OPINION: OPM reissues good for music fans

Rick Olivares

Posted at Apr 21 2021 07:06 AM

Vicor Music Corp. has been re-releasing some albums from the '70s and '80s. Photo from Vicor's Facebook page

Interest in Original Pilipino Music (OPM) albums has gone up in this past decade.

If you scour the internet or even the physical stores, past and present OPM releases whether in record, cassette, or compact disc form have been popular and in demand. Not to mention pricey.

When records embarked on this gradual ascent beginning 2010 after sales went up in the United States and England, local record companies took notice. Come 2015, they put out new compilations of The Dawn, True Faith, Slapshock, and Juan dela Cruz Band, among others, while reissuing old titles from Martin Nivera, Gary Valenciano, Regine Velasquez and company. Even The Youth’s "Album Na Walang Pamagat" got the vinyl treatment after its initial release on cassette and compact disc. 

Of late, we’re seeing reissues from Vicor’s catalogue -- Basil Valdez, Juan dela Cruz Band’s debut album, Asin, VST & Company, and others -- hit the shelves and social media pages of independents record sellers. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are more reissues from Francis Magalona, Parokya ni Edgar, and others on the horizon. 

And this is good not only for the local music fan; in many ways, it is keeping this niche industry alive and well in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Let’s count the ways both good and well, of concern. 

A good and welcome option for fans old and new

For starters, the old stock released back in the 1970s and '80s is few and far in between. There used to be a lot back in the day, but because people didn’t deem them important, many discarded them. Many did not take care of them. 

Fifteen years ago, you could buy them for 100 bucks. Today, when they do come on sale, they are mostly pricey. Some are being hawked for eyebrow-raising prices with unscrupulous sellers looking for a big payday. A few years ago, someone posted on Amazon most of the catalogue of Juan dela Cruz Band for half a million pesos!

However, believe it or not, there are rich collectors who snap that up in a heartbeat. While it is good for them and the seller, what it does is raise the prices. Four years ago, the Gapo compilation sold on the average for P4,500. Today? Good luck if you can get it for that price.

The reissues give fans a chance to own classic releases without having to fork out lavish sums, and it gives new fans, especially today’s generation, a chance to discover some of these greats. A slice of OPM history if you will. 

For older fans, it gives them a chance to own a second copy or their first copy.

Here we go again with these prices

Just as there are positives to the reissues, there is the downside to them.

When these reissues started hitting the racks around 2015, they sold for P1,500. By the first celebration of Record Store Day in the Philippines in 2017, there were sold at a special price of P1,200 (they did go back to the old price ceiling soon after).

What is annoying about these reissues is even decades after, they still have not got it right. It’s just a jacket and the record in plastic. That’s it. No liner notes, photos, inserts or what. 

Even worse, the source for their reissues are compact discs! 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these local record companies went to the independent sellers and sold them at their retail cost (not wholesale) and the latter agreed to put a ceiling to the new retail price at P1,900. 

However, subsequent releases when the initial batch would sell out, some raised prices to P2,200 to P2,500.

By creating this so-called limited release, people frantically buy them as they are afraid of being left out. But let me tell you this: anything put out by a major label will not be “limited” in nature. It will be out again. 

Independent record labels have a different mindset. They put them out in lower press runs. 

I understand the need to make money, but it does leave a bad taste in the mouth if you understand the scene. 

Indie sellers making an impact

Luckily, there are those who understand and get it right.

The release of Peryodiko’s debut album by indie record seller Backspacer Records is a landmark release. 

Why? Because they took great pains to reimagine the album jacket with the music remastered for vinyl. Furthermore, it sounds great! It all comes in a neat package with numbering to make it even more special. All for P1,800 (although you can be sure if and when it hits the re-sale market, it will go up).

Backspacer Records has been not only bold, but also a trailblazer. Their upcoming release of Itchyworms’ fifth album “Waiting for the End to Start” is huge because it gives this indie rock band’s last album another shot in the arm.

Imagine it took an indie seller to teach the so-called majors a lesson in doing it right. 

Even Grey Market Records, run by Jay Amante, which is for the most part a re-seller of foreign titles, has been engaged in putting out local product for some time now. 

With the release of the indie band compilation, "Other People," they have now started their own label – Grey Market Records. 

Generally, price inflation or packaging imperfection aside, the spate of OPM releases has caused excitement. And it is good to see younger crowds get into them. 

It is good to know that even in this pandemic, the local record scene has found a way to thrive.