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Saturday Deluxe / Why isn’t a music box set considered a luxury item?

 

Box sets will always struggle be perceived as greater than the sum of their parts, argues SDE editor Paul Sinclair.

A rainy January in London turns into a rainy February, and the Roxy Music box set is out. The super deluxe edition price of £130 has sparked great debate on SDE about music box sets and what represents good value. I have been mulling this over myself and after a rather protracted twitter debate yesterday (see this thread) I have come to the conclusion that the record labels are in trouble, because generally speaking, the target market for physical box sets considers them a value proposition and not an item of luxury.

I used the example of a designer clothes on twitter, as an example. Paul Smith sells T-shirts at £65. In my opinion that is much worse value than the Roxy Music box set at £135 but with Paul Smith you are buying into a brand, a lifestyle and that sort of item makes a statement. If you can afford to buy a £65 T-shirt, you are doing okay; it is a transaction that celebrates success. For whatever reason, that T-shirt doesn’t come under the same ‘value’ scrutiny of a music box set, like Roxy Music. A £65 T-shirt is likely to cost £10-£15 to manufacture (my wife is in fashion retail), so that equates to something like a 75% profit margin. To put that into context, if we estimate that the Roxy Music box set cost around £45 to produce, and applied those same margins to the music industry, the retail price for the box set would be £190. It’s unlikely that anyone would find that acceptable.

So why aren’t high end music box sets treated as a luxury product, like a Paul Smith T-shirt, a Rolex watch, a Range Rover Evoque, or a Smeg Fridge/Freezer? You wouldn’t go into John Lewis and look at a £1000 Smeg fridge and start getting the calculator out and exclaim “what a rip-off’ it probably only costs them £300 to make this!” but time and again that is the criticism on SDE of expensive box sets.

In December 2016 The Human League‘s A Very British Synthesizer Group 3CD+DVD set was released at around the £80 mark and the merits of the product were entirely lost by cries of “how much!?” Fans mentally stripped the set down to its component parts – four optical discs and a book – and it was branded a ‘cash grab’. People were assessing how much it would cost to make (probably £25) and there was no other intangible, like a lifestyle brand, to bridge the gap between low cost price and high retail price. The package wasn’t a considered a ‘naughty, but nice’ luxury. Instead, the audience felt insulted by the band, its management and the record label. In this game of pricing ‘chicken’ the label gave in and just four months later you could buy the set for HALF the original price. This kind of action makes physical music consumers even more resolute, when the next expensive product comes along. I’ve lost count of how many SDE readers have proclaimed that they will wait six months and buy the Roxy Music super deluxe set for £50.

The problem is that however groovy a box set might be, it sits on your shelf, only to be seen and played by you. Buying music is a rather singular activity. Most of us don’t even need to go into a shop now and have a conversation with someone. The CD or box set is delivered by the postman, you open it, you play it, you read the book/booklet and you add it to your collection. You don’t take it to a dinner party and enjoy seeing people glancing at it like you might do with a nice watch, or impress your mates at the golf club when you pull up in a new car. Owning a great box set doesn’t increase your standing in society. Your exquisite taste in music and the fact that you can afford some flashy looking box sets go largely unappreciated outside of the confines of your own home and family life (possibly inside your own home, too!).

Why will a casual fan pay £200 to go an see U2 live, while a diehard fan will think the same kind of money for the massive limited UBER deluxe edition of Achtung Baby is a ‘rip off’ – a blatant example of profiteering from the record company? On the face of it, that seems absurd, but everything comes back to intangible benefits and perception. Going to a big gig (‘the hottest ticket in town’) is a social activity and the experience is shared by friends – literally, these days, with ‘look-where-I-am’ social media. You are admired – you managed to get tickets in the first place! You are envied  – you can afford to go! You can buy the T-shirt and wear it to the pub and go on about how “amazing” the evening was (even though you were in row Z of block 412 in the O2 and it took two hours to get home).

With that in mind, consider the following conversation:

“Did I tell you I bought this amazing box set of Roxy Music’s debut album the other day?”

