As there is a growing frustration with pre-orders in recent months, I thought it might be a good idea just to review some observations about the current state of things. It's tough to be 100% conclusive in any one area, considering the the range of artists and companies involved, but the whole things has decidedly beiing trending more toward the negative.  It may not be a bad idea to take a more conservative approach to the preorders than you may have in the past for a number of reasons, though, obviously, that is entirely up to you.

I thing the following is worth considering:

1) I'll start with the most obvious of the circumstances: Covid-19 has been a game changer this year. Initially, I thought this could work both ways, as I felt the inherent delays might be offset by artists simply having more time to take care of any signing obligations. For the most part, it really has not worked out that way. 

2) More big names and big labels are throwing their hats in the ring. International superstars are on a different level than rising indie musicians or hot names just beginning to gain momentum. And these are typically more problematic. Worth considering here is certainly the artists' character, ego, signing habits, fan friendliness, etc, but that is only part of the equation. Good people end up surrounded by bad ones all the time, especially when it comes to making money. Big names with a reputation of being good to the fans - such as Lana Del Rey or Halsey - end up in situations where ghost signers or autopens end up as part of the mix, through no fault of their own. Guessing when these situations will come up is often impossible, as we have no idea who's in the mix making what decisions. But the risk is almost inherently higher the bigger the artist.

3) Most band merch is just handled badly. I've been increasingly fascinated by this in recent years. The simplest of product lines is so frequently managed poorly, and so much of it reeks of disorganization and indifference. Again, without a comprehensive insight as to what's going on we're left being mostly speculative, but when I see late, delayed, and poorly packed items again and again, it does prompt questions about why this is so darned challenging.

4) Stat-padding. Big labels have been pushing the signed pre-orders for big name artists more aggressively, and it's obviously to boost sales. One they have their numbers (or don't, depending on the success of the effort), whether or not and how they'll follow through is anyone's guess. Many times, the quantities sold are so excessive that the absolute best case scenario is that you'll be waiting several months for an authentically signed items. And, of course, it raises the possibility that the artist or management team will resort to an autopen or ghost signer. If you're collecting for monetary reasons - to resell immediately or eventually - you may further wish to consider that there will be a TON of these products out there. 

5) UMG. I'm singling them out for two reasons. First, they're an enormous part of the music industry as a whole. second, beyond band merch and signed pre-orders, I've observed so much pure disdain toward music consumers over the years that I consider them an enemy of the fans, nearly on par with Live Nation. I see so much uncalled for contemptuous behavior toward fans, that I'm baffled as to what their actual business model looks like. And they're pretty much impossible to avoid as a fan or collector.

6) International shipments have been awful, and the USPS is a disaster. That second one has prompted me to cancel a few extra pre-orders on that basis alone. Packages are going into blackholes for weeks at a time, and the coronavirus excuse only goes so far. I'm in the camp that believes that the postal service is currently being intentionally sabotaged, so I doubt this situation will get better anytime soon.

Overall. if you're getting frustrated with how things have been more recently, the best remedy might be to re-evaluate what you really want and just stick with that. A good number of these are worth second guessing.

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i will comment on:

#3 - i honestly believe they use dropshipping for the most part and when that is done, a ton of product is mostly delivered damaged because of poor packing techniques/boxes used. They don't care..they already have your money and padded sales numbers. This is why i email them up to two times only than i call and open a dispute with CC used and i always get my money back because i provide proof. These morons most of the time never set aside product in case of damage.

#5 UMG can 10000% suck a HUGE bag of dicks..they are pure f***** evil. f*** them.

great topic.  BTW, Im done with it all.  I cannot trust any of these pre-order 'signed' copies anymore, and the ones that I do get that are legit are damaged half the time.

#6 i would add poorly packaged items (from UMG most of the time), the cd and the signed slick are just thrown in a bubble padded enveloppe without any proper protection resulting in the slick being damaged.Very frustrating

I agree with it all, almost all the dates they give will be extended because or either the Virus or unforseen Issues,  also Townsend Music isn't much better still swearing Chrissie Hynde hand signed the hate for sale cds and messaged me that they had proof so I asked to see it I'm still waiting

Never trust a rapper. The best advice I can give. Lol

I also totally agree on all points. As Bill stated, Townsend suck as much as UMG. I had a smudged Marc Almond poster. When I complained I was told it had zero value and that unfortunately hand signatures get smudged. So basically, tough s***! I went after them as I'd paid $70 for a bundle based on the fact that it contained, at inflated pricing, a signed poster. They gave me an $18 credit! After the Ozzy and Chrissie Hyde scams, I'm done with it all too. I can't trust any of these "signed" items, so Newbury aside, who are outstanding, I'm out.

