The Emperor’s New Records or Am I Being Exploited Here?

My wife was looking in on Enoweb a few months ago and found out about his new album, Small Craft On A Milk Sea, so she immediately ordered the ltd. ed. boxed $et version forthwith. That makes the second such beast invited into our home. One of the perks is that you may download the album on the day of release [Nov. 2, 2010]. One of the BIG perks is that you may download it in 24 bit WAV files. I master my audio in 24 bit @44.1 kHz because I can actually hear the slight difference in quality compared to to 16/44.1, but anything higher is just psychoacoustics to me. So I downloaded it last night on my poky DSL while I retired to bed. Here’s what you get for your $100.

Warp Records | UK | 2xCD/2xLP DLX BOX | 2010 | WARPCDX207

BRIAN ENO: Small Craft On A Milk Sea

CD1 [all releases]

  1. Emerald and Lime
  2. Complex Heaven
  3. Small Craft on a Milk Sea
  4. Flint March
  5. Horse
  6. 2 Forms of Anger
  7. Bone Jump
  8. Dust Shuffle
  9. Paleosonic
  10. Slow Ice, Old Moon
  11. Lesser Heaven
  12. Calcium Needles
  13. Emerald and Stone
  14. Written, Forgotten
  15. Late Anthropocene

CD2 [ltd. ed. + ltd. collector’s ed. only]

  1. Surfacing
  2. Square Chain
  3. Bimini Twist
  4. Abandoned Ship

Limited Edition Box Set (Heavyweight vinyl, 2xCD, Lithographic Print). Packaged in a rigid, Birch paper-covered slipcase with printed and foil-blocked cover and spine, this edition includes:

  • 180g heavyweight, double disc 12″ vinyl pressing of the album, in full-colour, case-bound 12″ cover. Lined in crimson stock with foil block.
  • CD pressing of the album, along with extra disc containing four extra tracks, in full-colour, case-bound 12″ cover. Lined in crimson stock with foil blocked credit sheet.
  • High quality 12″ square lithographic print of new Brian Eno artwork, printed on 352gsm Mohawk Superfine stock, presented in full-colour, case-bound 12″ cover. Lined in crimson stock with tissue paper protection.
  • Audiophile quality downloads : 24-bit WAV album AND 320kbps MP3 album delivered digitally on day of release.

There was also an even pricier Limited Collector’s Edition Box Set (Heavyweight vinyl, 2xCD, Serigraphic Print signed and numbered ed. of 250).

Unique serigraph 65/250 | by Brian Eno | 2010

It is exactly the same but for the fact that instead of a cheap lithograph, it contained instead a serigraph, signed by Eno himself in an edition of just 250. Plus a solid brass plate on the box itself. I can’t find any pricing information for this edition since it has sold out [probably to Saudi billionaires looking for a nice investment] but I recall that it was in the mid-three figures from the one time my wife showed me the web page at Bleep.com. Waaaaaay out of my budget.

All very posh, you’ll agree, but the regular CD [tracks 1-15] can be had for normal pricing. Under $20 almost everywhere. The sick collector in me wants the most music possible, so the bonus 4 track EP eases the $100 price tag somewhat. As for 180g vinyl, I only have two such releases in my home, and they’re strictly for show since I listen to CDs only. Don’t get me wrong, I like vinyl, but I prefer CDs. They can be played in my car, where I do almost all of my listening. I have lots of vinyl, and until I remaster it to CD it just doesn’t get heard. Sometimes for decades… To me, vinyl is just the larval form of a CD.

Still, I am beginning to bristle at this trend, apparent to me mainly this year, whereby my favorite artists are releasing their albums in ever increasingly elaborate packages that hover near the c-note mark. Several months ago I ordered the first of these I’ve been motivated to get. Fave rave band OMD had reformed in 2007 and in September of this year, they released their first album in their “classic lineup” since 1986. “History Of Modern” also came in a deluxe boxed set. Since this was a special release for the band and the bait was tempting, I popped for the $80 full monty.