“No..”

“It great. It includes loads of unreleased stuff, original demos… a 5.1 remix by Steven Wilson.”

“Who’s that?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“How much did that set you back?”

Er.. it wasn’t cheap. £130 actually.”

What!? Are you mad? I don’t know why you bother buying box sets anyway. I listen to everything on Spotify. It’s free! You’ve got more money than sense”.

So, no kudos forthcoming for your investment or passion for physical music!


Music has got cheaper and cheaper over the years and decades. A new album on CD is £10, a deluxe edition, perhaps with some kind of bonus disc might be £10-£13. Physical music has never really been sold as a luxury item and therefore marketing super deluxe editions of one album into a £100+ product is no easy task. Unless the item is signed, or truly a limited item, people are going to want to see content to justify such price-tags. When you get into realms of £120, or £130 everything has to be PERFECT, or you could be in serious trouble. Paul McCartney‘s Flowers in the Dirt deluxe set committed the cardinal sin of being expensive (£130) and stingy (no 5.1 mix, a CD’s worth of audio via download only) and the new Roxy Music box doesn’t offer Steven Wilson’s stereo mix of the album, and misses out a B-side.

I have no doubt we will see more box sets in the next few years that push the barriers of what the consumer is willing to pay. At around £100, last year’s Sgt. Pepper box probably got the balance right between content and price, but it was The Beatles and it was a 50th anniversary. Most fans will think hard before investing a three figure sum on a physical music release, even if they don’t think quite as hard when it comes to spending the same money on a night out and a curry with their mates.

239 responses to Saturday Deluxe / Why isn’t a music box set considered a luxury item?

  1. Pingback:Saturday Deluxe / 5 May 2018 | superdeluxeedition

  2. Humberto Quiroga says:

    Speaking about Deluxe, Toto is releasing at the end of this year an “all in” box for U$500: 17 LPs, 13CDs and the 5.1 version of Toto IV. Link to their official site:
    http://store.totoofficial.com/music/box-sets/signed-limited-edition-toto-box-set.html

  3. LMTR14 says:

    box sets are and/or a) investment b) stuff for collectors c) items for hardcore fans who really want all the demos and b-sides and whatnot for their favourite albums. like is said in the article, they are not prestige items you show to people (unless in fan circles on the internet) and hence imo not luxury items

  4. Julian H says:

    Driving up prices drives me up the wall. Actually, all it does is drive EVEN MORE people to streaming and the like – because nobody likes to feel like they’re ripped off!

    As good as good packaging is, it’s not the main focus of a deluxe set. That’s why I will continue to buy sets like the TFF, David Gilmour, Jethro Tull etc. ones but stay away from sets that have less actual (audio/visual) content but cost more… because, in the end, I can buy other stuff for the same money.

  5. Argh! says:

    The record labels make it tough for themselves and I find it hard to sympathize if they feel physical product interest is waning because they are not helping the situation. I read an article from Cherry Red records who state that major labels are more than happy to license out material to third parties that the majors don’t see a profit margin in. I have to disagree entirely. For the last year, I have been going through the process of licensing quite a few albums from all three of the majors, Sony, Warner Bros and Universal. I would never describe them as “happy to license” anything because there’s next to no interest in them actually licensing to you within a year or two. They will say that the entire process takes an average of 6 months from start to finish but it’s grossly incorrect. Over the past year I’ve not gotten a single request to final approval, and the very rare inquiries to the label contacts often results in silence. If you ask again they may simply reply “nothing yet”. I appear to be getting close with one of the labels but the other two are a strain to get any response from, even when they’ve stated “Feel free to ask any questions”. The impression they give is that you, as the license requester, are lucky if they eventually take the time to research the title and provide you a quote for any of the albums you’ve inquired about. And definitely don’t inconvenience them with a status inquiry after a few months because that will either annoy them or they will disregard it, and you will get a response once there’s been a review (if that ever happens).

