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Don’t Stream It’s Over: Let’s make physical reissues special again

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Why streaming deluxe and super deluxe editions as soon as they are released is damaging physical sales of music reissues

I was chatting to a friend of mine in the pub the other night and inevitably the conversation turned to music. I was trying to persuade him to get his old turntable out and start picking up some cheap used vinyl, when he mentioned that his 18-year old son has never bought any music, ever.

He isn’t stealing it, rather just streaming from Spotify, YouTube etc. Like many of his friends, he literally doesn’t see the need to buy music and because he’s a student and not a BMW-driving 40-something, he hasn’t got the disposable income, anyway.

As an aside, I actually think the last point is irrelevant. I never had any money in my twenties but somehow I’d walk into Tower Records in Piccadillly and always ‘find’ the cash to pick-up something interesting, like, for example, a Japanese CD import ofThe Ipcress File. Yes, I paid £23 for one CD in early nineties and I’m still getting pleasure out of it today. Stick that in your Spotify pipe and smoke it…

Anyway, the point is, that my friend’s son hasn’t grown up in a world of seven-inch ‘double-packs’, limited edition 12-inch picture discs, cassette singles and ‘CD 1’ and ‘CD 2’. So his attitude towards physical music is understandable.

But I did grow up in that world and, most likely, so did you. Therefore, if push comes to shove I will still probably pay £23 for a single CD, if it’s desirable enough. I do buy box sets and I do enjoy ‘holding the music in my hands’, to coin a phrase.

I am very much the target market for physical reissues, whether they be 2CD deluxe editions, multi-disc box sets or similar. So why, I wonder, are record labels treating me like an 18-year old and putting all this supposedly ‘deluxe’ content on streaming sites? Are they trying to actively stymie sales of physical music, or what?

I love physical product, but I’m also human and if you tempt me by shaking something ‘free’ in your left hand and something that costs £12.99 in your right, I might just opt for the one where I don’t pay £13 for it. I mean, let’s think about this. You (the record label) may well have spent ages searching in the archives for those ‘rare’ demos to used as bonus tracks, then patiently spent time ‘baking’ tapes so the decades-old spools don’t stick in the tape machines, then you might visit Abbey Road Studios to remaster (or maybe even remix) the old tapes. Then you go to the trouble of commissioning sleeve notes, and hopefully make an effort with packaging. And at the very end of that lengthy process, somewhat ludicrously, you allow the prospective purchaser the opportunity to click a few icons on his computer, access a streaming service like Spotify, have a half-listen and perhaps dismiss your product in SECONDS.

Where is the logic in that? Why would you do that? What’s wrong with saying, “if you want to enjoy what we think is a great physical product, then please buy it. But if you don’t, you are just going to have to do without, since there is no other way to purchase this music.”

Isn’t the point of deluxe physical products, to target the age group that still wants to buy them? So why are record labels trying to tempt *that* demographic (me and you) into not bothering? Also, having something available FREE (or close to free) online just devalues the physical product you have to pay for. And it’s confusing. Just what is the value of music these days anyway? It’s constantly being degraded. I know a cappuccino has a value of about £2 to £2.40 round my way. I know that, because that’s what I get charged. There is no ‘free’ option that involves me picking up my coffee and walking around the back of the shop where I’m forced to look at some ads on a wall (note-to-self: business idea for coffee shop…).

The reason I’m ranting a bit about this is because I’m passionate about physical music and I honestly believe that this policy of putting content from archival box sets (and deluxe editions) on streaming services as soon as they are released physically, is going to hurry physical product to an early grave. And I really don’t want that to happen.

I should add that I’m not some stuck-in-the-mud who wants to ban Netflix and make everyone go back to renting VHS’s from Blockbuster Video. All I am saying is that in a world where physical music sales are declining year-on-year, this tactic of giving consumers the option not to buy your product seems crazy.

None of these arguments really apply to ‘frontline’ new releases. Clearly there is a whole different model there and streaming offers lots of leverage for the younger demographic to stream, share, get it ‘trending’ etc. But the pertinent point here is in that instance you aren’t really eroding any physical sales because – getting back to my friend’s 18-year old son – no one was really going to buy the CD in the first place, anyway!

My proposal, to preserve physical product – and to keep it profitable for record labels – is that deluxe reissues, box sets and the like (i.e. old music that is being reissued physically) – should have an exclusive ‘window’ of at least three to six months where it is only available physically. I’m sure this would encourage people to buy more CDs and box sets. Once this period is over it can be casually tossed into the black hole that is streaming.

Good idea, or unworkable nonsense? Leave a comment.


This article was first published in yesterday’s SDE Newsletter. Get this free weekly round-up by subscribing here.

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.

124 Comments

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Griffin

It took me quite some to read through all these posts/comments & didn’ t get lost.

I will always try to buy the physical product, if it’s affordable & worth paying for (not just only a few tracks)! Otherwise I might considering the legal downloads just for the few tracks I really wanted. I also hate that the early birds get punished instead of getting the worms. Die hard fans pre-order the physical products paying a lot more than after a while. And most of the times also with errors/problems!

But I’m agree with you that the exclusive contents (the selling points like first time on CD, never before released tracks etc) should stay exclusive for the physical product. Not for streaming (except standard release/CD1 without bonus/expanded tracks). But perhaps after the physical product is sold out/out of print then for streaming.