100% Records | UK | 2xCD + 2xLP + DVD DLX BOX | 2010 | 100BX7

OMD: The History Of Modern

CD1

  1. New Babies
  2. New Toys
  3. If You Want It
  4. History Of Modern (Part I)
  5. History Of Modern (Part II)
  6. Sometimes
  7. RFWK
  8. New Holy Ground
  9. The Future, The Past, And Forever After
  10. Sister Marie Says
  11. Pulse
  12. Green
  13. Bondage Of Fate
  14. The Right Side?

CD2 [boxed set only]

  1. Sister Marie Says 1994
  2. New Babies: New Toys 2005
  3. History Of Modern (Part I) 2009
  4. History Of Modern (Part II) 2009
  5. If You Want It 2005
  6. Green 1994

DVD

  1. The making of “The History Of Modern”
  2. Behind the scenes footage of album production
  3. Full lyrics
  4. Alternative artwork

The deluxe boxed set contained the following.

  • ‘History of Modern’ album CD
  • Double LP on exclusive heavyweight vinyl and limited edition sleeve (box set exclusive)
  • ‘History of Modern’ DVD book pack with exclusive studio and interview footage filmed during the making of the new album plus the written story of History of Modern with words by Peter Saville (box set exclusive)
  • CD of album demo tracks (box set exclusive)
  • 12“ Gatefold picture book print with alternative artwork and photos of the band (box set exclusive)
  • 12” artwork print (box set exclusive)
  • An embossed logo on the box, all artwork designed by Peter Saville
  • A custom OMD t-shirt designed exclusively for this boxed set

On the whole, this is a decent amount of swag for the dollars. As with the Eno set, my buy-in is with the demo disc CD since I collect the complete recorded works of OMD. That it’s $20 less than the Eno offering is a plus. I consider the tchatchkes included to be lower brow than Eno’s but certainly worthwhile to a coarse prole like myself. Since this was their splashy return to greatness [that pretty much panned out] I’m happy. If they do this for a subsequent album, I’ll have to weigh the consequences a tad longer, methinks. Again, the buy-in hook for packages like this is the “exclusive music” included with the “executive version.”

With Eno moving in this direction is it surprising that Bryan Ferry also has a new one out this month in a deluxe boxed format. His new album “Olympia” is his first step into the larger world of ridiculously expensive boxed sets.…forgive me, immersion editions!

Virgin Records | UK | 2xCD + DVD + book | 2010 | CDVX 3086

Bryan Ferry: Olympia – Immersion Edition

In this case, another c-note delivers unto you

CD1 [Extended Album]

  1. You Can Dance
  2. Alphaville
  3. Heartache By Numbers
  4. Me Oh My
  5. Shameless
  6. Song To The Siren
  7. No Face, No Name, No Number
  8. BF Bass (Ode To Olympia)
  9. Reason Or Rhyme
  10. Tender Is The Night
  11. Whatever Gets You Through The Night
  12. One Night

CD2 [boxed set only]

  1. You Can Dance (Fred Falke Mix)
  2. Alphaville (Time and Space Machine Mix)
  3. Heartache By Numbers (Circus Parade Mix)
  4. Me Oh My (DJ Cleaver Mix)
  5. Shameless (Still Going Mix)
  6. BF BASS (Ode To Olympia) (West End Wolf Mix)
  7. Reason Or Rhyme (Instrumental)

DVD

  1. You Can Dance video
  2. Behind the scenes footage of album photoshoot
  3. Track-by-track interviews with Bryan Ferry and other Olympia participants.
  • 40 page hardback book of famous model Kate Moss photos from the cover shoot
  • the album on CD [2 bonus track version also sold separately]
  • a remix CD [boxed set exclusive]
  • DVD, featuring “You Can Dance” music video, a behind scenes look at the album photoshoot and track by track interviews with Bryan Ferry and featured album guests.
  • album cover print

Fortunately, there is a deluxe CD for a few bucks more with the two extended tracks in italics, plus the DVD. I’ll probably opt for that. The collector in me wants those remixes, but for $100 how do I know they won’t suck? After all, I’m now fairly well conditioned after 20+ years to expect poor, unmusical remixes in these, the end times. I can live without the 40 page book of Kate Moss photos! Heck, I’ve only been hearing that name for years and years now and I would not be able to ID her in a police lineup if her life depended on it.

