Digital City: How did you get the idea for this business?
Kris: After the dot-com implosion, I wanted to simplify my life, and examined all my worldly possessions. De-cluttering was quite liberating; giving up “stuff” set me free. The car went back to the leasing company. Suits and ties went to a therapist friend. “Early adapter” purchases, like the Apple Newton, a Psion PDA, and one of the first digital cameras from Sony, went on eBay. I donated a 75-pound heavy color laser printer that had cost $5,000 to the East-West school in Queens.
Getting rid off my unused CDs was the most difficult task. I didn’t want to throw them in the garbage because CDs are very difficult for the environment to break down. Trying to sell my CDs to used record stores was a humbling and humiliating experience. First of all, I had to get all my CDs in a cab and travel across town. The guy in the first store towered on a bar stool behind a desk on some stage and made smacking noises while he went through my collection. He quipped that he was only interested in “high art” and then made a ridiculous lowball offer. I walked out and had to cough up another $12 for a second cab ride.
It started to rain and the handles of the bags I was carrying were giving in. The second store felt like a shooting gallery where cunning junkies were dealing in stolen loot. Unfortunately, only a handful of my 320 CDs were to their liking. Another cab ride later I was standing in front of a guy who put on a theatrical performance trying to convince me how disgusting my taste in music was. How dare I bring such crap to his store! It took me another $20 to get back home with my whole collection intact. I hadn’t sold a single item!
That rainy afternoon taught me that it was very difficult to recycle your used CD collection and keep your human dignity intact. I have lived in New York for many years and I just didn’t like this feeling of being a sucker.
Money aside, I wanted to make sure that somebody would appreciate my collection as much as I did when I bought it over the years. That afternoon, the idea for iPodMeister was born.
Digital City: What’s the biggest amount you’ve received from one person?
Kris: 7986 CDs from a former record executive who lived on Central Park West. All the walls in his living room were covered from floor to ceiling with shelves holding his collection. His wife threatened divorce unless he got rid of his collection. He finally gave in. They got divorced anyway. He moved into the YMCA around the corner.
Digital City: How long does it take to digitize a collection of 300 CDs?
Kris: Two hours and fifty-three minutes.
Digital City: Over the years of doing this, are there any CDs you’ve decided to keep for yourself?
Kris: Yes, for example the historical Classical recordings of the now defunct Andante label. They left them behind in a Tribeca loft when the company went belly up and the landlord used them to barter with us.
Digital City: What are you currently listening to?
Kris: Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, conducted by Karl Boehm with Walter Gieseking at the piano.
Trade CDs, DVDs for an iPod or iPhone
by Rick Broida
Forget Craigslist. Forget eBay. Forget garage sales. Do you want to spin that jewel-cased straw into gold? Head to iPodMeister, where you can trade your old CDs for a brand-new hard drive, iPod, or even iPhone.
Here’s how it works: You pack up your CDs (or DVDs), then e-mail the company to let them know how many boxes you have. It then sends you prepaid FedEx labels. That’s right: iPodMeister covers the shipping cost.
Interestingly, iPodMeister also gives you the option of digitizing your CD collection, meaning you get back not only your free gadget, but also a set of DVDs containing your music in (presumably) MP3 format. But that “costs extra” (meaning more discs). My guess is most folks have already ripped their CDs to MP3s.
I’ll admit that all this sounds a little too good to be true, but I’ve yet to find a single complaint about the company. For your reference, check out Consumerist’s recent interview with iPodMeister, this guy’s review of the service from March, and the company’s Facebook page.
Rick Broida, a technology writer for nearly 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET’s The Cheapskate blog, he oversees BNET’s Business Hacks. Follow Rick on Twitter at cheapskateblog.
Business plays disk jockey for Apple goodies
Offers new must-haves for old CDs
BY: Leigh Remizowski
ATTENTION all cash-strapped gadget geeks: Here’s a chance to score some pricey electronics by dumping your disks instead of spending your dollars.
Queens-based company iPodMeister offers techies around the country a chance to trade in their old CDs and DVDs for Apple products such as iPods, the much-coveted iPad and the soon-to-be released iPhone 4.
“The fact is, they’re really expensive,” said Kris Schrey, who founded iPodMeister in 2004. “So we offer people a way to get a very expensive device with no money.”
iPodMeister swaps dusty music collections for brand-new electronics. iPods “cost” 180 to 500 CDs or DVDs, iPhones go for 180 to 600 and iPads run 700 to 1,600 disks, depending on hard-drive size and features. Customers can also trade for external hard drives.
Since offering the iPad in mid-May, iPodMeister has “sold” more than 100 of the trendy gadgets, and customers are preordering the iPhone 4 – which will be released Thursday – “like crazy,” Schrey said.
“This is truly without any tricks, gimmicks or fees,” he said. He even e-mails customers prepaid FedEx labels so they can ship their CDs to iPodMeister’s Long Island City office for free.
Schrey’s staff of about 20 college students and artists sort through the CDs and DVDs, making sure they aren’t scratched or water damaged and that they correspond with the cases they were sent in.
The disks are then sorted by genre and sold overseas, based on a country’s demand for that type of music or movie.
“Maybe your taste has changed, but someone in a foreign country will listen to it,” Schrey said.
Alan Rubenstein, a technical writer who lives in Manhattan, turned to iPodMeister in February when he decided it was time to upgrade from his five-year-old MP3 player to an iPod Classic.
“I had all these CDs that I never played, so it seemed like a no-brainer,” said Rubenstein, 57, who had stored all his music on an external hard drive.
“There’s no real reason to have the hard copies anymore,” said Ryan Licata, 36, of Amherst, N.Y. He turned in 340 CDs and DVDs in exchange for a hard drive.
“It was a good way to recycle them and get something in return,” he said.
By collecting hundreds of thousands of CDs each year, Schrey and his staff have created a network of foreign buyers and have learned several tricks of the trade.
He knows that classical music sells best in Taiwan and Korea, jazz compilations are popular in Europe and that mass-produced pop CDs like Britney Spears albums are virtually worthless.
“The case will sell for 20 cents, but the CD is only worth 1 cent,” Schrey said.