Reissue? Repackage? What To Do About Out-Of-Print Music

Nov 28th, 2006 // 6 Comments

We’re crate-diggers at heart, so we were intrigued by Avant Music News’ piece on whether or not there should be a price on out-of-print music:

A great deal of music is out-of-print, including many recordings that have a viable, but small, audience. The recordings remain out-of-print in most cases because the cost of re-printing, re-pressing, and/or re-mastering is several times the amount of money that can be made by offering legitimate copies for sale. However, should this potential audience of perhaps several hundred individuals lose the opportunity to enjoy what in their minds might be a classic? Should art be not seen, not heard and not experienced because of its lack of commercial viability?

While the recordings may only exist in LP format or both LP and CD formats, the market for certain rare recordings on eBay and other forums can be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. One can debate the intricacies and justifications of free-market economics, but is it fair, or is it just for savvy collectors to profit off of the second-hand selling of art while the artist doesn’t get a cut?

It’s a thorny issue, and the piece has no real solutions, although the author does note that “collector scum” who make money off of rare records may not be bringing in as much cash as their absurd single-item prices might indicate. Obviously, we’re in favor of as much music being made available as possible, but in the digital age, is that expectation too costly? Perhaps, as Avant Music News gamely suggests, artists need to plan for their albums’ expiration dates by negotiating contracts better, and having the rights revert to them after a finite period of time–then they can re-release their music on their own terms, which protects themselves from situations where only others are profiting from their creativity.

AMN Opinion: Should Out-of-Print Music Be Free? [Avant Music News]


  1. Juancho

    The niche of people who are willing to have their wallets exploited for the sake of 1970s Italian horror soundtracks is larger than you’d think.

    “Dude, you’ve got to hear this work Goblin did for Argento, man, it’s even better when you’re stoned…”

    Because the pretty colors in an Argento movie aren’t enough, y’know?

  2. Spiny Norman

    The solution is out there right now! You would be astounded at what appears on Bittorrent sometimes. If it’s not profitable to sell it, why not seed it out there on the interwebs and let the fanboys rejoice?

  3. spinachdip

    Which reminds me, is the Traveling Wilburys getting reissued any time soon? And I’d love to see the stuff David Bowie and Johnny Cash sang in German printed again.

  4. coolfer

    p2p and bit torrent do not discriminate between commercially available and out-of-print titles. besides, i have a hard time believing p2p users will be overcome by a moral or legal dilemma.

    using p2p comes with a very low risk of punishment, but i don’t recall ever reading that a major label sued a person for downloading an out-of-print song. it’s usually a michael jackson or phil collins song.

  5. kerrang

    sorry, this post is coming a little late but i’ve been told the traveling wilbury’s will be getting a reissue early next year by a label in germany i believe..

  6. deusdiabolus

    I personally believe that if record companies really wanted to “prevent losses and protect artists”, they would all be setting up massive server banks and making every single record they ever released available for download through their own websites. How long would it really take to setup a secure storefront, record each and every master they had to high-quality MP3, and put it up?

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