Who knew that labels could actually cash in on prisoners, a new demographic! According to a recent Billboard story, record labels have picked up more than $5 million from federal, state and local prison systems since 2003. Although that figure may seem small, Bob Paris of North Hollywood-based Pack Central says, “I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers.” He adds, “I don’t have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally.”
Paris’ Pack Central, which runs a mail order operation for about 50,000 prisoners has been doing very well especially with the release of this year’s biggest albums including Lil Wayne’s ‘The Carter III,’ Mariah Carey’s ‘E=MC2,’ Lyfe Jennings’ ‘Life Change,’ Rihanna’s ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ and Usher’s ‘Here I Stand,’ which are all on the companies best sellers list.
Cassettes account for about 60% of unit sales, since CDs are contraband in many prisons because the hard plastics can be used for nefarious means. The screws that hold many cassettes together are also verboten, so owner Bob Paris must manually remove them. Paris says he started stockpiling cassettes five years ago. “People thought I was nuts when I invested tons of money in analog prerecorded music on tape,” he says.
Pack Central sends out its catalog twice a year, with monthly mailers featuring new titles. Prisoners pay for product through money orders or checks drawn on a spendable trust account set up by their family members. Given the harsh business climate for music retailers, Paris is thrilled that his business has been flat for the last five years, with sales hitting more than $1 million annually, it stocks about 10,000 CDs and 5,000 cassette titles.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 2.3 million people were locked up in federal, state or local systems at midyear 2007.