    Perhaps Cherry Red has managed to become favored after years of licensing from the majors, and that’s fine. But one would think the majors would take the opportunity to ensure that a new client is treated with respect and perhaps an ounce of priority to build that new financial relationship. Licensing an album is not inexpensive by any means, and the profit margin really depends on how many units you can move. So if someone is willing to take the risk and is financially prepared, one would think a major would toss out a scrap to see if that new prospect could be a long term client. There’s a sense of the arrogance that they may have been able to get away with years ago when physical products were produced in enormous amounts because it was the only option. But when third party label unit requirements drop from 10,000 to 1500 because of the decrease in physical demand, that clearly shows majors are hurting. But rather than embrace the rare party interested in paying them money for something they have no interest in, it’s rather a struggle to penetrate the clique. The process should not be like crawling up river through mud and sewage, but it is.

  6. Tonk says:

    CDs are still good value – and they’re pretty much the same retail price as when they first came out. Honest, maybe even cheaper actually on certain things.

    Box sets – well everything is more expensive these days, paper, transport, plastic – they’re not cheap to produce. As for sitting back and waiting till it gets cheaper, given the way Universal (et al) manage their inventory and pressing quantities, I would be very careful. They run a very tight ship with regard to stock levels – certainly they’ll bring in extra stock from the Continent if necessary, but wait too long, it’ll get deleted and you’ll end up on the thick end of robo-pricing with the Roxy box on Amazon for around £500+

    • Renato says:

      Well, since I’ve got the previous Roxy Music box set (The Complete Studio Recordings), I’m not that interested in this particular edition – the extra tracks aren’t exactly “must have”, and it’s grossly overpriced. I mean, some box sets are extremely expensive (case in point, Pink Floyd’s The Early Years), but there are huge amounts of content there, and there are also lots of extra stuff – posters, backstage pass replicas, books, etc. This box set can’t compare to that one, so why the abusive price? I guess I’ll give this one a miss and use this money to buy some three other better (and cheaper, too) box sets.

  7. J says:

    I think everyone has a fave (or 2 or 10) recordings & if this one is yours go get it NOW!!! I have 19 distinct variants of Allman Bros Live @ the Fillmore. If they offer 10 more I will buy them all. It just depends on how much (or little) this offering means to you.

    I wish the record label Gods would put Ian Anderso in charge of all releases
    J

  8. Renato says:

    There’s absolutely NO way I’m gonna pay ridiculously high prices for any box set. An OK price would be around £30-£50 for a box set with 5 or 6 discs. Anything above this value and you can definitely count me out. I love music and physical copies, but it’s simply not possible to keep up with all the myriad releases flooding the market almost every week. So, if the price is abusive, I’ll buy two or three other deluxe editions instead, and wait till it’s more affordable. I usually spend a lot of money buying records, but I’d feel ripped off buying products that are too expensive (and yes, there are fewer people buying records, so the demand isn’t exactly high – artificially inflating prices would only make selling the products even harder).

  9. Charlie Waffles says:

    I love purchasing cd box sets. I can do without the lp/3 cd’s / dvd. I do NOT like the short time span that the Tears for Fears box set was out and vanished. Def Leppard’s Hysteria was in print for a shorter span last year. I was lucky to purchase it but I cannot find Songs From the Big Chair without a huge price tag on it.

    So, I say box sets are a luxury item. If they are only on the market for a short time (this means you, Universal) and the value increases tenfold on the resell market then there is no dispute.

    Sony has been guilty of issuing several “Complete Albums Collections” only to discontinue them a year or two later. If the major labels are belly aching about physical sales of music declining keep producing them for a longer period of time. I remember seeing many of the 1990 cd box sets in stores in the next decade. I hated seeing some of the early box sets reduced to little clamshell boxes. Try reading the booklet with bad eyesight.

    I am currently listening to the Once Upon a Time box set I had to purchase from uDiscover UK. I am in the US. The shipping cost was horrible but I found it. God bless the UK and the internet.