Griffin

And BTW I can always do a rip from my physical product & put the files on my ipod. So I can carry all the music I like to listen for the moment always with me on the move/go (in my car/public transportations/walking/running etc)!

j

Paul
I read most of the posts here and few answer your question. I think your idea is a great one!!! To hold back the bonus material would make economic sense to me. At least some of the streaming services are already doing this. On Tidal they had a sampler of the new Dylan Cutting Edge and it inspired me to buy the physical release. In other cases, I will buy the physical release no matter what happens in the digital domain. You can never have enough Jethro Tull!
As to the part about the “black hole that is streaming”, this is not on point. Streaming has become part of the fabric of our society. Tidal has red book quality for $20 per month with around 30 million songs. Wolfgang”s Vault has a huge number of concerts for $5 a month. The sound quality in the Vault is unvarnished and may not sound “correct” for some people. But hey, live Steely Dan is a low fi joy!!! The sound quality of the High Rez can be painful to listen to as the offering may or may not be representationally faithful. And you can take your physical product and use software like J River and create your own database in FLAC format so you can listen to Lou Reed Live in the laundry room.

I bought my first LPs back in 1973 and have never stopped collecting.This is usually the first choice for me.

A lot of people in Texas were very upset when the automobile showed up many moons ago. But today how many people ride a horse to work?

Thanx for the thoughts Paul. Nice post.
J

Glenn

Agree with those that stated that labels should only stream the standard album tracks and not the bonus SDE material. If I pay for a SDE I would expect there to be some exclusivity associated with the purchase. I continue to buy CDs and vinyl (for singles that have tracks not on CD). Will ONLY buy digital for digital-only mixes (which annoys but not much more than all the promo-only mixes that come out).

Dave Jones

Loved the article, been in the CD records biz full time since 1986, I but every cd reissue expanded version of bands I love (or try to). Not sure but is spotify losless audio? that’s at least one thing that may make people pick up the CD version (quality if it’s only mp3 online). It’s becoming a money issue more than anything these days, I have an amazing Discogs store I’m building but less & less buyers of all physical music it seems (I have mainly a CD collectors following to begin with, I never “went back” to the vinyl format).

Francis Wolf

William, without wanting to be negative or disagreeable I would bet real money that dvd’s become obsolete before youtube does.

william

I think the biggest advantage of an artist coming out with a Deluxe or Super Deluxe version of their product is the physical stuff they add to it. The limited edition of a photo book, printed lyrics of the songs, music videos, concert dvds. This is a real difference between downloaded content. I am sure you could see the videos/concerts on Youtube, but how long will this format last? At least you have a physical copy that you can watch over and over again once Youtube becomes a thing of the past. And also, a lot of companies are charging for downloaded content. But as Apple has proven, they can cut off that content once their copyright or right to show that material is up. So, even if you have paid for a digital movie, or digital music, the Companies can take it away.

Francis Wolf

I thought Napster was great.

Paul

I have a huge fear that Apple (the manufacturer of the iPhone, not The Beatles’ record label) will at some point, look to buy the likes of Universal Records. They certainly have the resources in place to enable them to do so. That would not only give them a foothold in the creation of music, but it also allows them to implement a stranglehold on it, by signing artists to their label and releasing music digitally (and uniquely) via iTunes. This not only cuts Amazon et al out of the loop, it also boosts profits for Apple by ensuring a monopoly on artists’ output.

It was a similar scenario in the Eighties when both Sony was producing CD players but not the software (i.e. the CDs themselves). It then purchased CBS Records, which was renamed Sony Music, and the rest is history.

Apple could easily follow in Sony’s tracks, which would ‘lock in’ profits, but importantly potentially mean the end of physical releases for those artists. It would certainly be a tough decision for an artist – on the one hand, their material would only be available via iTunes, but on the other hand they have one of the largest record companies in the world ‘supporting’ and ‘promoting’ them.

There would certainly be a reduced number of super-deluxe box sets available then, but that’s another story, I guess…

Francis Wolf

Weird to read an article in defence of record label profits and the unnecessary manufacture of ‘stuff.’ Surely we should embrace the arrival of technology that means resources don’t need to be wasted anymore. I always thought the digital revolution would be a great democratizing moment for music (even though greedy labels still monopolise and keep a stranglehold.) I found the news pretty depressing last year about the volume of music sales that are from reissues compared to new music. This is not a vibrant creative environment.
Regarding the streaming of reissues, I don’t see the problem, people already know what Phil Collins albums sound like so what is there to lose? Streaming can only create the opportunity to introduce it to someone who (is fortunate enough) to have never heard them before.
I wouldn’t lose sleep over Phil Collins’ sales figures, he’s made enough. I’d be more concerned about all the new music that doesn’t have a voice.

Francis Wolf

Sorry I didn’t realise the website was focused on reissues as opposed to new music. I misunderstood that, and I understand that from such a perspective what you say makes sense. The whole argument just feels a bit regressive to me. My alternative youth culture (in the 90’s) always placed the big music companies as a negative energy towards creativity so it just feels alien to my ears to hear people talk of how we must protect their profits. Popular music usually places itself as a voice for sticking it to the man, not nurturing his share holders.

Gary C

Reading through the comments on the Phil Collins reissues, its a very familiar reaction to what is being continually offered to potential customers.
The easy conclusion to draw is that all these SDEs that people are hankering for physically, are always sub standard, sometimes in the extreme; marbles and scarves, bad packaging, whole discs that need returned and swapped out, booklets badly printed..and never ever someone saying
“that SDE has been nailed, that is exactly as I would have done it”.

So, is there an SDE out there that a fan could say was nailed, and not because it was an SDE deal that, speaking as a carpetbagger myself, wasn’t bought because it was cheap?

Gary C

Gary C

You’d be right Paul, it was a cracker and kudos to all involved including you…and I paid full price for the bugger, bought my ungrateful brother one too

DaveM

The best SDE I have bought that I consider ‘nailed’ is Paul McCartney’s Ram. Great box, artwork, looks great on the shelf, almost like opening an old family treasure, great thought out physiacl content and the CDs sound great. The mono mix of the album gives me goosebumps its that good. If only everyone did it that way…….

