From Hell’s Heart-Multiple Reissues Of The Same Album: Trash or Treasure?

March 15th, 2014
by J P

The latest fad in music has been re-issuing the same album over and over again, sometimes within the year of release and multiple versions on initial release days.  Some of our staff  (listed alphabetically) wade into the debate with various perspectives.  That do you think?

Brat (Australia)

The latest fad in music has been re-issuing the same album over and over again, sometimes within the year of release and multiple versions on initial release days. Are you tired of it? Does it make you spend more $$ on one artist and less on others or do you just say Fuck ‘em and download it for free from some illegal site? Write you thoughts, feelings and suggestions down and maybe some artists/labels will read it and hear us, the fans and music buying people.

When it comes to multiple versions of one album, Australian metalheads are probably most able to deal with sorting through the hype and confusion because we’ve been doing it for years. We’ve mostly only ever had the option of imports as most metal acts are not represented here. The few good, heavy metal, independent specialist retailers would regularly offer more than one option of a release: the European release; the US release; or the value-add and pricier Japanese release. Then later came the special release, limited box editions with a bunch of extra goodies on top of the CD. This is how I’d approach the array of offerings of one album.

1. Am I a huge fan of the band having their entire back catalogue?

If so, I go for the fanciest version possible. I first noticed these over ten years ago and even bought a few because they were so novel. RHAPSODY had some great box editions and a HELLOWEEN box even included a zippo lighter. I’ve tried to collect all of these over the years for my must-have bands and have only missed NIGHTWISH’s Imaginaerum release with the owl mirror.

2. Do I really like the band? 

I usually buy the digibook version of the CD, or something like a 2CD or CD with bonus DVD.

3. Is it a CD I like, but don’t necessarily consider myself a fan of the band?

In this case my choice will be the cheapest, usually jewel case, version.

4. Is it a new band or something everyone’s raving about as a must-have release, but I’ve never been into the band?

I rely on a promo copy and if the label is not forthcoming, I go to the band’s website or youtube to listen to some samples. Once I’ve listened to it and had time to absorb it, I follow one of the applicable steps from 1–3.

Multiple offerings

I love that we have options to suit our interest levels and budgets, but when the same CD is released with nothing different but the artwork, the band is getting too greedy.

 

 

Celtic Bob (Eastern Canada)

The latest fad in music has been re-issuing the same album over and over again, sometimes within the year of release and multiple versions on initial release days. Some recent examples have been the latest David Bowie; issued the Spring of 2013, re-issued the Fall with an EP of extras (at least he made an Extras EP on itunes so you didn’t have to buy the album again) . Similar with Deep Purple; NOW What?! came out, the singles had B-Sides then it was re-issued the Fall as Gold Edition with the B-Sides and a Live CD (luckily I bought the Live LP and the 2 bonus tracks I got from iTunes). Some release Digi versions with a bonus Live CD/DVD, some will give an exclusive track to Best Buy/Amazon…etc so to get all the music by your favorite band you end up buying multiple copies of the same album. Are you tired of it? Does it make you spend more $$ on one artist and less on others or do you just say “Fuck ‘em” and download it for free from some illegal site? This has been an issue that has been eating away at me for awhile now and I needed to vent my frustrations on it.

This trend has been around for awhile but in the past few years it has gotten worse. There was always the Japanese version with exclusive track which was done so the Japanese fans would buy their own version rather than the usually cheaper North American import version. While many North American fans sought out the Japanese version for that sole exclusive track. Now things have gotten worse, much worse. The label (or whoever) has taken it upon themselves to exploit this tenfold and offer different versions of an album. How many times have you seen an exclusive Amazon version, or Best Buy version? Pre-order direct from the band’s site and get a t-shirt or exclusive live DVD? It’s become too much in my opinion. Why not release the album in one complete edition initially? If you have demo versions or more recordings from the session then release a separate disc of SESSION SONGS or DEMOS FROM THE ALBUM for the hardcore fan? Why force the record buying public to buy multiple copies of your album? Does it really increase sales or just confuse the buyer? If I can buy the regular basic album for $20 or the Super Duper Deluxe Extended Special Edition for $30 with ‘Bonus DVD’ then I will buy the cheaper. If it is only a dollar or two more then it’s a no brainer that the Super Duper Deluxe Extended Special Edition wins out. Basically it comes down to economics and how much I really love the band.

For me personally I will buy the original LP and as much as I want the ‘Bonus’ tracks I will get them from iTunes and NOT but multiple versions of the release just for a single song, that’s absurd. I paid for the album once and that is more than enough. There is only so much income I can spend on music and I will not spend it on re-buying the same album over and over again. If I cannot get the bonus tracks from iTunes then so be it, I live without that song in my collection. Besides, a digital file is NOT a collection, a physical LP that I can hold in my hand is. Maybe that is another topic of discussion for Hell’s Heart?

