Reissue-Rampant Industry’s Aims May Not Be True

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]

  • Charlie Kerfelds Jetsons Tee

    Can the Beatles please get some full-on reissue love? Not just via iTunes, mind you. I’m talking full-on LP reproductions, here.

    That little static pop in “Helter Skelter” annoys the shit out of me.

  • Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue

    “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?”

    Yeah, I’d never expect the record industry to be cynical or try an uncreative quick fix.

  • themeparkexperience

    I don’t think anything can top Rhino’s reissue of the Costello catalog. You can’t argue with a bonus disc of material and Costello’s own liner notes.

    If this wasn’t mentioned in the article, I’ll add this: Bowie’s catalog has been reissued an insane about of times. I’ve wanted to get into his stuff, but I didn’t want to get the shaft when a newer, deluxe edition came out after I bought an older copy.

    Lastly, what about all these records that originally came out a few years ago getting the reissue treatment? Do “the kids” really want that deluxe reissue of Hawthorne Heights’ ‘The Silence in Black and White’ or Fall Out Boy’s ‘Take This To Your Grave’? It seems those labels are abusing the reissue treatment. Once it was for records that stood the test of time. Now it’s something else.

  • PengIn

    I’m sure there are plenty of people who’re not going to shell out for a disc they already own just to get a couple of b-sides they can find for free via the tubes. The same theory applies to greatest hits collections that throw in a b-side or two to fuck over the crowd that already has all of your dead husband’s albums, Courtney.

  • Cassiel

    In defense of some of the “Kind Of Blue” reissues, the remastering that was done in the early ’90′s (and subsequent reissues)actually corrected tape-speed errors that had persisted throughout all the previous releases, even the original LP. However, since it’s definitely in the category of jazz albums that you can always find in the collection of folks who have less than a dozen jazz albums, Columbia will certainly keep dragging that particular cash cow out of the barn whenever they feel like more ducats.

    Watch for the next avalanche of pointless reissues to be spearheaded by 5.1 surround-sound remixes of boomer-era rock records to provide fodder for expensive home-theater rigs.

  • Hallux Valgus

    oh! I see what you did there.

  • coolfer

    labels aren’t reissuing labels in hopes of a quick fix. they did the same thing when sales were booming. the more recent trend is for a quick (a year or less after the original came out) deluxe edition that throws on a bonus track or two.

  • xtianrut

    Idolators, did you reissue that closing sentence, with a bonus parenthetical statement, to be funny? Because if you did, that’s the best, most subtle blog joke I’ve seen maybe ever.

  • Niles

    I don’t mind these reissues a bit. Rabid fanboys buy the expensive reissues for the alternate take of the b-side where the drummber passes gas. They proceed to sell their original copy to a used cd store….and I end up with the entire Slowdive catalog (or 9 Bunnymen records, or something) for $20

  • AcidReign

    …..In the old days, it was not uncommon to have to buy a good LP several times, as you literally wore the grooves out from playing the thing over and over again! And I’ve bought CD reissues of old LPs just because the needle on my turntable wore out again, and those things are a pain to track down!

    …..Seriously, who buys a CD without looking at the songs on it? And I’ll have to second the comment on “Helter Skelter.” I love the White Album, but all I have is an ancient, faded bootleg Maxell cassette version of it.

  • iantenna

    this is a nasty little practice that we in the reissue business like to call “fuck the fans.”

  • unperson

    Best deal I’ve recently gotten on a reissue: Wisin & Yandel’s Pa’l Mundo, which came out in a single-disc version in 2005, then re-appeared in mid-2006 as a 2CD+DVD set for a dollar more (at least, if you bought yours at Target, like me).

  • Juancho

    @Cassiel: What Cassiel says is true, and jazz labels are the worst at it. Hey, you can get that hard to find side in a limited-edition box from Mosaic! And then, when that sells out, in a box from (insert big-name original label who now owns the tapes) here! Then you can get it on XRCD! Then 20-bit! Then DVD-Audio! And then 180-gram vinyl! And then…

  • Jupiter8

    The worst offender has to be Andy Partidge of XTC…a band I loved in the 80s.

    I’ve lost track of how many times he’s released “deluxe” versions of that “Apple Venus” crap-demos, instrumental versions, fancy boxes, fancy boxes of the instrumental versions, 7″ box set versions, limited editions with real peacock feathers…I guess this is what happens when you give up hopes of ever hitting the “Big Time”-you just sell the same old crapola to your handful of fans over and over again…isn’t there a mobile phone provider somewhere that wants to license “Are You Receiving Me” or something?