Just sayin'

They’re making fun of you boys over on Stereo Central now. And, I gotta say, rightfully so.

Don

“Are they trying to actively stymie sales of physical music, or what?” I think the answer is YES. From the record company’s perspective, if they can sell the same content digitally, for the same price (or sometimes higher!) without having to pay for design, production, etc. of physical sets, of course they’re going to do it. Call it a conspiracy theory, but I think the major labels would be happy to see physical product disappear altogether, and streaming the deluxe sets is just one way they’re trying to do that.

Dave

I do not think digital = disposable. To me it opens up a whole different journey in a way that radio can never do due to the format restrictions.
How many CD’s can I buy anyway just to hear new music ? That makes little sense.
I will pay for the added quality which is why I am surprised that more bluray is not promoted. I know there is a cost to the special editions but it seems to me that current pricing is bizarre as it seems to just want to price me out !

Cal

I collect cd`s but also buy digital and also pay for flac streaming with tidal, i have no issue with any, i like streaming sites especially if they do have the deluxe version it gives me a chance to check it out before deciding, ive been burnt too many times with re-issues, deluxes etc to find out the material has either been badly remastered ie too loud or sourced from mp3 or vinyl, this way if i stream and it sounds ok i can then justify the cost of the cd, in a ideal world you would buy the cd and that gives you a unique code to download extras like the video`s as they become available or extra content ie make it so buying the cd enters you into a hub for that cd so everything associated can be obtained.

Julian

One thing is for sure – this is a topic we are all passionate about … let’s keep music (a)live !

TheProgster

The only good flip side to all this is we get to see artists live on tour now…certain ones didn’t bother or just sat back and did little or nothing to promote their new album…now they are somewhat forced to do more gigs and tour more frequently to make any money…yes ticket prices have risen to compensate for the short fall of sales of CDs but that’s the way it has become now…and also the way some people can get new downloads for free through file sharing websites is something that we have to accept has become the norm now…I for one will still buy the CD of an album..I don’t care much for vinyl anymore too much crackle and hiss on the quieter tracks for me.

Anthony

Hello out there, I must say more than anything else that pisses me off is todays flat dull remastering techniques. 2010 I purchased the Super Deluxe edition of the Jams classic Sound Effects CD. It basically is a Pre-Mastered cd, flat dull lifeless. My first edition CD of the same album from the 80s? Sounds fuller with more musical detail and some bass end, There appears to be a whole spate of these dull mastered for I-Tunes CDs about. Can anyone tell me why are these Cds remastered this way?
Anthony, Perth Western Australia.

RJSWinchester

“Can anyone tell me why are these Cds remastered this way?”

So that it sounds different to the CD you already own!

RJSWinchester

To be honest, the argument in this post only becomes valid when labels stop issuing physical releases and only make them available to stream or download. If labels choose to offer box sets to stream then that’s the business model they’ve chosen and to argue against it smacks of eletism and materialism by the “It’s been remastered (again), it’s in a big box and it has loads of extra stuff I’ll only listen to once but it’ll look good on the shelves” people who argue against it. I buy lots of physical CDs and box sets but enjoying the music means so much so much more than “holding” the physical product. It’s ALL about the music, not the box it’s in.

Straker

“but enjoying the music means so much so much more than “holding” the physical product. It’s ALL about the music, not the box it’s in.”

Ahem…

“the box set and reissue music blog for collectors and fans who love holding the music in their hands”

RJSWinchester

Ahem indeed…

Like I said, the music is all that matters. I much prefer listening to music than holding it in my hands. Try it – it sounds so much better that way!

Straker

As a graphic designer and album cover fan, the music is most certainly NOT all that matters!

Are you sure you’re in the right place? Does iTunes or Spotify have a forum?

RJSWinchester

I don’t use either iTunes or Spotify and I’m most definitely in the right place. I buy upwards of 100 CD’s annually and have done for over 20 years but you’ve got to face the fact that the physical format is dying whether you like it or not. Box sets are a niche market and I think they’ll be around for a while yet but personally, and it’s taken a long time to realise this, I think they are mostly over-sized and contain loads of lousy demos and live versions of songs that I never listen to more than once. And most remastering is unremarkable.

Paul Wren

Streaming and YouTube are invaluable for me in litening to a possible new release before deciding I like it and then purchasing it. My current collecting area is early 1970’s Krautrock and this helps sift the wheat from the chaff.

HS

If “everything should be made available for everyone at all times”, then the record companies need to release “digital exclusive” tracks on the CD’s as well.

Having one track an Amazon exclusive, another track an iTunes exclusive etc makes me feel like I am buying half an album on CD. Then there are the Target bonus tracks, Japan bonus tracks etc. The fact that in the last few years I have had to research almost every new album coming out on CD (an ending up importing a copy from, say Japan or the US) takes time and effort that a lot of people would not do. They see a regular priced copy of a CD in the store, check the track list and notice that some of the songs they have already heard from the album are not included, even though it is a deluxe edtion. CD goes back and the person decides to just listen to ALL the tracks made available from the album online. There is usually plenty of space on the CD for the various bonus tracks and if a person is (often) paying more for the album on CD then that person should get ALL the songs. There have been a few albums I just did not buy because I did not want to import four different copies just to get all the songs – and there would still be a track or two that were digital only. Before the songs would end up as B-sides on physical formats but that hardly happens anymore. So a lot of these songs end up only available on digital formats.

I understand that there are people that prefer digital or streaming. But I don’t think that people should be able to spend a tiny amount a month to stream songs that should have been made available on physical media as well in the first place. There is no reason why the record companies can’t make everyone happy. Just release a deluxe version of a new album on CD with all the bonus tracks, make the same thing available digitally and to stream – and people can just choose what they prefer to do.