I may buy after asking Mr. Vinny Vero about those remixes. There are dealers cutting a deal on Amazon for about $80. Nevertheless, it’s plain that artists in these end times are exploiting their most ardent fans. Every time I plunk out the better part of $100 for an album, I’m in effect subsidizing seven or eight thieves who are just downloading the thing from a P2P network somewhere. I understand the economics of it, but my sick, desire to collect the entire recorded output of many, many artists leaves me vulnerable to these boxed set attacks.

The fetishization and commodification of what were once egalitarian artforms [re: albums] into products affordable only to the elite ruling class really rubs me the wrong way! Because I have no desire to steal music in file form I’m stuck in the middle and I’m feeling the big pinch. I’ve not even delved into exotic vinyl forms like the new Bryan Ferry 12″ single of “You Can Dance,” either. There’s only 200 of these puppies pressed up for about $15 a pop, and when they’re gone, it’s market value time.

Virgin/Vinyl Factory | UK | 12″ | 2010 | VF019

Bryan Ferry: You Can Dance ltd. ed. 12″

  1. You Can Dance (John Monkman mix)
  2. You Can Dance (Padded Cell mix)
  3. You Can Dance (Audiojack mix)
  4. You Can Dance (Richard Sen dub)

At 10 GBP, I can’t complain about the price, but when just 200 copies are made of a record, can we be said to be talking about pop music any more? This is now a rarefied form of elite exclusivity to be withheld by the wealthy. Do you think I’m ranting? What about the new Grace Jones album? If you want one of the 500 vinyl copies it will set you back approximately $450 at Vinyl Factory!

 

Universal/Vinyl Factory | UK | 2xLP | 2010 | VF016

Grace Jones: ‘Hurricane’ Limited Vinyl Edition:

2xLP [200g vinyl]

  1. This Is
  2. Williams’ Blood
  3. Corporate Cannibal
  4. I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears)
  5. Well Well Well
  6. Hurricane
  7. Love You To Life
  8. Sunset Sunrise
  9. Devil in My Life
  • Breathtaking pink-flouro screen-printed gatefold sleeve, printed on 300gsm pristine white Colorplan, featuring unique treatment of iconic Grace Jones image by creative collaborator and acclaimed artist Chris Levine.
  • Two 200-gram super-heavyweight vinyl records, containing Grace Jones’ critically celebrated recent album, ‘Hurricane’, released on vinyl for the very first time
  • Album especially mastered for vinyl by the legendary Bob Ludwig in New York, and pressed on the peerless EMI 1400 in Hayes, Middlesex.
  • Fine art Giclee print featuring exclusive Grace Jones single ‘Superstar’ image by Chris Levine, hand numbered and signed by both Grace Jones and Chris Levine.
  • Custom-made thumb-cut inner sleeves screen printed pink fluoro inside with clear foil blocked tracklisting and complete album credits.

The “Hurricane” vinyl edition is already selling aftermarket at nearly $500 a copy!! There’s something wrong here. It’s part of the same wrong that has seen over a third of America’s wealth shift to just 0.01 percent of its population over the course of the last 40 years. The ones who are making the rules are stacking the deck way against the rest of us.

I promise I’ll lighten up tomorrow.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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11 Responses to The Emperor’s New Records or Am I Being Exploited Here?

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    The Grace Jones album is quite good, but 300 quid? I have very deluxe vinyl box re-issues (mostly Japanese ones, I must say) – and some were, in fact, given to me as promos (Pizzicato Five, Cornelius etc) – but not until after I saw them all going for $200 and up in used shops! The new Eno does not tempt me; it’s not rock music, is it? I wish that artists that really yank my chain would do this – Howard Devoto or Holger Czukay, for instance – but really give us something neat – like a print by Linder or hours of noisy rhythm tracks, all discovered with a short wave radio. Something I could really sink my tooth into.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Count on it happening, sooner or later. It’s the new trend. And my point is that each of these artists does yank my chain, giving me cognitive dissonance over my inability to afford their full releases. I am saddened to see rock music, a populist art form, become co-opted by The Man to the point that fans need to be freaking wealthy to collect their favorite artists. Bad enough ticket prices to see superstars hit three figures years ago [not that I like any superstars, for the most part]. Collecting records used to be something anyone at any economic level, could buy into. It seems like now we’re seeing downloads for the masses with higher quality formats reserved for – let’s not mince words here – rich folks. The New Gilded Age is hitting me where it hurts. It’s bad enough I can only afford poor health care, and earn a fraction of what I once did, but putting record collecting out of my economic reach is the last straw!