 

Erich (USA)

The music recording industry has proven itself resilient through the years, helping it to partially offset its lack of innovation and willingness to change through years of bleeding to death fiscally. The latest trend being peddled to the consumer is the constant re-issue of the same album over and over, sometimes twice in a year, with a few added bonus tracks to justify the cost of buying the entire album again. On the surface, the immediate riposte would seem to be straightforward and reasonable; simply do not pay for what is essentially the same album more than once. However, this does not seem to be happening or the industry would stop if it no longer was a financial positive.

A little background is in order. Viewed from the perspective of the music industry, things are bleak and have been for well over a decade. The recording industry estimates that over the decade running from 1997 to 2007, they lost $55 billion in revenue ((Ehlrich 2011). Indeed, for the year 2013 overall music sales were down 6.3%, with physical music sales down a whopping 13% and digital sales down 6% (Nielsen 2013). Digital sales had been the one positive for the industry, but for the first time in the U.S., digital sales declined in 2013 (Luckerson 2014). Viewing data from 2012 to 2013, total album sales dropped 8% (Nielsen 2013). The disruptive technology of Napster was what the recording industry initially attributed to its massive losses, but today peer to peer file sharing accounts for less than 10% of internet traffic in North America, where only five years ago it accounted for 31% (Luckerson 2014). The new culprit is thought to be YouTube and streaming services like Spotify (Luckerson 2014).

The decline is unmistakable and possibly irreversible, so it is no small wonder that the recording industry is pulling out all stops to squeeze money from the consumers that still pay for music. Once again, in typical recording industry fashion, they have incorrectly identified their own role in this debacle. Napster was a response to fans no longer willing to pay upwards of $15 for albums that often had only a few good songs on them. Mass marketing often became the predicator of success rather than creativity and quality music, thus fan loyalty was often absent as well when it came to buying albums. Most fans only wanted a free copy of the hit song. Not much has changed in 2014, with popular music more often sold on image, sex appeal and marketing than on any iota of talent.

Singles are a problem for the music industry though. According to the RIAA’s own data, the music industry makes almost all of its money from album sales (Degusta 2011). Problem is, no one is buying albums anymore…except for those die-hard loyalists of certain artists! Oh yeah baby, find out what artists continue to sell albums or have a passionate and loyal following and reissue their albums ad nauseum. Those suckers will buy ‘em! Apparently that is what is happening, as the industry continues to re-issue albums, and while the data out there on boosts to the bottom line is not concrete yet, you can bet they would not continue to do it if there was not some fiscal benefit.

Artists that own some or all of the rights to their catalogs are just as guilty. They know the loyalty of their fans and endorse or initiate several different versions and re-issues knowing the die-hard fans will scoop them up. The issue that goes unresolved is that in order to change the behavior of the consumer you cannot continue to repeat the alienating behavior that cost you their money in the first place. Expecting your core fans to sustain your lost profits to the general public is ultimately going to prove counterproductive. The recording industry is flailing and artists make the bulk of their money now through touring and merchandising.

So we the loyal fans need to send a message. We buy your albums because we support you. Do not insult our intelligence by offering minimally altered versions of your album and calling it a new release. It is a sure-fire way to lose even your core fans, and then what will you as artist sand labels have when that happens? Me personally, I am voting with my wallet by refusing to buy re-issues. I am also no longer going to review minimally altered re-issues. These are not worthy of promotion. Furthermore, I am going to encourage my fellow industry peers to do the same.

 

Helias (Greece)

I am a classic metal fan like you and I want to buy the (new) album of a band. Surely re-issuing is a very boring and operose fad that labels the recent years tend to follow. I don’t know if this fad shoots for making us spending the maximum of money on an artist. Assuredly, re-issuing a big damage on die-hard fans of a band who want to purchase the gatefold of album X, the 7’’ inch inches, the limited edition EP after the X release and finally the reissue of the album X with 3 bonus tracks.

Personally speaking, my favourite band is Black Sabbath, but I ain’t purchasing all those Sabbath-ical releases of PARANOID album ( 7’’ inch LP, deluxe edition, special edition, bonus track version and whatever edition). Simply, I am interested in only the first ‘ordinary’ edition with the 8 tracks that gave me hell! That’s all! I don’t want something more than it. The only exception that I can spend my money upon a re-issue is only a Vinyl version due to the fact I am a die-hard fan of vinyl and the sound that comes out of it. The vinyl’s sound is much better than CD’s one and it’s the best way to listen carefully to an album away of a ‘computer-sed’ sound. Only that! But let’s take a look on what records labels (the ones that are responsible for the re-issuing of the albums):

1) Record labels maintain that they re-issue an album because fans possibly get the album via tape trading and now it’s time to pick up the album in a much more ‘beautiful’ outlet than a loose ripped CD. And here is the strongly opposed mind. Many people do not care about the ‘thing’ (tape, vinyl or CD) that would bring the music into their ears! They just care only about the music and not the fancy and glaring enwrapment. That’s only an aspect.