I still think that super deluxe box sets of older albums should remain physical-only though, at least for some time period. These are obviously made for the fans, they cost a lot of money, include a lot of material and IMO should not immediately become a part of a lousy 10 pounds a month subscription.

Fady

Like you Paul, I prefer the physical product and I have never bought (and probably never will buy) an mp3. I can see where you’re coming from on streaming and there is no doubt that most artists gain very little financially from streaming services. In saying that, I also thought it was wrong (and this is more of an issue with big record companies than artists) that prior to the proliferation of music piracy you had to spend around $30 for an entire album based on trust when you’d only heard one or two songs . In that respect, streaming is a way for some people (including myself) to try before you buy. The other thing to consider is that the people who don’t end up buying are probably the same people who never would have bought the music in the first place.

Fat Old Bloke

I buy CDs/DVDs/Blurays that interest me and have some ‘value’ to me as to something I will enjoy for years to come plus the booklets and images that come with these products.
Streaming has its merits for listening to music at work or maybe in the car/at the beach etc but it’s not something I am crazy about.

JBF

Ditto “John” above!
Many people don’t care about that much about physical product.
I truly believe that the legal streaming / DL sites are mostly making money from people who wouldn’t be buying the physical product in the first place.
Does anyone here truly believe that thousands of people have decided not to spend “x” amount of money on an expensive boxset because it’s now available on Spotify? Most likely it was never their intention to buy the physical product.
Just like passing on that 10,000 dollar handbag because the 300 dollar knock-off was available…Wasn’t going to buy the expensive one to begin with.

RikTheHib

Gents – I am a fan of both! (Let the flaming begin).
Let me pick on a nice SDE of “Band on the Run”. Now, my dad had this on Cassette – played it in the car all the time back in ’73 when I was a kid – I guess I have to blame him for me being a fan. Then, as I got older, I got myself the LP – a reissue mind you. Zooming forward way too many years I get the Archive Collection version with a, wait for it – FREE – download on 24bit FLAC.
Holy moly! It’s way better than that old cassette (except for the memories). This is how it should be done – buy the product, get a link to a hi-res copy. Well, IMHO of course.

RJSWinchester

But it’s not free! The cost of the download is just factored into the price of physical copy you bought and it only costs the label the price of the server storage.

Amy Green

I don’t understand the appeal of streaming music. Consumers have been cheated far too many times out of the forms of media they started with, and never got a choice. It’s neat that vinyl has made a minor comeback, but we’ll never see 24/7 music on the MTV network again. Magazine sales have fallen, but, oh, I can read the REMAINDER of the article online. Not only do I love the tangible quality of CDs but in what way are they “inconvenient”? Pop in and play. Can you imagine the legends of music if they had come out in the digital age? Rihanna may have more #1 singles but that’s due to the immediacy of digital music. I don’t know if we would have ended up with the same super stars we got by people calling into radio stations and buying singles and albums in stores. I cringed when the remaining Beatles, Kid Rock and Bob Seger finally caved to iTunes. Great example to set, guys. Cut into your own sales, and open your music up to piracy. What’s the point?

j

Paul
Great stuff!!! I plan to read ALL of the posts of your followers & I look forward to thier input. I is OK to be detailed. My oldest daughter has NEVER bought a physical copy in her life & that is the end of the story.

From the viewpoint of a practicing evil executive, not in the music industry, let me make 3 quick points quickly as I am on the road this week.

1) What matters the most in this indsutry is “post tax net incremental revenue” (PTNIR) . It turns out that 75% of this funding stream is kept by the label. Roughly 10 % goes to the artist & the balance to the author of the song. The question becomes is the model viable?

2) And the answer is yes. In 2013 the Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 had presale estimates of 250 to 350 K on a good day. The content was put on I tunes 1 week before release for free. The result was week 1 sales of 968 K physical copies sold. Justin made money. The label made money. The jury is still out in the context of long term outcomes.

3) As fate would have it, the economics of this segment are still shaking out. Your post had words like “love” & “emotional” which are never used in the board room. NEVER EVER. I am giving you the truth. Unvarnished. Just the truth. Applied economics requires tough decisions on a daily basis. I will need to think about your resolution. There may be other options. Prehaps your readers have some ideas.

The end of the story
My oldest daughter is just like your friends child. But for differant reasons. My collections has 6,000 cds, 5,000 lps & laser discs, etc . I have many rare items that most people will never see or hear. My daughter has the luxury of picking & choosing cool stuff. Right now she is picking Beatles, Gary P Nunn & ABBA. We tend to burn & stream & just stream thru Tidal.

Thanks for the great stuff Paul. Don’t ever change!
J

Renato

I strongly disagree. Sorry, Paul, but I think everything should be made available for everyone at all times. What makes a super deluxe edition “special” isn’t the fact that there are some tracks that can only be found there, but the care that is put in making it. Plus, it sucks to be charged ridiculous amounts of money to have access to a couple of remixes that “aren’t available anywhere else”, or yet another live set that wasn’t even that necessary to begin with. I, for one, really like the current model of “standard edition, special edition with ALL the bonus content (in both physical and digital formats) and super deluxe edition including a plethora of useless – but still very nice – trinkets for the super fans”. I do pay extra if I like the artist/band, but if I don’t love the work, then I’d rather get a more modest version that contains everything on the super deluxe version.