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  2. james says:

    The reason you are being “exploited” is not due to the greed of the artists, but to the greed of the thousands of people who steal their music instead of buying it. Artists must, in order to survive, find alternative revenue streams. Selling high-dollar items like this helps to put a little dent in the thousands of copies that they might once have sold but are now not selling due to people stealing it.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Agreed. Like I say, I’m subsidizing those who steal the music. I’m happy to underwrite the artists I like, but there’s a limit to how far down this dark path that I can go. My main beef is that “exclusive music content” is included with the very expensive version of the album. If it were just art prints or gimmicks, I’d be fine with that and let it pass. If you’ll remember, back in the early 90s there was also the trend of “deluxe versions” of albums that cost up to $10 more than the conventional jewel boxed versions of albums that were special, for ardent fans. Things like the numbered, Polariod edition of Sugar’s “Copper Blue,” or the 2xCD digipack of Annie Lennox’s last good album, “Diva,” which came with an interview disc. But these cost less than a king’s ransom due to the fact that no one was using peer-to-peer to steal music! They were nice perks that any fan could afford.

      One group that has gone about this in exactly the right way, as I see it is Southern Culture on the Skids. They fall outside of the purview of this blog, but their new album, Kudzu Ranch [named for their Efland, NC studio] comes in a dazzlingly granular variety of packages. Fans can choose from 20 different bundles of the album, ranging from $10 to $80. The band have also re-pressed their nominal debut CD from 1990 that’s insanely rare, [but not in my house]. Every version of the album, even the cheapest $10 download, comes with the extra music – alternate takes that aren’t on the album as released. The extra $70 gets you variations of vinyl, the “Too Much Pork For Just One Fork” reissue, various t-shirts and a signed letterpress poster from Yeehaw Industries secret labs. Damn! That’s how it should be done! Hats off to Southern Culture On The Skids for doing it up right, as usual!

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  3. Vinny Vero says:

    This is worrying trend for fans of particular groups. I plonked down cash for the OMD and Ferry sets. It’s great that people can opt in at several price points. But the fans are, ultimately, the ones that get screwed. I’ve already seen the Ferry remixes online. There has been this strange conclusion made that the more expensive and lavish the collections will be snapped up by the fans. That might be true. But the suffix to that is “…who have the cash to spend.” And those numbers are dwindling.

    I haven’t received my deluxe “Olympia”. I will be sure to let you know about the remixes. The only one I really want to hear right now is the Fred Falke remix of “You Can Dance”. Mr. Falke has done some fine work lately. I certainly hope the other remixes aren’t dog meat.

    By the way, have you heard the Ferry vs. Radiohead mashup, “You Can Jigsaw Dance”? Drop me line.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      @VinnyVero – Bingo! I don’t have the cash to drop $100 a month on a single album! My music budget is probably about $80/month and that has to get stretched to hit the high points of all that I want. When I am compiling collections for making a boxed set there is a lot of mail order happening. Postage from the UK and Europe isn’t cheap. Heck, right now even domestic postage isn’t a bargain. My commitment to the OMD and Eno packages means that Ferry isn’t a sure thing. I never thought I’d type those words.

      The fact remains that if a stranger gave me $100 to spend on music, I could do some serious damage to my Amazon want list for CDs, which is as long as my arm. In today’s market, most CDs can be had for chump change, even factoring in the minimal Amazon $2.98 postage per unit. But my compulsion to buy rare vinyl first means I get a diminished bang for my decreasing buck due to my particular compulsion. After all, I can drop $20-30 easily for a record that has a single track that I need for the collection. I often beat myself up over the fact that I could have gotten 2-4 CDs of albums I would like for that sort of scratch. I struggle with this conflict all of the time.

      No, I haven’t heard the Ferry/Radiohead mashup. I’m not a fan of mashups. I see them as arbitrary artifacts and not music. Plus, I’m not a fan of Radiohead. I’ve only heard “Creep” by them [didn’t like it] and when either “Kid A” or “OK Computer” [can’t remember the details] came out, a co-worker of my wife loaned her the disc to listen to and I had to turn it off.

