Monday, October 31, 2011

Please Sir, May I Have Some Less


If you use Rhino Handmade as a barometer, "limited edition" means, "available at a ridiculously high price for a limited time before we sell the exact same thing, or something similar for a lot less."

Exhibit A:

This 4 CD set, when first issued, was $80. Aretha fans jumped on it. Then, as fast as you can say, "Bill Graham," it was out of print. Gone for good. Right? Private collectors now ask $400 for this, 2 complete performances of the Queen Of Soul with King Curtis.

But there's this-

It's a 2 CD set that features one complete performance with bonus tracks from the other performance. It's almost the same music as the "limited edition," less the King Curtis set. Almost. But it's a much nicer $13.99 from our good friends at Rhino. So far, no problem. Limited run of everything for $80. Regular release for $14.

But, what about that King Curtis set?



Purchase these two sets, and you have a good portion of everything found on the limited set for less than half of the original price and about $360 less than what the limited piece goes for now on the collectors market. 

I understand the process of rereleasing something years after it goes out of print, but the two sets above were released only a year after the limited edition. Where's the fun in that?

Rhino Handmade has taken this practice to new levels, offering most of their "hurry and up and get them NOW or else they'll be gone" releases as both iTunes and Amazon downloads. Sure, that was inevitable with their back catalogue, but was it necessary for the 25-50 "limited" titles?

Take a look at some of what's due:

Here's Elvis Costello's "limited edition."

The fanatic inside me seems to be focused on what Elvis Costello is offering for $252, as if anything but 220 dollar bills along with the CD and DVD would make this acceptable. Would I be more forgiving if, like the Grateful Dead and Dick, Elvis offered a complete performance of any one of his "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" shows instead of some truncated representation? Not really, but it seems to be less of a slap in the kisser for the fans.

The price point of $252, from a man who has made it public that he doesn't want to record new music for major labels anymore because they've never treated him right, is a tad offensive and hypocritical.  Not even the DVD in this super-deluxe nonsense, which is technically capable with all its layers to accomodate a director's cut of "Berlin Alexanderplatz," offers more than an incomplete live show.

It's the holiday season so the big boxes are expected.

Here are some numbers:

(6 CDs, 4 DVDs)
(2 of the CDs included are "Achtung Baby" and "Zooropa," which are both selling for $0.01 on Amazon, by the way.)

(6 CDS, 4DVDS, and a whole lotta other stuff. If you look closely at the picture at the very top, I think you can see one of Larry Mullen Jr.'s fingers.)

(4 CDS, 1 DVD, 1 7")

(8 CDS)
(This actually makes sense, except I hate The Smiths.)

(2 CDS, 1 DVD)

(3 CDS, 1 LP)

(2 CDS, 2 DVDS, 1 BLU-RAY)


(5 CDS, 2 LPS, 2 45s, 2 posters, 1 hardcover book)

At my count, that's 20 CDs, 9 DVDs, 3 LPs, 2 45s, and 1 book, plus some other shit none of us really need like wheels and stickers, and if you include the Pink Floyd, "Dark Side Of The Moon-Immersion Box" in this lot, scarves and marbles, for a grand total of $1200, $1330 with "Dark Side Of The Moon"...and really, only about 5 hours worth of new music. Plus, it's only "new music" for those fans who have never bought a bootleg in their lifetime, as most of the outtakes, demos, and remixes on all of these sets have appeared elsewhere, officially or not, over the years.

I think it's out of hand. 

I see the options. One could just buy the 2 CD version of "Achtung Baby," with features a remastered version of the album proper and a disc of b-sides. That's $20. But the obvious appeal is what's in the big box. The question is, must it be $400? Sure, the middle set is only $100 more, but then you're stuck with 4 DVDs, which for me means nothing. I just want the audio.

Is your head spinning? Mine is.

Speaking of The Beach Boys "Smile Sessions," tune in tomorrow to find out why this is not only the best of the lot, but one of the best releases of its kind.


johnlewitt said...

I just stumbled upon your blog a couple weeks ago and have been enjoying your posts.

You missed the Smile Sessions package that comes with a surf board. It 'only' costs $5,999!

kevin m said...

I bought Some Girls when it was released on LP 30 plus years ago. A decade later, I bought it again when it was released on CD. A decade after that, I bought the remastered version. I just can't see the 4th time being the charm.

cmealha said...

I'm not a big fan of these bix sets and I've never bought one but I'm making an exception for Smile. I am in awe of Brian Wilson and can't wait to hear the complete original plus eavesdrop on the process of creating some of the most amazing music ever made. I know you didn't like Brian Wilson's recent version which I love. I hope we can agree on this one.

steves said...

Although you have to laugh at the prices on some of these sets--and shed a tear for the poor diehards who are being played for suckers--it's not all that difficult to understand the labels' position here. They've been slammed hard by digital downloads (of both the legal and illicit variety), and have been completely unable to formulate any sort of effective counter-strategy. So, naturally, they've been "forced" to rely on the old reliable standby: Ripping off the fans.

That there are people both stupid and wealthy enough to actually buy these sets in these hard times is what I personally find most amazing.

Wax said...

"Please Sir, May I Have Some Less" - Brilliant!! - Found your blog via a Google question of What the hell happened to A Girl Called Eddy. So, yup she should pull her thumb out and release a single at least. "The folks these days got real short tension spans."

Next. How many f**king times can you but the same album over? Hmmm... Is it any wonder the record business is kaput. Now being collector scum myself I have in my new old age have drawn the line. My ONLY criteria now is if they make it sound better. If not, then you keep your geegaws and fluff. And lastly... whoever masters at Rhino should be shot (Re: New Order, Talking Heads and Jesus & Marychain reissues), a premium price for poor sound. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Dave said...


I'm a big fan of Erin Moran/eddy. she is indeed working on a new Cd.

Amazon seems to be mailing the CD set irregularly. A friend of mine in the Bay area received her set on Friday. I just got a notice that it was shipped on Monday.

A walk in the woods said...

I'm with you Sal on not caring about the DVD's that seem to be everyone's sweet love child these days. In fact whenever I've gotten a DVD as a bonus on any CD purchase I've rarely if ever even looked at 'em once. A DVD doesn't rock me as I'm flyin' over hills on my bike with my iPod on! Just want the audio...

As for this tendency towards pricey box sets, I can see some music company guys sitting around a table saying, "Our base of music fans is shrinking -- at least in terms of people who go to a record store and buy music -- so we have to get more out of the ones that still do."

Which in a way I'm not against. I don't mind being catered to as a niche core of old-school record buyers. I do of course mind when it includes DVDs I don't care about and the price is too high. I wish we could find a little balance.

cmealha said...


You better not be toying with me about A Girl Called Eddy.

soundsource said...

Hallelujah, couldn't have said it better myself and I think I may have about a million times. Thank god for the inter nest.

TigerSoul said...

Don't be such a curmudgeon. The boxed sets are the industry's way of comforting those of us who fear that all physical media will disappear overnight. I have only purchased a few of these deluxe treatments over the years, but I love the creativity and passion that goes into the production. And often times, some treasures have been unearthed. It's up to the consumer to ultimately decide which of these is truly worth the investment. Completists unite!

Sal Nunziato said...

"Completetists unite!"

See you at the soup kitchen with 12 versions of "Mysterious Ways."