Scott

I own and operate a small recording company and have 7 bands signed and releasing music. I just signed two more bands and their debuts will come out on June 3, 2016. I didn’t take the time to read additional comments yet, because I’m in a time crunch, and I couldn’t agree more with the original posting and the suggested solution. No different that how DVD’s are sold today. They will TYPICALLY release movies on DVD (which gets highjacked and posted for free by some jerk) a month or two before they are on premiere cable channels. Redbox and Netflix function this way. One of the bands on my label is the band I’m actually a part of. Since the concept behind my label was one, to brand ourselves with the demographics we targeted (between the ages of 40 – 60, collectors, want a physical product, want bonus stuff and essentially cherish their music collections). So, how did my band go about selling our own three CD’s in 2013 and 2015? We tried a bunch of different things, because we want fans to hear tunes as we finish them. We didn’t pander to Amazon (though our Japanese distributors sell our records on AmazonUS and AmazonUK for $100 – $200 a piece, plus international shipping). Which brings me to a closing statement. As long as young people look at digital music as “disposable” music, my company will make a tiny dent, and the more bands that fit our profile (sophisticated classic pop with a contemporary flare, think The Beatles sitting down with The Beach Boys, add liberal doses of Prefab Sprout and toss in some Steely Dan and then late-era Thomas Dolby and you might get an idea of what we sound like, or so our fans have said. Another band that is switching to my label but won’t release an album this year. Their bass player is Japanese, so they just were in Japan doing a mini-tour and at Tower Records, they had an entire listening booth dedicated the records released on my label. That was really cool to see. I will take the time to read through the comments above later this evening. If it generates an additional comment from me you can read it or not. Digital = disposable. Disposable implies worthless. Sad.

Eoghan

This really annoys me. I don’t know how many times I’ve splashed out on a special edition, only to see it appear for free the next week. I’ve just stopped buying them, baring the occasion where I really want to support the artist. But how big is the overlap between the Streaming and the Physical markets? With all the Special editions, 5 for ones, massive 6 CD packages that are on the market right now, the market appears to be booming. Maybe that market will only last as long as the nostalgia for the original albums does.

John

I know a lot of people (in their 30s and 40s) who really don’t care about deluxe editions. They think they take up too much space and they don’t care about awesome designed box sets and lavish artwork.
Those people won’t buy deluxe editions anyway since they see it as paying extra for stuff they don’t want. They just want the music. Period.
So releasing a deluxe edition and not giving people the opportunity to buy it through streaming/downloading will only encourage those kind of people to download pirated copies. It won’t help selling more physical copies.

Yani

Great thread!!
I think I sit in a mixed camp here.
I have literally tens of thousands of vinyl records – all original and collected since the mid-70s. Pretty much every one is duplicated (so more tens of thousands) one set has been played – often way too many tines :) but the other set is still unplayed – thats my archive for future generations lol..

I have been collecting re-issues and deluxe box sets for a good few years – I am quite selective but if it has that something extra special then I buy it.

I have never really got the MP3 thing but I have also had my entire collection archived to hi res audio (or as hi res as I could get). I have also a few terabytes of gaps in my colloection stored away.

I dont see this as a replacement for my physical collection but complimentary. Nothing will ever beat vinyl, the smell of the vinyl the artwork the sleeve notes – its a piece of art in its entirety.

I have also used Spotify and Deezer – Deezer especially I use as I travel the world a fair bit on business and its a fantastic way of passing a 12 hour flight :)

Music is such a massive part of my being so I use these different formats for different purposes.

Fady

I’m with you Yani.

Shane

Great post and I couldn’t agree more Paul!

gb

great post. agree with all your points Paul.
like many here, I grew up with vinyl/cd so I just like to have a physical product.
spotify? just never got into it. for me, no point. I want to be able to play tracks on cds, I’m not always ‘on the move’ … if there is a certain song I like, I buy from itunes/amazon. otherwise I buy the actual cd. I also don’t understand deluxe editions going straight onto spotify. talk about biting the hand that feeds. it HAS to impact the *could have been* sales figures. will there come a time when ‘deluxe editions’ don’t even have a physical product? (just be compiled for spotify etc) – be like the 1st album Garbage remixes that were available last year.

RJSWinchester

You’ve gotta move with the times. I like a box set as much as the next person and do buy a few each year and probaly buy 100-150 CDs a year but most of the bonus material with box sets rarely gets listened to more than a couple of times (and I’m sure that’s the same for most people who’ve posted on this topic). And there’s only so many times you can re-re-re-remaster and flog the same crap in a bigger box with bonus ‘lost tracks’ (unless you’re Jimmy Page who is probably remastering the Led Zeppelin back catalogue yet again for the Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary Editions)

In reality, box sets are just ornamens that look cool on your shelves. But hard core fans will always buy the physical media whether it’s available to stream or not so I doubt there are thousands of unsold copies of the recent Phil Collins reissues lying in a warehouse. Box sets are not dead and buried yet and existing and new boutique independent labels will licence the music and trawl the vaults if the big labels throw in the towel. Personally, I would much prefer it if labels just offered high quality downloads at a reasonable price.

Bill Light

Paul;
I am an Amazon Prime member. To add to the absurd, I pre-ordered the Blackstar cd. On the release date, I received my copy and at the same time Amazon had the release streaming for free . Same thing with other cds like new Bonnie Raitt . If they are going to do that, they should at least let prime members know so that we don’t waste our money or at least get a chance to decide if they still want to pay for the cd. Paul–do you know what they pay artists in order to have their music free to prime members? It has gotten to the point where the majority of many artist’s catalogues are free for prime members.

RJSWinchester

“are free for prime members”

They’re not free. You pay for Amazon Prime!

Andrew Richards

Not free but close depending on why you subscribed to Amazon prime initially.