2) The records labels deem that people that those albums are something like ancient back catalog stock and if it makes it into a store at all, the CD will be tucked away in a dark corner at the back. Also, they allege that people’s attitude changes towards a new edition- the exact same album that was ignored for years, the redux version will suddenly now feature on the front line in record shops, and this extra visibility in stores has a massive effect on sales.

And many people would say that that is not true. The real fans do not need any front line in record shops to buy the real good music that is packed in albums. Music (CD’s and LP’s) is not such a product like perfumes or toys etc. that can be outside of our desire and appetence or something that we get bored with.

The bottom line is that the issue of the re-issue is up to you guys!

 

JP (Western Canada)

I suspect I will be in the minority opinion but I actually like and support multiple versions of an album. There are often many good, business reasons why various bands have multiple versions of albums. Primarily different territories have different contractual demands on an artist to provide content (bonus tracks, videos, special packaging) to support their domestic industry. The classic example for 20-30 years has been Japan. Domestically manufactured CD’s are very expensive in Japan. Japanese fans would buy non-domestic versions (ie. imports from Europe or North America) instead of the local Japanese pressing, because the import was significantly cheaper. Therefore Japanese labels started insisting that bands provide extra, exclusive content (bonus tracks) as an incentive for Japanese fans to buy the Japanese version. This practice is expanding as bands and labels release multiple versions onto the market.

As a Metal fans I would rather have more, not fewer, versions on the market of a bands product. With smaller print runs, higher costs it makes sense to offer a variety of versions, of smaller runs. It is just like the automobile industry. You can buy a base model, a version with lots of options, or fully loaded versions and consumers can decide based on those features and their budget.

I don’t usually rush out on the first day to buy an album, so it is very seldom that I’ll experience disappointment of buying one, then have a different (or better) version come out later. I try to be an informed consumer and listen a bit on-line or through media contacts to an album before committing dollars to owning a physical product. I enjoy comparing the versions, to see what creative ways the band had reissued the album, perhaps new artwork, bonus tracks even a DVD. If I like the band I may buy both versions to help support them and give them two sales. Sometimes, if there is a second version that is superior, the first version (the original pressing) goes up in value for collectors. Another option is that if you want to rebuy a newer version of an album, the first version can make a nice gift to a friend to try to introduce more people to a band. Lastly, people can sell their old versions to recover their costs if they want to buy a newer, different version. There really is no downside.

Any fan that complains about multiple versions of a bands product are likely not a true, die-hard fan of the band.  Often it is the record label, not the band that is making multiple reissues.  Why would anyone try to complain about an artist that they like trying to make a living and offer more products to a marketplace? The market will decide if the current practice of multiple issues can be sustained and obviously it is sustainable because of the increase in multiple versions. Those same ‘fans’ that complain are under no obligation to purchase any of the various versions of an album. They can buy some or all of them, the consumer has choice and that is a good thing. In the words of Yngwie J. Malmsteen, ‘Less is not more. More is more’.

 Rick (Eastern Canada)

 

One of the newest trends that we have seen in recent years with the ever changing music industry is the “reissuing” of an album over and over with bonus tracks, live cuts, re-mastered tracks, video cuts etc etc etc. Some of these reissues follow so closely on the heels of the original release that it almost seems incomprehensible that they weren’t part of the original marketing plan to begin with. A band spends 3 years between releases, conceivably composing and perfecting their next release and then put out that music to their fans. Said fans buy said music yet sometimes before it has had a chance to leave an impression, the CD is reissued with new tracks, new track listing and sometimes even new artwork..

From my personal perspective there is only so much money that I can spend on music today. When I was younger I had voracious appetite for purchasing music. Those days are past. I support the bands I love, be they new or old, and it just irks me to go and support a band by buying their music only to be faced with a reissue 3 months or even 3 years later. Do I usually go out and buy the reissue? Not normally. As I have stated, I try to spread my purchases around and support as much of the music I love while staying on budget. If the option of buying the tracks on iTunes is available I will think about it but to me that ruins the completeness of the album.

Here is a case in point, IN MEMORY by Nevermore. Nevermore are one of my favourite bands and this EP is where Nevermore found itself. Pat O’Brien, who would later join Cannibal Corpse, came on board and helped mold the sound that the band was reaching for on their debut. The reissue, coming 10 years later, just adds a bunch of demoes as bonus tracks. These songs do nothing to augment the original release. Of course they bring added value for anyone wanting to purchase the disc for the first time but on a purely musical level there is nothing. This is the case with many reissues. The added tracks seemingly bring an added value to the table in that the purchaser seems to be getting more “bang for the buck”. Unfortunately, I subscribe to the old adage of quality over quantity. I assume that when an album is released that it is the vision that the artists want to present the fans. If a band has a ton of unused B-sides, demoes etc, then why not release a whole album of that material? I would plunk down my cash for a package like that. Just reissuing a previously released album with a few demoes thrown aboard for good measure doesn’t make me want to spend my hard earned money.

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