Sure, some people might be dismayed that the number of people being housed by America’s prison system is ever-growing, but you won’t catch Bob Paris, owner of Pack Central, among them. In fact, thanks to skyrocketing incarceration rates, his slice of the music business is booming! Paris’ company sells music to some 50,000 prisoners across this great land, with a warehouse that carries 10,000 CD titles and 5,000 cassettes. Cassettes are preferred by many prison complexes because they can’t easily be turned into weapons, although many titles don’t even come out on cassette anymore. (Also: Paris has to manually remove the screws that hold each tape together because they’re forbidden.) This story is one of those pieces that makes you realize just how bad the music industry has it right now, from the lede, which says that Pack Central is “doing nicely” in the face of record-retailer turmoil, all the way down to the “you can’t download in jail” point. At least Billboard‘s thought enough to include lists of the most popular current and catalog titles, so we can get a glimpse of the human side of the operation.
Popular current titles include:
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Mariah Carey, E=MC2
Usher, Here I Stand
Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad
Nickelback, All the Right Reasons
Leona Lewis, Spirit
Lyfe Jennings, Life Change
And the all-time big albums:
Al Green’s Greatest Hits
Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory
Michael Jackson, Thriller
Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon
A best-of collection by the Stylistics
You’d think that the popularity of the Al Green best-of would result in Paris merchandising that album with Lay It Down, but I guess when you have a built-in customer base you don’t really need to be all that creative.