I subscribed for the “free” p&p and quick delivery. That was cost effective in its own right. Then Amazon prime video appeared. A fire TV box later that was a nice bonus. Then they added music. I’m getting more than I pay for (IMHO) so music feels free…

Michael

IMHO, there are basically 2 kinds of music ‘consumers’, those who ‘need’ the physical format and those who (quite frankly) couldn’t care less – I fall squarely in the former category and have no plans to succumb to Spotify or Apple Music as a sole source. Do I use them? Hell yeah! They are a brilliant way to discover new music, but if I like it, I buy it.

So, against that backdrop, should labels limit what they release on streaming sites? I would argue no, why should they – people that buy music physically will continue to do so and those that have other priorities, be they financial or otherwise, should not be limited to what they are able to access as part of their legal monthly subscription; as this will in turn create a diluted service which I would wager most (if not all) physical format lovers find an invaluable resource to help them spend their hard earned cash.

Fady

I’d add a third category – the occasional music consumer. Otherwise, I agree 100% Michael.

elliott buckingham

Ive never heard a mp3 or a stream run smoothly like a live album has no gaps if you play the mp3 or the stream you get a slight pause between the tracks that isn’t present on the vinyl or cd

england

…and I thought nothing could top discovering that we had deaf fans (they told me that they could feel the vibrations and sub-sonics)… until I spoke to the studio owner’s son (working on reception during school holidays) who announced that he only “watched” music – ie if it wasn’t on YouTube or had an online video then he just wasn’t interested – and he was working toward a career in music..
In a way I’m sorta happy that I’ve retired from the music business – I don’t imagine I’d get very far without a high level of computer/digital savvy.
Personally, if I can’t hold music in my hand then I have a much harder time getting into it and understanding it (and remembering that I have either heard it or getting overwhelmed with duplicates) – even though I did resign myself to trying to cope with cds (finding it hard to read such tiny text), I do miss vinyl for the sleeves/inserts which sometimes told me more about the Artiste than the music did. (And the same goes for books)!

Robert Atkin

I like SDE’s if they are at the right price. You get a better sound from the physical object rather than a streaming track. I may sometimes wait until a special offer may come up or I may buy straight away. I paid £32.99 for the Blue Oyster Cult Box from Amazon. The last time I looked it was about £135.00. I paid £29.99 from HMV for Too Old to rock n Roll etc by Jethro Tull. I understand a couple of weeks ago it was £15.00 on Amazon for a short period. You sometimes win, you sometimes loose. I will not buy if the item is far too expensive.

I also listen on Spotify now and again. What Spotify does sometimes is make only some of the tracks available. They should do this with all box-sets. All other streaming sites should do the same too.

Straker

Some fascinating comments here. You should get one of the papers onto this Paul – Your initial post and subsequent reader comments would make a great piece in the weekend supplements.

peter chrisp

Paul could not agree more, especially with these deluxe and super deluxe edition albums, while the artists no doubt put in a huge effort to ensure we get the best possible box sets physically
and sound quality wise. As we all know, i would hate to think how many millions of people still
copy behind closed doors, what they do i guess is their own business but we all know it definitely
harms their royalties and earning power. If my memory serves me well it all began with Napster
way back in the 90’s as suggested can’t quite recall the year and right up to the present i have no doubt a few more have surfaced since. I wonder why there are very little record companies that
are around at the moment, Paul do you remember all of these record labels from the past there
was so much competition they were huge? I will never ever forget CBS/Epic where either one
was actually blotted out with some sort of mark. EMI, Atlantic,Electra,ABC, R.C.A, Asylum,
MCA, Capital just to name a few, Vertigo and gee even the labels & the pressing of the albums looked superb, and once in a blue moon i will never ever forget buying an Aerosmith album in
1976 “Rocks” even the vinyl had a certain “smell” i am not quite sure what it was, and i found a way to import and still proud after 39 years and still going strong. I guess there are a couple of reasons why there are dwindling record sales, the cost of making an album & cd, the chances of that artist selling millions unless they’re well established even then it wouldn’t be the same now
as it was way back in the 70’s & early 80’s, hit singles, and how many record stores can you count?Umm most likely none as there was nothing more exciting than buying a record or an Lp
at your fave record store unfortunately to my stupidity at one stage i had around 44o albums on vinyl and 99% of them were on import as the “local” record store could get an album form the UK,Japan, or the US, and as i moved house a number of times i sold all of my albums, i mean how dumb is that. As i am a huge Jethro Tull fanatic i will never ever forget buying their latest
album at that time in July 1976 “Crest Of A Knave” and it was released in January 1977 in Australia!! Could you have imagined my excitement i literally fell of my chair and still do know
as i still get a buzz importing after all these years. As i was friends with a couple of dj’s i would actually take an artists latest album well before it was available and they would play a couple of selections, now can you imagine their excitement! The funny thing the dj had a 3 hour show on a
Sunday night between 9 & 12am and i had to get up for work the next morning and each time
he would mention my name and what a buzz that was. It’s all too easy to copy in this day & age.
I think too although the artist has not got much of a choice at the moment, i am not sure what the difference would be know, would a band or the artist sell a lot more records if there were not
any of these so called “Spotify’s? As opposed to having them where you can now sample each and every track which does give them more exposure? as you have to move with the times? Paul as you say in he end there is nothing better than having you own physical copy form anywhere in the world that’s a real buzz. The only way to go would be to close all of these ‘copying” sites down. I’ll ask everyone a question here out of curiousity, ITunes good or bad? Should that be
closed down completely? Paul keep up the great work brilliant stuff.

Daniel Lalla

I don’t understand how the industry practically giving it away is financially viable. Then again people get jaded because we all know the ‘industry’ is a self-perpetuating machine that generally treats the artists shabbily – the artist gets a small fraction of the profits and people start to wonder why they bother. Concert ticket prices are high but I suspect the band gets more, as well as from merchandise there.

