Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Tom Petty's second and third breakdowns

I just authored a post on my "JEBredCal" blog entitled "Breakouts, go ahead and give them to me." I doubt that many people will realize why the title was written this way, but perhaps they'll understand it if they click a particular link in the post. The post deals with breakout rooms on Zoom and other popular videoconferencing platforms, but in one instance in the post I chose to use the word "breakdown" rather than "breakout."

Some of you see where this is going.

The song "Breakdown" was on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' very first album, but after his second album was released and before the third, Petty had a "breakdown" of sorts with his record company. This historical event was documented at

Unhappy with the terms of his contract with Shelter Records, Petty seized upon the sale of Shelter by ABC to industry giant MCA as justification to declare himself, in effect, a free agent.

Coincidentally, my JEBredCal post also uses the term "free agent." It's a small world after all.

Petty went to some extremes to fight his contract, even declaring bankruptcy at one point. In the end he won, a new record label released "Damn The Torpedoes," and Petty and the Heartbreakers became household names. 

Then Petty prepared to release his fourth album, and his record label had a little surprise for him. Because of his immense popularity, the new record was going to be released at the incredibly exorbitant price of...$9.98. 

Now to be fair, albums in those days were shorter than the albums that were released 20 years later when CDs were popular. 1980-era albums had to fit on vinyl, and therefore were much shorter. Still, $9.98 was a very high price for a record at the time, prompting Petty to complain that his fans were being fleeced. 

If we don’t take a stand, one of these days records are going to be $20. 

Petty won that battle, but in the end the record industry won the war. If you go to Amazon today and try to buy a vinyl copy of the Petty/Heartbreakers album "Hard Promises," it will cost you...over $20.


To be fair, vinyl is now considered a luxury item. You can get an MP3 version for $9.49...

...which is at least cheaper than $9.98.


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