Record Pricing Differences
As an employee of the industry I fully expect to get flamed to death for this but try and understand the following.
A record is not like a car in that its is ultimately the same Ford company that will sell the same car to each country in europe.
Records are licensed to different labels for different territories, much like books and films are. Each label in each country has to do its own promotion, its own printing, its own pressing and its own advertising. Costs are duplicated in every country. Yes you could say a single label could release in every country, but there is not enough money in selling records in some countries for even the larger labels to have a working label in every territory. The premise of records being territory restricted is that each label can recoup its own costs without fear of the same track being parallel imported from another country, except by way of very small volume CD/Vinyl imports. If you want territory restrictions to dissapear you need centralised labels, they could only financially survive in maybe 4 European countries - UK, Germany, France and Italy. The rest would go bust in weeks.
The reason for wanting to keep the small labels in countries and support the current per territory licensing regieme - simple, these labels are also making and producing localised music and content to their specific country and culture. A lot of this is financially subsidised by licensed recordings from other countries. If you lose one you lose the local content too and that would be a crying shame.
As for US vs UK costs. In the US plastics cheaper, advertisings cheaper, staff are cheaper, music videos are cheaper, distribution is cheaper. Britain is a big rip off for anything media based and that applies at wholesale and industry service level as much as it does retail. Nigh on all UK CDs are pressed in the UK, we don't simply import US stock and the cost of pressing and pacakging alone is 4x what it is in the US. The levy applied by the mechanical copyright association in the UK is also higher than in the US. VAT takes 17.5% off the price of a CD, but the label loses another ~10% to the MCPS and 15% to its distributor before it see's any money back. With the supermarkets being so powerful they are also now demanding large discounts on wholesale price - so that can be another 20% gone for smaller titles.
I know people have the perception that the music industry is just the major labels and that they are all rolling in cash and are massive industries. But they pale in comparison to most big companies now and the power of the indie is rising. Please don't beat indies with the stick you all love to beat the majors with. We pay artists much higher royalties and offer much fairer deals. Any one who thinks the music industry makes too much profit and its the consumer thats getting ripped off really should look closer into the figures.
And before anyone says "but bands make loads from touring", yes they do, but the labels see 0% of it.