Reissue-Rampant Industry’s Aims May Not Be True

By: Brian Raftery / April 20, 2007

elviscover.jpgToday’s Wall Street Journal notes that several labels have taken to re-issuing and re-packaging the same classic album numerous times, all in the hopes of convincing consumers to keep paying for records they already own. Executives claim the new editions are put out to satisfy “completists,” but even we had to have to wonder just how many die-hard fans are going to shell out for the forthcoming “Deluxe Edition” of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True–the fourth such incarnation of the record since the CD era was launched.

Incredibly, the release of the “My Aim Is True Deluxe Edition” doesn’t even set a reissue record. The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” has been reissued in nine configurations since its release in 1966, including three new ones in 2006 alone. Those 40th-anniversary releases included a double LP on green and yellow vinyl records. Miles Davis’s iconic “Kind of Blue” and the Who’s “Live at Leeds” also are contenders for the title of most-reissued albums, with as many as seven incarnations apiece.

Each of these albums has received the serial-reissue treatment for different reasons. Mr. Costello’s compilations, for instance, have moved from label to label because unlike most artists, he owns the rights to his recordings and has periodically struck more lucrative deals.

But there’s a bigger force: In a market that has seen CD sales fall more than 20% so far this year, proven sellers are one of the few bright spots left. The cost of issuing a new version of an album can vary wildly, according to label executives, since it can involve everything from engineering costs to new packaging. But in general, it is much cheaper than creating a new album from scratch for a new — and untested — act.

We understand that slouching sales have set the labels scrambling for revenue, but are we the only ones who find the practice of constantly reissuing the same record over and over again to be a cynical, quick-fix solution? We understand that slouching sales have set the labels scrambling for revenue, but are we the only ones who find the practice of constantly reissuing the same record over and over again–even if there are slight differences with each installment–to be a cynical, quick-fix solution?

Like That Album? Buy It Again, and Again… [WSJ] [reg. required, dangit]