#1 - I was like you and hopeful that more "free" time would mean more of time to sign. I like to follow some of these musicians on social media, and I think what this whole situation has demonstrated is that issues aren't related to a "lack of time." I might've accepted that excuse before the pandemic (especially for touring artists), but now seeing that many of these artists have plenty of time and still don't care seems to indicate that it's more a lack of interest on their part and not time limitations that effect things. An example of this is Katy Perry, she's super pregnant and clearly busy, but still made time to sign the artcards when able. In contrast - Halsey has been super slow to fulfill anything and recently posted about how bored she was, and Bieber who has multiple delayed releases (Yummy/SWY) had been rolling around in a RV (which seems like a perfect time to sign stuff). Even Demi Lovato who had a rocky reputation with signing things seems to have set aside time to sign stuff. There's still a ton of her signed stuff that has gone on unfulfilled (remaining CDs and vinyls), but I'm hopeful (not sure how to engagement might effect things moving forward).

TLDR: I agree that it's never been about a lack of time for these artists.

#2 - I disagree about the "through no fault of their own." There is absolutely no way that these items (autopens, and signed releases) are being produced and released without the approval of the artist. Most of the artists are promoting these sales themselves, and in many cases claim to be heavily involved in what merchandise/designs are offered for release. No company would use a stamp/autopen/ghostsigner to produce products without first clearing it with the artist due to liability issues. Further, even if these actions were done without their awareness, any artist that remotely keeps track of fan-response would have to catch wind of incidents after the fact.

TLDR: Most artists (not just labels) just don't care enough about signed stuff to worry about whether it's an autopen or real signature that's going out.

#3 - There was an issue with fulfillment shifts by major labels in the last several years (all jumping to one large 3rd party distributor instead of keeping it in-house). There was also a fire that disrupted vinyl production... but I don't know if either of these have impacted these recent sales.

#6 - I agree that the USPS is probably being sabotaged, but it's important to remember that international shipping broke down for reasons beyond USPS. A large percentage of international packages are normally transported by contractors (UPS, Fedex, commercial airlines, etc.) outside of the major mail services (USPS, Royal Mail, Canada Post, etc.); so when the operations of these contractors are disrupted, it effects the USPS mail operations as well.

Something else that's only tangentially related that's bother me with all of these pre-orders is how "fans" behave on social media. A lot of people just need to chill out. Specifically, I've noticed that these "fans" have  been harassing Katy Perry about when the signed CD's were going to drop, and they come across as whiny entitled pricks. If you want to go after an artist that's already misled people (Ozzy, Lil Wayne, Gaga), then fine - but people constantly harassing artists (especially those who've been transparent about what's happening) about signed stuff is the reason (I'd guess) that these musicians don't care anymore. I could absolutely understand someone like Perry deciding that offering signed merchandise in the future isn't worth the fuss (or just signing a very small number like Hayley Williams and dropping and moving on).

I think fan behavior in the social media age kind of is what it is. SM has given people a free pass to behave in ways they wouldn't dare in-person, and a lot of celebs accordingly take it with a grain of salt. And every fan base is going to have its share of bad eggs and bad behavior. With larger fan bases there will inevitably be more of both. 

Very insightful and I agree with you on many of these items. To begin, I sent my dad a birthday card and he literally lives 20 minutes away from me. It took the USPS 3 days to deliver his card. In addition, this is a reflection of our society, anyone is going to do anything for a dollar even if it means dishonesty.  I have to chuckle when the studios say that the signings are delayed due to the corona virus. The virus simply is not spread by someone writing their name on a piece of paper and sending it off. If this was the case, all of us would have COVID. Last, it would be nice if America would go back to the principle of practicing that honesty is always the best policy and people, in general, need to be kind and considerate of others. In other words, a person should only buy one autographed CD instead of five so that he/she can sell the other four on eBay for a king's ransom.  Last, the bottom line is the dollar bill and it's sad that musicians, studios, and others alike will compromise their integrity for monetary purposes. 

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