Deluxe Extra Special Editions Of Big Albums: The New Ringles?

Nov 15th, 2007 // 14 Comments

futuresexx.jpgYou’d think that, in these low-selling times, moving 3.8 million copies of an album would be enough for a record label. But you’d be wrong in the case of Jive, which is reissuing Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds in a “deluxe edition” on Nov. 27. The new package features a few new songs–including the JT/Beyonce duet version of “Until The End Of Time”–and a DVD with videos (in case YouTube isn’t good enough for you) and some live performance footage. FutureSex is just one of the recent albums that are being reissued in “enhanced” form to take advantage of the holiday rush and give MP3 blogs new, Google Blog Search-worthy songs to post. But could these rush reissues be having the unwanted effect of actually depressing music sales even further?

“Consumers are getting leery,” says Geoff Mayfield, Billboard’s director of charts. “If there’s an expectation that a high-profile artist will relaunch an album later, you’ve given them a reason to think twice” before they buy.

Early in the trend’s cycle, deluxe editions were issued alongside the original. Some artists, including KT Tunstall, Avril Lavigne and Fall Out Boy*, adopted that model this year.

“Consumers would rather have the choice up front,” Mayfield says. “In the early ’90s, the enhanced package came out the same day. Then someone got the idea to wait and goose sales later in the album’s trajectory. It does give a second life to an album. But artists need to be careful. Consumers can feel played.”

There are exceptions. Mayfield expected an outcry when Beyoncé’s B’Day resurfaced in deluxe form last April, seven months after its initial release. Instead, many owners of the first edition ponied up for the second’s wealth of extras. Sales rose to 126,000 copies the week the deluxe version came out, up 903% from the previous week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“The added tracks almost doubled the content, which kind of makes the first one obsolete,” Mayfield says.

Given that the relationship between the industry and its consumers has been frayed at best, “deluxe versions” like these just seem like the crassest kind of cash-in, meant to squeeze money out of the diehards while shoving aside space in big-box stores that could be used for things like deep catalog. (Especially since among the albums being reissued by labels for a quick cash-in is the recent release by Boys Like Girls; and to build on the “simultaneous deluxe edition” examples floated above, there’s another version of Fall Out Boy’s Infinity On High coming out in time for the holidays, too, with a bonus CD. ) Obviously reissues are part of the music industry’s lifeblood–hello, ad for Led Zeppelin’s Mothership playing on my TV right now–but these new versions of albums that are, in some cases, less than a year old aren’t only just giving people more reason to download illegally or buy music by the dreaded track-by-track format, they’re completely depleting the reserves of “bonuses” for 20th-anniversary editions of these albums. Or is this yet another example of the music industry planning for its inevitable obsolescence at the earliest possible date?

Will fans buy Timberlake’s ‘FutureSex’/deluxe edition, too? [USA Today]

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idolator

  1. Tenno

    This kind of thing really irritates me, case in point: the deluxe version of Gnarls Barkely released like months after the original based on it’s sudden popularity. ERK!

  2. Rob Murphy

    Somewhat off-topic, but…

    As great as FutureSex / LoveSounds is, it could’ve been better without so much of Timbaland’s “interlude” mast-, er, self-expression. I know, he’s showing off his skillz, but the “interludes” on this record went on way too long in some cases, and often noticeably detracted from the quality of the terrific pop songs to which they were attached. “Sexyback” and “Chop Me Up” are brilliant without any “prelude” or “interlude” filler, and what does the “Let Me Talk To You Prelude” add to “My Love”?

    A “special edition” of this record without some of that — and with [perhaps] a couple of new tunes and/or some of the terrific remixes that leaked out last fall — would be very interesting to me.

    Someone had to say it — please don’t “eject” me or have me “bounced” or whatever you guys do to your unruly commenters…

  3. Halfwit

    This happens a lot when a remix of a song becomes popular. While not the most exemplary case, I got burned on Pete Yorn’s “musicforthemorningafter” when the “rock” remix of “Strange Condition” got some radio play. I did what (I imagine) most people do in these situations — download the “bonus” tracks off your favorite filesharing program.

  4. silkyjumbo

    @DHMBIB: I actually like some of the interludes on FS/LS. If those are removed then you stand to lose one of the strongest moments on the cd, like the last part of “LoveStoned” (“I Think She Knows Interlude”). I wouldn’t mind a disc of remixes, though.