  10. Gary says:

    I read an interesting article recently involving Cherry Red Records and, if I perceived the article correctly, the major labels sell Cherry Red the rights to release material from artists, who mainly have had their day and no longer sell enough units to make them viable to the majors, in order to finance upcoming artists. To make this material sellable, Cherry Red then have to entice with a book, poster, coloured vinyl or any other carrot (limited edition anyone?) that appeals. Now I’m not saying this is the case with Roxy Music or any other band for that matter, but how many of today’s youth care enough about RM in the first place to invest in their back catalogue in any shape or form? The nature of deluxe editions, particularly from generally older bands, will appeal mainly to people of a certain age and it’s no coincidence that it is this age bracket that are noted as having more disposable income. Consequently, if they feel they can get away with it, companies will charge what they can. Indirectly, possible mark up on resale also feeds the frenzy. The initial pricing of Def Leppards Hysteria on orange vinyl was about £24 but you’re lucky if you see one on EBay for less than £80! However, back to the original query is a deluxe box set a luxury item? In terms of cost it can be but is it luxurious? Probably not but it’s certainly very indulgent…

  11. Gareth says:

    Best value over £100 box set I’ve ever bought was by Blur. It now sells for £134.99 on their website or £122 on Amazon. I paid £120 for it when it originally went on sale from Sainsbury’s, back in the days when they used to sell CDs and DVDs on their website (and I got a load of Nectar points!!). For this, you got their 7 albums are 2-discs full of B-sides, remixes, etc., an additional double CD of more rarities/demos/unreleased material, a 7-inch, a brilliant hardbound book and 3 DVDs! And it all came inside a material-covered box, not mere cardboard. If Parlophone could offer all that for around £120, it really makes the Roxy box look overpriced.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That was a good set. Although if I’m going to nitpick, the individual 2CD+DVD sets had nicer packaging than those in the box…

    • Alan Wilson says:

      It is a fantastic box set, I own one myself, and I’ll probably upset you a bit with the next comment, but I grabbed that for only £50 it was discounted (much like most box sets these days) and it wasn’t from Amazon or HMV etc, it was from an independent store in the UK, a bit of a steal if you ask me.

  12. Herb says:

    As many mentioned before I wish the record companies would not force us to purchase a format that we don’t wish to collect any more. I really want queen news of the world but since I don’t do vinyl any longer I can’t justify the price tag. Just give me the music on cd and I’m in. I do enjoy the books and extra packaging but I do need to put the brakes on some of these things. I assume that is one way of saying vinyl sales are up, package them with cd’s in box sets. For all the negatives I read about the box for Led Zeps how the west was won, I can get all music in the format of my choice, even though I will not get the books. The bottom line is the music. After you read the books, how often do you go back to them?

  13. Larry Davis says:

    I, too, look at value for money, and refuse to feel ripped off…the only time I will shell out a large amount of cash is for something that is truly big in size, or really REALLY rare or limited. If it’s expensive, I will wait for the price to drop…if it doesn’t and my personal want did not go down but UP, I will pay.

    I paid big bucks for both the Dead Or Alive (I may shell out for a signed one if it pops up somewhere for a good price and/or trade my copy for a signed one if I get a good deal) and Debbie Gibson sets. There is a set I REALLY want but the price jumped up to TOO-high rate…one is the Tears For Fears SFTBC box (No Paul, I still don’t have it)…it was usually between $65 and $80 US and I was looking around for good deals, like just under $50 and it jumped to $177 and higher…THAT price I refuse to pay, it’s too much!! The other is French group Sheila & B Devotion…in 2007, Rhino released a limited 30-track 2CD version of the collection “Compete Disco Singles”…I am blown away by their Chic productions on gems like “Spacer” and this thing was tough to track down, no one had it, just the single disc…BUT one vendor had it…for $98US!!! Sorry, at that rate, I may as well just pay for a digital download, which I saw for like $24US, but the single disc and hold out for the double for down the road sometime!!

