It’s the weekend! While you all ‘chillax’ it’s another working day for SDE and so it’s time to kick back with some stories and updates from the past week, along with gossip and news from the weeks to come…
Flamboyant singles box for Pet Shop Boys?
There seemed to be two distinct camps after yesterday’s announcement detailing the extraordinary Bananarama 33CD ‘In A Bunch’ singles box. Naturally enough, hardcore fans of the girl group were delighted with the offering, which seems to deliver what many could only dream of – every remix, variation, b-side of every single between 1981 and 1993.
Music fans who don’t put Bananarama at the top of their list of favourite artists could only turn green with envy – “Why can’t we have a set like this for the Pet Shop Boys?” was a suggestion picked up enthusiastically by many pop fans in the comments section of the post.
And there’s the rub. Great box sets or great ideas for box sets don’t always coincide with the artists you necessarily want. Taking the Pet Shop Boys as an example, it has now been 14 years since any album reissues. In that time, the landscape for archival deluxe editions has changed and just chucking out a 2CD deluxe as your only product offering isn’t really going to cut the mustard. But on the other hand, with nearly 50 singles issued in their Parlophone/EMI era, the chances of seeing a Banarama-style 50CD box set are virtually zero.
In the last few years Demon Music have reissued Bananarama’s studio albums, and put out the Megarama compilation. This has given them some valuable up-to-date knowledge of fans’ appetite for releases. They have dipped their elbow in the water and have a feel for the demand. Still, the box is a large undertaking and not without its risks – even a small miscalculation with the ‘math’, or getting carried away with creating something spectacular while neglecting the commercial realities, could be disastrous. That would not be good for Demon or for fans who hope for similar products in the future.
The bottom line is that no matter how good something is, there is a limit to what people are prepared to pay. Parlophone (now part of Warners) will consider the Pet Shop Boys as the crown jewels when it comes to the pop side of their catalogue, so are they going to give you 60 or 70 minutes of music for £3-4 a pop? (the cost-per-CD of the Bananarama box) – probably not. They might decide that a disc full of newly remastered music, with much of it new-to-CD or unreleased, is worth about £10 – in which case, are you going to pay £500 for this Pet Shop Boys box set of your dreams? In a word, no. It’s too much money. A tiny minority might, but that won’t be enough to make something it profitable, so it won’t happen.
Also, I love the Pet Shop Boys, YOU probably love the Pet Shop Boys, but unless they undertake a massive amount of market research, the label really has no idea what an archive reissue product might sell, never mind an enormous, financially risky box. They can take an educated guess what a Please super deluxe edition box might sell, based on similar products for similar artists, but that’s about it. So it is highly likely that they would not take any unnecessary risks. Major labels do not throw caution to the wind. Note the fact that a-ha‘s Hunting High and Low is coming out again this year, and Fleetwood Mac‘s Rumours was reissued in 2013. They can leave the risk-taking to licensees (Demon Music) and still earn money as the licensor (Bananarama is being licensed from Warners).
Also with Bananarama and the Pet Shop Boys debate, let’s remember that other releases for the girl group have been explored and put out already. A massive clear-out-the-archive singles box set is really an end-of-cycle product that you might tackle once you’ve exhausted all the other options, not something you kick off a reissue campaign with. If ZTT/Salvo had done this with Frankie Goes To Hollywood five years ago, they would simply have had nothing to release afterwards.
Finally, the Pet Shop Boys are still very active and have always exercised a massive amount of control over their releases, right from the very beginning. From the Farrow designed artwork, to the B-sides, and remixes. Although they are no longer signed to the label, the record company are not going to upset the band with an idea they don’t like. My guess is that even if Warners had the appetite to create a massive singles box, all it would take is a shake of the head and a withering “I don’t think so…” from Neil Tennant and it would be dropped like a hotter-than-normal hot potato. With all due respect to Sara and Keren, it is likely that Demon could push ahead with or without their involvement. I seem to recall they weren’t really involved in the album reissues.
We know that Pet Shop Boys reissues are in-the-planning, so we will see what emerges – hopefully in the next six months. A multi-format reissue/remaster of Please with a super deluxe box variant is where my money lays.
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Paul Sinclair is editor of SuperDeluxeEdition.