You’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?