    There is one more similar situation…BIG Rick Springfield fan (his new album “The Snake King” is frikking brilliant BTW, using elements of blues and southern gothic), and in 1978, he recorded an album in Sound City Studios (the site for Fleetwood Mac 1975, Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind”, etc…see Dave Grohl’s film about it), and the tracks got rerecorded in 1984 as the rare album “Beautiful Feelings”, released on Mercury and has the funny hit “Bruce”…the original recordings were released as an album called “The Sound City Sessions” (I think)…it’s now also rare, both that and the “Beautiful Feelings” CD go for over $100US(?!?!)…I bought mine over 10 years ago for $105 and the price has never dropped…the “OSCS”, last time I saw, was $160!!! Same songs as BF but with an 11th song that was never rerecorded on BF…too high BUT, it was available as a download for $8.99, so I downloaded it instead, and will burn as a backup copy on CDR and include it with BF as a double CD…that is the ONLY time I will take a download over an original physical CD…do you blame me?? $8.99 vs $160, for an 11-song album, albeit rare and I have the other version anyway…I still paid for it…

  14. Mark Reed says:

    Too many comments for much I say to stand out, but a few key takeaway points.

    1. To even a die-hard fan. the price of a CD should be around £10 or so
    2. This price is often perceived by the common consumer as much lower after Prince releasing his new album free with a newspaper
    3. Mass discounted stock sees that you can get high profile titles for £5 from supermarkets months after release

    The target market for a SDE is different, BUT :
    1. £10 per CD feels right, especially for a reissue title ; the material on there already exists, especially when all that’s happening is a digital relaunch of old CD singles
    2. The extra ‘stuff’ – the box, the fancy book – doesn’t mean that much to me : I listen to music, I don’t need a book
    3. I’m buying the ‘Extra Stuff’. I likely will never listen to a remaster of an album I already heard 100 times when I was 20 years younger.

    Releases like the ridiculous 4 disc Automatic For The People box set at £80 work out at £20 per disc, and what we’re effectively getting ‘New’ for that is one CD of demos. That’s NOT value by any standard.

  15. Kauwgompie says:

    Chris Squires and Paul make a good point in the comments below that I believe explains why this set is so expensive. It has been in the making for years and years. That means paying many, many different consultants and essay writers (who knows how many essays have been written over these years for this box set) on top of the normal cost like copyright, baking tape,etc. Also, they use the 1999 Bob Ludwig master but disc 2 and 3 still had to be remastered so you still have remastering costs.
    I wouldn’t doubt that the McCartney reissues suffer from an abundance of consultants as well. Especially Flowers In The Dirt which also had three expensive (and unnecessary) picture books.

    • Kevin M says:

      I see your poinf Kauwgompie, but mastering an hour of audio doesn’t necessarily take long, certainly not years. If it does, there’s surely something very weird going on :)

      And despite the Flowers in the Dirt download only shambles, I think it’s a bit wild to compare this Roxy set to most of McCartney’s. I mean, look at the Ram superdeluxe, even if all the papery stuff in it was junk to some people, there was a lot of it, on high quality paper, and a lot of audio. Circa £80 on release date (although I got it on special offer for less a little later like a lot of people I guess). It was a real labour of love by the look if it, unlike ROXY MUSIC.

    • Colin Harper says:

      I honestly doubt it has been ‘in the making’ for years and years – that suggests day after day of constant slog, like a man digging a channel tunnel with a teaspoon. This has simply been talked about and ‘not happened’ for years and years. So the amount of work involved – at both the audio end and the written/visual content end should not be OVERestimated.

      I haven’t seen the book but as far as I’m aware the written content is from Simon Puxley and Richard Williams. RW is the king of British music writers to my mind (I dedicated a book to him for that reason), and key to the Roxy Music story in their early days, but hiring him to write an essay would not break Universal’s bank. Don’t get me wrong, I hope – given his unique place in the history of RM’s debut – he asked for a good fee and got it, but it would not account for the ludicrous price of this box. (The highest I ever charged for a substantial essay and for overseeing a project was £2000, back in the mid 2000s, and the resulting item retailed, from memory, around £30.)