Many problems: die hard fans often can’t get limited releases (e.g. RSD releases are sometimes the worst example) and end up paying through the nose on eBay is something has too much value or is limited… Expensive editions on new releases are a crap-shoot: you might have to buy a strictly limited edition at high cost and then find you don’t like the album but if you didn’t pre-order you miss out (and back to eBay or discogs). We don’t have any control over the quality of the remastering: many remasters are just brick-walled horrible versions that sound louder (but as compressed as AM radio with 6 dB or less of dynamic range – e.g. new Nirvana 24/96 bluray disc: 24 bits with tons of headroom and they choose to compress the crap out of it – all the Nirvana remasters were ruined with this. )

And we know that while they’re remastering, they can have a flat transfer with no compression and a ‘modern’ mix (Steven Wilson does this in almost all his remastered work, especially for King Crimson, and even his ‘new mixes’ only provide very very gentle compression which only cops the very loudest passages of the music while allowing quieter passages more clarity – an excellent compromise)

The industry does other stupid things like Blu-ray audio: they say audio only for ‘quality’ – what a crock of horse excrement: there is always a video portion, even if it’s just a menu. So unless you have a rare bluray audio disc player that can shut off the video circuitry (There are some) then it’s not helping the audio quality at all to have an ‘audio only’ disc. It’s just a cop-out to not include any videos or extra materials. And it doesn’t pass the ‘laugh test’ for me.

Also, the blu-ray discs have the capacity to hold multiple versions of the album (if not the entire uncompressed full quality discography of the artist). So why not, old transfer, flat transfer, new remaster, bonus tracks etc…

The industry is fairly stingy when it suits them and does many incomprehensible things. Then they ‘forget’ a few tracks when releasing different versions. Never seems to be one definitive edition with all bonus tracks at any time.

Or high quality analogue vinyl drawn from an inferior digital master, or mastered with a digital device used at the very last stage of the mastering or cutting that ruins the whole chain.

So even with over 9000 discrete items in my collection, I’m running out of patience with the industry and a lot of the nonsense. And I’m the guy who’s buying a TON of special editions and box sets, singles collections etc… Throw in ‘download only exclusives’ and I’m really pissed. Why should the downloaders get more than me?

Jakob Rehlinger

It seems counter-intuitive to put the SDE material on streaming sites, but I’m curious how many sets like ‘The Ties That Bind’ are purchased for listening to as opposed to owning the artifact. I’m not sure I would buy, or listen to, the bonus material on these sets without the packaging. I have a feeling as long as they made SDE sets with things like replica notebooks in them, people will continue to buy SDE sets. Some that I own, the packaging is so nice I probably would’ve been tempted to buy if there was no bonus music at all.

Chris Banner

I think you guys bemoaning the advent of streaming services are missing the point a bit.

As a true music lover (and by that I mean having spent years obsessively collecting physical product at premium prices -sometimes upwards of £16.99 for an import or non-chart album back in the 90s), I ditched this habit in favor of streaming a few years ago.

I now pay 10 quid a month for a streaming service (in my case the excellent Google Play) and plug any holes with uploads from my own collection.

The advantages of using a streaming service are almost too numerous to list…and I repeat this is coming from a once-obsessive collector of the physical product:

*Convenience – I now carry pretty much every song ever recorded in my pocket, accessible at the touch of a button, at any time.

*Price – I pay a set monthly fee which never changes. This is as opposed to multiple monthly purchases of tangible product at over £10 / unit…..the savings are a no-brainer.

*Deluxe and reissues / remastered content is almost always available on streaming services, so you can be sure you’re pretty much always gettting the most recent mastering of any given tracks. Some of my olders CDs can’t boast this.

*Playlists….and by this I mean playlists made by me, comprising my favorite music / artists. How many times have we listened to “Greatest HIts” CDs and hated some of the songs inlcuded. Now I make my own, pulling songs from across the entire artists catalog.

*Long-term business model. Yes everyone is bemoaning artists’ royalites but think about it for a moment. With physical media, the artist got a royalty once, when the media was initially purchased. With streaming, the artist gets paid every time a track is streamed. If the streaming user base continues to expand at its current pace, this will ultaimtely result in handsome royalty payouts once again. Remember, the artist gets nothing on second hand physical media.

*Sound quality. Much has been said about this so I’ll keep it short and succinct. I’ve tried Tidal, Spotify, CDs, the lot….and I really defy anyone to tell the difference – on a consistent basis – between high-quality (320kbps) MP3 or AAC and CD quality. It’s all placebo effect and a load of nonsense in practice.

Sorry guys but I think the naysayers are all about the nostalgia of music and tangible product, and believe me, I get that. But c’mon – does it really get any better for a music lover to be able to access literally any track, any album, any time, anywhere, at the touch of a button…..?

I for one would’ve given anything for this when I was younger! Music isn’t any more or less disposable than previously….it’s just accessible more conveniently. I’d actually say more people have more regular access to more music than ever before.

Chris

Paul

Fantastically well put, better than my rambling incoherent post especially regarding the discernible quality aspect. I love the fact I get for £10 what I used to spend £100s a month for with the convenience of not having lost a room in the South East (quite extravagant) to store it all

Fady

Great post Chris. In the words of a famous song, “I want it all, and I want it now”. So that means having the physical product and an mp3 that I can add to my own mixtape (playlist).

Craig

I haven’t read all the above so sorry if some/all is redundant.

Paul mentions that eventually physical deluxe editions will stop. I’ll go that further and say deluxe editions will just stop period.

Why bother? In today’s disposable/click bait/ESPN/Cable news scrolling world, the majority of people don’t even listen to whole albums. They listen to the hits and that’s it.

