Holy schnikes is this fall going to be like music heaven or what? First it’s that David Gilmour set, then there’s that Dylan set (don’t worry, I ain’t buying that $130 thing – not even considering it), plus the hugely expanded version(s) of U2’s Under A Blood Red Sky are finally coming out on CD (well, two now) and DVD, remasters of Fripp & Eno’s classics, No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, are finally seeing the light of day (and should be as well handled as Eno’s remasters were,) Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson releases his first solo album in November as a “special deluxe multi disc mail order version,” Ben Folds’ new album comes as one of these “super deluxe” versions for $84.95 (nope, skipping that too – sorry Ben, that last album BLEW.) Plus the new Marillion album that I ordered sometime last year for an amount I don’t even remember now (hey, that works well for them – any pain on the buyer’s end is long gone by the time the thing finally lands in your hands!) And there’s more. Lots more – I didn’t even bother to mention plenty of stuff that I may only have a passing interest in, not to mention stuff I don’t give a dump about. And let’s not forget, it’s only August – give it a month, month and a half, and we’ll see a release schedule chock full o’ stuff.
One thing I’m noting with these ultra-expensive sets: it looks like people are assuming the worst about music purchases. They seem to be acting as if this is the last year people are going to be willing to buy stuff. And it’s not – but the industry is just as happy to have you think that you only have this chance to get these things. Look how often “extremely limited edition” shows up lately in relation to some new release. Everyone’s got to make a buck somehow, I suppose. These are the tactics that got the industry where it is today, however.
I read that box sets are facing a bleak future – really, when you think about it, who exactly are most boxes aimed at? They’ve grown to be expanded best-ofs, which don’t serve fans, and which are usually too comprehensive for casual listeners. And the sets that are really interesting to fans are too esoteric for casual listeners. There have been few compromises that truly work. It’s only in the case of huge artists where a box set can work because everyone has their work and so anything new, even if it’s just a bunch of alternate takes or oddities, can be exciting to hear. So I think the success of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nail’s beautifully packaged “regular albums” has said to the industry that people now want to pay for extravagant versions of regular music. I can kinda-sorta agree – I would much rather spend a little more and get a really nice package than get stuck with the crappy packaging that we’ve been getting much of the time. I, at least, actually do look at my CDs. But they’ve gone too far. Way too far. $80 (and $130) versions of albums is just too damned much. Jesus, we’re talking about MUSIC here. When I said “spend a little more,” I meant, “I’ll pay $20 for the deluxe,” not that. This is a trend that is going to wear out its welcome VERY quickly. I love packaging – I’m a freak for good packaging – but I probably won’t be buying any of these extra-expensive ones. They just don’t make sense when there’s so many of them. If I have to, I’ll pick one and love it unconditionally, but at this point, I don’t know that I even want to bother with that.