      I know two extremely good remastering engineers, including one of the absolute top in the UK, used (whether credited or not) on numerous major label projects and, for both, the fee is £350 a day. Even allowing the luxury of one disc per day (and it will have taken less time than that), that’s not going to significantly affect the cost of this box set. DVD authoring from two or three blocs of content? Another day. Mixing outtakes? A few days. Steven Wilson’s 5.1 fee? No idea – but plenty of labels and individuals lower down the food chain from Universal can afford his services. There is absolutely no reason for the high cost of this set other than avarice.

  16. Kevin M says:

    I noticed today in HMV there’s no signs at all on the outer packaging of ROXY MUSIC that the main album is the old 1999 remaster. Unless my tired eyes are failing me? And the publishing / copyright are both noted as 2018. At least Parlophone actually made it very clear on the packaging of their Bowie box sets and individual releases that they’d used old EMI remasters for their Ziggy and Aladdin CDs.

  17. negative1 says:

    At this point, there’s not much to add to the conversation. However, as a music collector I will add my take on it. Yes, these boxsets are luxury items. If it’s from a group I like, I take several things into consideration with the price : How comprehensive is it, how exclusive is it, and finally what format it is.

    If all those are right, I will usually wait until it meets a pricepoint I can afford. I rarely ever buy anything first day, and I NEVER pre-order anything. I have spent 10’s of thousands of dollars on music through the decades, so there is rarely an item from a group that I like that I won’t buy no matter the time it takes to get the item.

    I got the Kraftwerk boxset last year (Which i haven’t heard too many complaints about), Underworld, Blancmange, Human League and a few more. In each case I waited it out,
    and got all them for much less than the going price.

    Things that I also consider :
    ==========================
    Formats – Vinyl, cassette, etc are no problems. Bring them on, the more the better.

    Two things I don’t care for – bluray, and 5.1 mixes which are both overkill, and gimmicks and
    a total waste of time. Never cared for surround mixes (except for extracting for mixes), or the
    bluray format, when DVD is just fine. Yes, sometimes these are included, with no options,
    so I just get them to collect dust.

    Extras – I love it when they include all the mixes – b-sides, promos, and edits. To me that makes a complete package.

    Books – I also enjoy books, booklets, and all the other information they can include. A-ha had a great book with ‘Hunting High and Low’, so did Human League with the anthology, and the art book for Kraftwerk. If it adds to the cost, so be it. Since usually, you can’t get them anywhere else.

    Posters, trinkets etc. – Don’t mind them, but if they’re there, then fine.

    All in all, I enjoy collecting Super Deluxe editions, and will continue to do so for a long time. I do think that groups I like have been exhausting them, so there will be a lot less to get in the future. Even if they reissue them in the future, there might be a much smaller audience.

    later
    -1

    • Derek Langsford says:

      Look like we have overlapping tastes – I have 3 of the 4 sets you mention; however, I love Blu-rays and 5.1 mixes. The Kraftwerk 3-D Blu-rays are sonically and visually mesmerizing. Don’t care for non-digital formats and resent having to pay for them to get the digital content I do want – that alone is enough to dissuade me from a casual purchase. A 5.1 mix may get me to buy a set with vinyl in it but not just demos and live tracks. And books just seem to add both cost to, and additional shipping charges for, an item and frustrate me. The huge book in the Kraftwerk 3-D set without any written information seemed superfluous and made it VERY heavy. Without Amazon’s discounted shipping that would have been a order stopper.

      The diversity of buyers and their desires for such sets must make it difficult for labels to figure out how to turn a profit or make decent money in a market that is shrinking. Some sets have been praised for offering value for money (TFF, Jethro Tull, Yes, and XTC sets) or providing most buyers with what they want (Sgt Pepper and the Kraftwerk sets came in a variety of singular formats). Others have been maligned for poor value (Human League, Roxy Music, REM), errors or missteps (Simple Minds, David Bowie, Yazoo), or omissions (Roxy Music, Eurythmics). The bottom line is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time but it would be great if labels could at least try by following the models of the former versus latter sets above.

