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."
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:
U2- ACHTUNG BABY- SUPER DELUXE
(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.)
U2- ACHTUNG BABY- UBER DELUXE
(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.)
THE WHO- QUADROPHENIA- DIRECTOR'S CUT
(4 CDS, 1 DVD, 1 7")
THE SMITHS COMPLETE
(This actually makes sense, except I hate The Smiths.)
ROLLING STONES- SOME GIRLS
(2 CDS, 1 DVD)
JETHRO TULL- AQUALUNG (40TH ANNIVERSARY)
(3 CDS, 1 LP)
PINK FLOYD- WISH YOU WERE HERE (IMMERSION BOX)
(2 CDS, 2 DVDS, 1 BLU-RAY)
THE BEACH BOYS- THE SMILE SESSIONS
(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.