The Flowers in the Dirt deluxe set caused controversy by not including all audio on CD
Scott Rodger, who manages Paul McCartney (and other major artists, including Arcade Fire) reached out to SDE last week to discuss the less than positive fan feedback left on this blog over the 16 ‘download-only’ tracks included in the forthcoming Flowers in the Dirt deluxe edition.
The ground rules for the conversation (with SDE Editor, Paul Sinclair) were that this wasn’t an ‘interview’ and wouldn’t be reported as such, but that Scott was keen to convey his general points to McCartney fans and the SDE audience about Paul’s Archive Collection releases and hopefully try and put into context why certain decisions are made, including the controversial one not to include the B-sides, remixes and demos on CD, in the Flowers in the Dirt box set (see the open letter to Paul McCartney).
If we are going to cut to the chase, I will put you out of your misery and tell you that unfortunately, nothing will change regarding this Flowers in the Dirt deluxe edition.
I’m going to summarise the key points that Scott made below. To stress, these are not direct quotes from Scott and these aren’t necessarily the exact questions I asked, but I’ve created the questions and answers below to try and simplify and clarify the points of view. In my opinion, it is a very fair summary of the conversation.
Why not include the ‘download-only’ content on a physical fourth CD in the Flowers in the Dirt box set?
The main reason why there is not a fourth physical CD is because Paul didn’t want any more than four discs in the set. What Paul says, ultimately goes. He wants to look to the future and embrace new technology and drive people to streaming. 100m people are signed up to streaming services right now and that is projected to double in the next three to four years. This is seen as the future. Paul’s team want to look to the future and their research shows that more people are excited about the streaming catalogue. If that wasn’t the case then many more box sets would be sold.
Surely one extra CD wouldn’t have cost that much?
The cost wasn’t the main issue (see above) although Scott was at pains to stress that while Paul’s organisation is not losing money from these reissues, they are not that far from it, so even something like licensing some TV footage for the DVD element could make the difference between profit and loss. Physical music retail is a challenging marketplace with limited options (Amazon, Best Buy, Target. etc.) and Scott also pointed out that despite the costs of these sets, there is a lot of retail mark-up and label margin in the £120 price-tag.
Does this mean that Paul doesn’t value his fans?
Scott was very keen to underline that Paul values his fans very much but also trusts the team that is in place (headed by Rodger) to put these releases together. The whole Archive Collection series is one big preservation project and Scott is thrilled that they’ve managed to deliver what they have with projects that, in his opinion, go above and beyond. Paul is very involved and checks everything and listens to all the remastered audio.
If there isn’t a market for multi-disc sets, how come Sony issued a 60-disc box set for Elvis and a 36-disc set for Bob Dylan?
This is a different prospect. Scott agreed that there probably is a market for a 25CD set of Paul McCartney & Wings and MPL could do that. Indeed, they are talking about it. But for one title, one album, it’s different.
Why fill the box sets with so much printed material (books etc.) and not focus more on physical music?
Scott pointed out that Paul has an archive of over 1.2 million photos – he kept virtually everything. People within MPL are digitising every day. Preserving the world around the key titles in his catalogue via photos, memorabilia, lyric sheets is considered a core part of the process.
Doesn’t Paul realise that there’s some great music amongst those B-sides, remixes and cassette demos?
The physical discs in the deluxe set (Flowers in the Dirt remastered, Elvis Costello demos and band demos) are considered to be the crème de la crème. The other audio in the opinion of Paul and MPL is of interest, but not considered to be central to the narrative of the making of Flowers in the Dirt.
Are all future Paul McCartney Archive Collection deluxe sets going to be like this?
The answer to this was that nothing is set in stone. This doesn’t necessarily define what will happen in the future.
Will the 16-tracks being supplied as downloads be MP3, CD quality or high-resolution?
The additional tracks will be 16-bit standard WAVs since they were sourced from EQ’d CD production master Umatic tapes, which are limited to 16-bit 44.1 kHz. So they aren’t hi-res but neither are they MP3s.
What’s does the future hold in terms of the physical deluxe editions of archive collection titles?
Paul’s team work on one project at a time because there may come a point where the record label says there is no demand anymore. Despite this, I was assured that loads of potential projects are being discussed such as Wildlife and Red Rose Speedway.
Paul Sinclair of SuperDeluxeEdition would like to thank Scott Rodger for getting in touch personally to respond to the issue directly.