    I figure if you weren’t kicked off for talking Justin, I might be safe too. Or we go down together.

  5. Rob Murphy

    There’s also another side to this that the USAT piece almost completely ignores — the “deluxe” or “special” edition re-release that actually includes music the fans want.

    Slightly different from the B’Day example discussed in this piece. Take, for example, Shakira’s 2005 CD Oral Fixation Vol. 2. IIRC, it was a complete flop at its initial release. A few months after the release, Shakira guested on Wyclef Jean’s “Hips Don’t Lie”, which became a smash hit in no small part due to the fact that they “debuted” it on American Idol. After the exclusive Verizon tie-in expired, Sony “re-released” Oral Fixation Vol. 2 along with this track, and the CD finally started selling. Also, the track finally hit iTunes at the same time, which offered a special Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 bundle that goosed sales of the excellent Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 as well. I don’t remember fans complaining in the spring of ’06 that they were being “cheated” by this “special edition”.

    [I may be pulling some of these "facts" out of my arse, BTW. Don't feel like chasing down the exact historical record right now.]

    Jennifer Lopez and Sony did something very similar back in 2001 with J.Lo after the Ja Rule remixes proved to be much more popular than the album cuts. Again, no outcry there, because the fans were actually being offered a better product — one which many fans did not already have.

  6. AL

    Is the asterisk next to Fall Out Boy just to make sure we take note of yet another FOB mention on Idolator? (I’m not complaining, fyi.)

  7. Maura Johnston

    @aluberalles: Hahaha, no, whoops! That was some negligent editing on my part.

    (The show last night was fun, though. Hee hee.)

  8. Nately

    The worst example of this ever was Bruce Springteen’s “Tracks.” A 4-disc box set, followed immediately by an 18-track “sampler” that contained only 3 new songs. In the pre-Napster era too, forcing die hards to pay $17.99 for three tunes after already ponying up $60 or so for the box.

    Record companies suck.

  9. noamjamski

    Dear RIAA,

    Please bring back the EP and the Maxi-single. You can double dip into an artist’s fan base and no one feels cheated.

  10. Chris N.

    I’m very annoyed at the new “deluxe edition” of the Paul McCartney record, which includes a DVD — plus the same damn bonus tracks that appeared on the previous “deluxe edition,” which was released at the same time as the standard album.

    Anyway, this is the same thing movie companies pull with “double-dip” DVDs. I never buy a movie on DVD if it doesn’t have a lot of extras, because I know that means that within six months they’ll release a “deluxe edition” with a bunch more crap for the same price.

  11. Al Shipley

    Are you guys really trying to spin this as a “new” trend? The top selling albums of ’04 (Usher) and ’05 (Mariah and 50) had victory lap deluxe editions with new singles/remixes, too, it’s seemed like an industry standard for any album (pop/R&B at least) that reaches a certain sales plateau for a while now.

  12. coolfer

    This article is written every so often, and it’s late to the party every single time. This is hardly a new trend. (This has been going on forever. Earliest one I can think of: Stones Roses debut was re-released with “Fools Gold” after the song became a hit. That was 1990.) All kinds of albums are re-released, both popular and underground albums. (Any idea how many heavy metal albums get the deluxe treatment? A ton.) Do they take advantage of hardcore fans? Only if those fans find enough value in the re-release to buy the thing. But I can’t say that offering something of value is the same as taking advantage of somebody. Do music critics inflate the re-release into a bigger issue than it should be? Yes. This is not one of those business items that should be thrown into the “grasping at every straw” category into which music writers lump pretty much anything a label does these days.

  13. Halfwit

    To all –

    Keeping in mind that I did cite the “successful single after the official album release,” I think these guys are talking about the automatic victory lap re-release (more along the lines of what governmentnames is talking about). If you know (or can reasonably suspect) that they’re just gonna release the same thing again in 3 months with a DVD, why would you lay out the money now? Ride it out for a while (or download it off Limewire and ride it out for a while), then pick up the better package.

    As a CD buyer, even I can recognize that it’s a sucker bet at this point.

  14. Oldboy

    These Deluxe Editions are SO aggravating. Even Neko Case has succumbed. It’s really an insult to us “early adapters” of an artist’s work. Enough already…

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