STOP With the “Deluxe Editions” of Albums Madness!
“Tampa Earl” Burton
If you were in my Sanctum Sanctorum, you would see that I have a great affinity for recorded music. This is something that has been a part of my life since my early years. Back when I was in high school, my best friend DJ (may he rest in peace) and I would cut field trips in Champaign to go to Mabel’s, at that time THE record store in the area. We would load up on vinyl albums and come back to the bus, with the teachers (and eventually our parents) just shaking their heads at us.
That love of recorded music eventually led to me amassing more than 1500 albums as I went through adulthood. Those albums went everywhere with me – through my time in the United States Marine Corps and my early years in the radio business. When CDs came along, I immediately was attracted to the crystal-clear sound, and they became the new part of my collecting efforts.
Alas, I do not know where those treasures went. I won’t go into a long, drawn-out explanation of where they went except to say THAT ______ who sold them during the divorce, but I’ve gotten over it now. I’ve also spent the years since then actually trying to rebuild the collection. I’ve done pretty well in that endeavor – it now sits at around 2200 pieces, and it is constantly growing.
But the record industry doesn’t do me any favors. I am not sure whom to blame this growing phenomenon on – is it the industry? Or is it the artists and groups who create this music? I am, of course, talking about something that has become a plague on the music world – the “deluxe edition” album.
Recently, Taylor Swift released her latest work, Midnights, to wide acclaim from both the Swifties out there and many music critics (I do have to admit – “Anti-Hero” is a pretty catchy track). The thing that annoyed me, however, is the way that the album was marketed – and how much money was taken from fans for the same product.
Swift – or maybe it is her record company, Universal Music Group and Republic Records – released FOUR versions of Midnights for fans to purchase. The track listing of each album was the same as all the others, but what was different was that some of the photos on the covers were different. There were also different color motifs – Moonstone Blue (the “standard” release), Blood Moon (a red hue), Mahogany (darker reddish brown), and Jade Green (self-explanatory) – that presented the work and, if you purchased all four, the back of the albums would make for a clock face.
Taylor isn’t the only one who has succumbed to this subterfuge. Dua Lipa has a total of TWO albums under her belt, and both of them had their initial release, then came out with what was called a “deluxe edition.” These deluxe editions were only remarkable in that they contained “dance mixes” that had not been created when Lipa originally recorded the albums.
This has now begun to soak down into the rock world. Halestorm, one of the bands that carries the banner for hard rock in the 2020s, released Back from the Dead in May of this year. Just in time for the holiday season (December 9), however, there is Back from the Dead: Deluxe Edition, which features seven “previously unreleased B-sides.”
This is madness.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE a box set just as much as the next person. I’d rather see some bands do MORE box sets. Bob Seger has never done an official box set. AC/DC has produced collections of their live work (Backtracks) and their tribute to their late vocalist Bon Scott (Bonfire), but they’ve never done an official box set either. These do not fall into what I am complaining about above.
The issue that I have with these “deluxe” releases is that they are asking the fans to pay, over and over and over again, for materials that they already had previously. If you’re one of the people who bought Back from the Dead when it came out or are one of those people who like to have the entire catalog from an artist or group, now you’ve got to get a “deluxe edition” to be able to keep your collection up to date. In a time where many people are scraping to get by, this isn’t fair for the artists and groups, nor the record companies, to continue to ask people to pay for the same thing.
Swift’s move is simply a money grab, whether it is by Swift or the record companies is the question. Lipa’s situation is a bit different, but why not just go ahead and release another album that contains your “dance mixes” (Madonna has done that on several occasions, as has Lady Gaga)? Halestorm could also just issue another album rather than trying to have their “other music” ride the coattails of what has been a rather successful album overall.
Perhaps the reason for these marketing moves is that record companies are trying to maximize their physical sales. In 2022, digital sales have bypassed the physical sales of CDs, vinyl records, and physical sheet music. The record companies are trying every possible mechanism to earn the most money from the product they got – and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down (just look at the money that “legacy” artists are getting for their catalogs). This doesn’t excuse this growing trend, however.
Regardless of who is to blame, “deluxe editions” are destroying the record industry, be it physical or digital. People don’t want to have to buy things repeatedly to be able to “have” the music they love. When you start pissing off people that buy your product, they usually don’t come back. The record industry has already decimated much of their product – are they looking to kill it off outright?
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