      Keep me posted on the Olympia mixes. They don’t have to be all hits out of the park. I’ll settle for listenable. The Roxy remixes I’ve heard thus far skirt the edge of acceptability. It helps that none are 11 minutes long. If a remixer screws up a song in only 3-4 minutes I’m more likely to let it ride than if they made it a long, drawn out process.

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  4. Tim says:

    You’re not a fan of mashups? ….and then shock sets in, and I wonder what revelation is next, that the blogger does not like pizza, or regards Ronnie Reagan as just a benevolent & kindly old gent. I fear to read more…
    I’m currently working on a …. not sure you could call it a mashup but it involves mixing up the KLF’s ”3 AM Eternal” with Sam Jackson reading ”Shut the f*** Up & Go to Sleep.”

    Vinnie, I would quite like to hear said mashup from your post, I haven’t seen it in any of my mashup haunts. Would you be kind enough to leave some linkeage?

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I’m cold to mashups. They are even a step down from post-modern remixes as a method of bilking the faithful. And I dislike post-modern remixes enough as it is. Mashups are a social phenomenon, not a music one, for me. By the way, I define post-modern remixes as any mixes commissioned by a label [or even done by fans in this era] after the initial commercial release of a song. There are six contemporary mixes of “Two Tribes,” but dozens of post-modern [post-1984] remixes.

      The Sam Jackson reference flies right over my head, but I just read “The Manual” by Drummond and Cauty – finally!

      Like

  5. Tim says:

    I like your definition of post-modern mix. Someone certainly needs to come up with a term for some of the mixes that proliferated in the 1990’s and early 2000’s that were just bloody awful and did nothing really to advance the parent track and merely padded out a cd-single to make it more marktetable to collectors.

    Your take on mashups as a social phenomenon is an interesting approach to it that I never really considered. In a mashup forum recently I asked the forumites if someone could provide a history of mashing and I was underwhelmed by the response. I thought, given the level of self-promotion that may accompany these, that the makers of them would be quite glib and eager to talk about it but that really wasn’t the case. A couple of people volunteered some information but I could have found out more by going to the entry on Wikipedia (a place I hesitate to go to for information).

    The SlJ reference regards an audiobook he just did of a ”children’s book” that is really for frustrated parents of children who will not go to sleep.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Re: SLj – I am gobsmacked! Re: Post-modern mixes – I think the mid-80s was when I first noticed this phenomenon, which was usually heralded by appending the year of the new mix after the song title. There was “Send Me An Angel ’88” but that wasn’t the first. I wish I could remember exactly the first of these.

      Like

  6. Tim says:

    ’88 was around the time that happened. I think it may be more than a coincidence that domestic sales of cds’ was starting to launch at the time and really achieve mainstream penetration into a lot of households. A lot of cds were being reissued and bonus tracks & mixes were being offered as an incentive to buy something you already had.

    I had meant to mention before that I share a lot of the same opinions on Radiohead. Somewhere on music drive I have an article that Nick Hornby wrote for the Guardian (I think it was) some years back about Radiohead where he essentially said, yeah, I get it, they’re quality, well-produced and well crafted, popular, etc. but I just don’t get them. He went on to say that he thought part of it for him at least was being an adult with a full time job and kids (one of which is autistic) and other responsibilities makes it really hard to slip on head phones and immerse oneself in an album all day long through multiple listenings, exploring every nook and cranny of the composition. I was managing a hotel when Radiohead was really hitting their stride and while I did have albums that were on constant rotation through those years i just didn’t have the time to invest in listening to albums that way, it wasn’t really until I left that industry for something with saner hours that I was really able to start reacquainting myself with my music collection in a different way.

    I was never a fan of ”Creep” until I accidentally found the mashup community via the Hype Machine and some of the pairings that people come up with for that one just crack me up.
    The only Radiohead track I ever really glommed onto was ‘Karma Police,’ which I went so far as to use for my ”opening credits” music for a cd I made a few Christmases back where I turned
    ”It’s A Wonderful Life” into an 80 minute cd-sized pop opera for the holidays.

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