After wondering how music had got so cheap in my last post and wondering how revenue streams could be re-invigorated going forward, two upcoming releases have answered me in kind, both by long established acts, Depeche Mode and The Beatles. Now, back in the day you could buy an album on CD, LP or cassette and there was a time (around 1990 ish) that all three were bought in massive numbers. That has moved on slightly with CD the major format (for now), followed by downloads and with vinyl (for some artists) being the preserve of the ‘geek’ – let’s face it, you have to try bloody hard to actually buy a record deck these days and then have an amp to plug it into etc… so your casual music fan ain’t buying vinyl anymore. CD and download are pretty similar in cost – around £7.99 if you know where to buy and, due to the rules of supply and demand, vinyl is now double that – if you can find somewhere to buy it. As for the cassette. That died. And you probably didn’t notice.
Now, Depeche Mode are a long-established behemoth, having been around since 1980 and have a loyal international following. Disclaimer – I’m a fan. Their new album is called ‘Sounds of the Universe’ and is due out at the end of April. When they released their seminal ‘Violator’ album back in 1990, it came out in the aforementioned CD/LP/Cassette classic triumvirate. So, how can you buy the new album? Amazingly, you can buy it as a CD, CD+DVD set, Double vinyl LP+CD set – pressed on 180gm virgin vinyl (including a Sounds Of The Universe CD – which I suppose is nice), Download and a Deluxe Box Set containing three CDs, a DVD, two hard-back books and a ‘host of extras’. So, five formats. The cheapest will be around £7.99 (for the boring old CD) with prices going up to around £55 for the Deluxe Box Set. Now, choice is probably a good thing, but if you are a Depeche Mode collector, you are probably going to buy all apart from the download. So, one fan will probably shell out the best part of £80 for one album. A nice little earner for their indie label Mute and the Basildon lads I think you’ll agree…
But the real biggy coming up is from The Beatles. Now, I’m a bit of a fan of the Fabs (I will get round to writing about bands I despise, promise). Actually, I’m a really big fan – I want to do the new MA at Liverpool Uni sometime before I die – that big. So, as a fan I’m genuinely interested in the news. The thing is that, without going into numbingly boring detail, several of the albums haven’t been available in certain formats on CD ever and these are going to be remastered to boot. Basically speaking, when the reissues come out (on 09/09/09 – 9 was John Lennon’s favourite/lucky/significant number, don’t you know) all 12 original UK albums, plus Magical Mystery Tour (originally a double 7″ vinyl EP – you don’t see too many of THAT format around these days) and Past Masters I and II on one CD (basically all non-LP tracks that were rounded up for the Beatles on to CD campaign of 1987) will be released in stereo. That’s 14 new CDs to purchase. But wait. EMI are also bringing out a box-set of the lot. Oh yeah, all tracks that were originally released as mono mixes will also be released as a box set for ‘completists’ (that’ll be me then). Oh, sorry, they’ll be a DVD as well. Now, I’m just guessing, but I reckon that, all in all, that is at the very least a £200 outlay. Eeeek. And as they are bound to sell around the world in gargantuan quantities, EMI and the band will be able to top up those revenues a bit more. Hell, EMIwon’t even *need* an album by Radiohead this year after all to keep going!!!
So, not to worry. For every £3 CD avaiable at ‘Head’, the true giants of the musical stage still know how to make their money.