So why would the record companies put the effort in to find the rarities, remixes, etc. for a small group of hardcore fans who might stream them a few times?

It only makes sense to make these special deluxe editions as physical product only. You can stream the remasters of the the regular album if you want, but the “bonus goodies” should be physical product only. At least as long as their still is physical product.

With e-books, at the end there are sometimes ads or promos for another book. I’m not sure how that would work with music, but if the Apple Music artist page is further developed, maybe that is the way to promote the deluxe versions. And if they are going to digitize them, you should have to pay to download them at same price of physical product.

Otherwise, I am fearful of artists and labels continuing to put $$ in the deluxe versions.

Tino Stabile

I am in total agreement with you Paul. You are 200 % correct. I am a music aficionado and there is nothing that gives me more pleasure when it comes to my passion for music than to hold the physical product in my hands while listening and discovering a box set let`s say. I am enjoying the Tusk box set that came out last year as much as the Bruce Box. I still get the feeling I had when I first heard Hungry Heart back so long ago when that song comes on. It brings me back to my childhood.
The sad thing about this is because of technology the way it is our children and their children will never experience that. It is a sad, sad, sad proposition. What is perplexing in all this is that a few weeks ago there was a report from Billboard stipulating that catalogue music (old classics) overtook new music releases for the first time in a long time. So that means that there is still a glimmer of hope. As well with the resurgence of vinyl there is some hope albeit small. If record labels continue to put reissue content free this will make the actual physical pointless to some extent. Physical content means added booklets, liner notes that you can hold in your hand. See if your mp3 downloads and the people at Apple can supply this added bonus for the consumer. The downloadable liner notes are not the same.

So Paul, count me in your crusade to save the physical product.

Sincerely.

Tino

Kiki

I can only applause to this!
To me, Downloads suck…. they were only made for steve Job’s fortune, and destroying the music market at the same time.
Physical formats are here for collecting.. but also for remembering ! Who will care that Olly murs released 5 or 10 or 15 singles from his latest LP if there is no trace nowhere? who will care about an acoustic session of any singer if it doesn’t get burn physically somewhere?

I think that the music market have now changed : mp3s are for people who don’t like music, who don’t care about quality, but just want a noise – usually poor phone sound – but they want it right now. Physical formats are more dedicated for us who still care a bit about quality (and moan when a record is wrongly mixed!) and want something to hold on, to have a trace of what we buy, who want to see, touch and read at the same time…

Now I used to hear that singles formats were never making money… So the major spent 50 years not making money ??? that’s totally wrong… but what’s true by now is that any major want to make the bigger margin and not spend a penny in manufacturing. That’s a big problem for the industry, and for music lovers.

Paul Bakewell

Some very good points of interest here. However I must point out there IS such a thing as free coffee. Just sort out a free Waitrose card et voila lol !

Angelo

Let’s not forget to mention these two reasons which are also responsible for the poor sales of physical copies and the thriving reality of streaming/downloading: greed on behalf of the record companies, their lack of vision and the appaling quality of their products.

For example, I decided to start a vinyl collection last year because I do love its strong features: collectible, large atrwork; the richer, warmer sound; and the enviroment/concentration it demands, creating a very special mood. But the truth is, it’s been a nightmare. Not only paying 20-30 Pounds per album is ludicrous, chances are high of getting scratched, warped discs or bad pressings plagued with surface noise. It’s been THAT bad and really discouraging. Not to mention when all the bonus content – abundant on digital music – is nowhere to be heard on the LPs…

Consumers are simply valuing their hard-earned money and wisely “playing safe” by purchasing/streaming digital music or sticking to plain, basic cds with no frills when it comes to packaging and artwork – if it means getting the cheapest price possible. As someone who loves collecting music, it hurts me to say they are right.

As long as record companies keep living in delusion by wanting people to pay premium prices for terrible products and asking for even more when they rarely do a good job, it’s all downhill from here. In this scenario, downloading/streaming will continue to preavail since it’s way cheaper and hassle-free.

Carlton

Maybe it’s a sign of my age (41), but I don’t understand the appeal of “digital” media, whether it’s free or not. I do use Spotify on my work computer, mainly to save me the hassle of bringing CDs in to work, but primarily I wind up listening to things I already own on CD or checking out something I’ve been thinking about buying (leading to my current buying spree on the Blow Moneys). To me, digital is far too temporary. With streaming, you’re subject to the whims of the rights providers as to whether it will continue to be available on their service (witness the recent flack over Doctor Who moving from Netflix to Amazon Prime in the states). With downloads, unless you burn it to physical media (which defeats the supposed purpose of downloading), any of the central file sellers simply have to revoke the licensing for the file, and suddenly it doesn’t work anymore.

Give me my days when a new album came out, someone sued over a lack of credit, and it went out of print and –bam–I had a collectors item. I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for single CDs (mostly Madonna, Saint Etienne, and some other fanclub centered rarities) that i could have easily pirated, but I want something to show for my money, and I want it in the best quality possible rather than some compressed POS from iTunes.

The practice I would REALLY liked to see stopped is the “download exclusive.” Why are bonus tracks or sometimes entire albums going solely to digital outlets when there are also physical media consumers who would like to own them as well? But if something is download-only, on my radar it doesn’t even really exist. I wait and hope for a physical release, whether its through a box set or expanded edition. Or (and this one will likely piss off some of the record labels, but when they won’t serve my needs, it’s their loss) Russia puts out some nicely done bootlegs that contain this material, at reasonable prices, on factory-pressed CDs. In the end, I’m probably getting the same thing as if I kicked in my 99cents and burned it to a CD-R, except the disc is shiny and has cover art, but that’s how much I’m willing to go in for on m shiny disc and cover art.