastards at the labels a big lesson by taking the money they just gave me from years of ripping me off to the tune of hundreds of dollars (maybe more, I don’t know) and handing it right back to them. God, it just makes my blood boil that I am such a slave to it, you know? I’ve never had a problem with tobacco or anything, but I’ll be goddamned if the record labels of the world don’t have me in their pocket the same way that R.J. Reynolds has those poor smoking saps in theirs. And the infuriating thing is they know it.

So, what have I decided to do with my money? Well, I’ve had a couple of thoughts. But after thinking about it, I decided that I should spend it on something for myself – after all, they did rip me off, right? (At least I think they did; I’ve never really understood what this was all about, so if I’m wrong, please tell me gently and ignore all the above.) And I would have to buy it second-hand. And it would have to be an indie record. It’s the only way.

The label will have already gotten their money once, and now I would be rewarding some struggling local store, rather than people whose wallets don’t need further stuffing. Hell, for $13.86, I might be able to get more than one CD even, or buy lunch or something, I don’t know. So, this way, I can get my record fix without rewarding anyone corporate. I think everyone wins there. I’m sure there’s some flaw in my logic that I’m not seeing, so feel free to point it out if you must.

Anyway, I’m off now—there was a CD copy of New Day Rising for $7 that I had my eye on last weekend at the Record Exchange and I’m hoping it’s still there. And yes, I know you already have it, but that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good from all the way over there, does it?

Your man in the Midwest,
Hutlock


By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2004-02-27
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