      I just hope that the labels continue to issue SDEs, provide what most fans want, and can make enough to keep doing it.

  18. Gert says:

    It’s a marketing issue : better to sell a first quantity at top prizes to the obsessive fans who want everything and who want it now, and a second batch after – let’s say – six months for half the prize or even less.

    So a box set like RM’s first album is a luxury item, as is an expensive t-shirt that is also sold for half the prize after a while.

    As I am obsessed by RM, I bought the box (through Manzanera’s shop, thanks to this site for the referral), and I am very happy with it.

  19. Astrid says:

    Yes, the Roxy Music set is too high. I bought both the Ferry and Manzanera signed editions. However, I’m a huge fan and willing to do so. It’s a personal preference and whether or not you want to spend the money. On a side note, I’m buying less LP boxsets as imports from Amazon because my Pretenders limited edition boxset arrived in an unpadded plastic mailer, damage to the box and covers inside. It was impossible to return due to shipping so I have to consider that for future purchases.
    I am a female and I do seriously collect music and memorabilia and have done so for decades. I won’t stop buying LP’s or CD’s and I only do digital for portability.

  20. steve edwards says:

    The price of any product is governed by what the customer is prepared to pay. Clearly a number of Roxy fans feel that 130 quid for 4 CDs or 150 quid signed is excessive.
    Some fans have attempted to justify the price while others have flatly refused to pay up. The perceived “value” has been debated here & on other fora. So where does that leave us?

    A Steven Wilson 5.1 in included in the Roxy box set. . He also releases his solo albums in a not dissimilar format of book, CDs, Blu Ray, signed.
    http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/news/steven-wilson-new-album-to-the-bone/

    The SW box sets are nothing short of stunning, visually & from an audio perspective.
    The SW album is NEW therefore he has a great many & varied costs to cover. The Roxy box set is mainly recycled product, the production costs of which were covered some decades ago.
    But, Steven Wilson retails his box set albums for around HALF what is being asked for the Roxy box set.
    So….should I lie awake at night worrying about Steven Wilson’s potentially loss making (sic) solo albums?
    Or should I sleep soundly, content that I didn’t succumb to an experiment in just how far the financial boundaries of a fan base can be pushed in the box set industry?

  21. Matthew says:

    Great discussion.
    I view box sets as a luxury item but I’m certain none of my family or friends would think so, not that it bothers me.
    Since the success of Spotify etc I’d say all physical product is now a luxury, why pay even £10 for a cd when that gets you a month unlimited listening!?
    Personally I always prefer having something to hold, look at, read the liner notes etc. If I could afford it I’d still buy vinyl as some sleeves are art in themselves.
    I’m glad box sets are produced for those that can afford them, ( imagine the conversation that might follow ” Sorry, no family holiday this year I just bought 3 Bowie vinyl box sets”) because it means some of that content will filter down at lower price points, and it really is the music I want rather than nice extras.
    For example ANCIANT, how much do I want this……? But ain’t ever going to happen. However I had my Stage vinyl out a couple of weeks ago and was thinking about buying a second hand cd copy of the 2005 remaster, most sellers want around a tenner, when Paul posts that the 2017 remaster from the box is available separately! And I have an Amazon voucher from Christmas. So I’m happier.

    I have no idea about production run numbers but surely in order to address exclusivity companies should say at launch it’s a limited run AND individually number the box sets. Later it can be reissued without numbering thereby retaining exclusivity and, in the future, price for those that bought pre order. Have you seen the price of a low number Beatles white album for example?

  22. JasonC says:

    There’s a lot of opinions here! I’ll repeat what a lot of people have said here when I say that it’s about the music. I find it strange that a lot of large SDE box sets get their music put up on streaming services. If the point is to shift physical product, then keep the new music in a physical format, and offer different ways to buy it. Consider these examples, I’m not sure which is the right way to do these things:

    – The LedZep reissues: there was an SDE option with book and CD and vinyl, but if you just wanted the new music you could buy the discs on their own
    – The Tubular Bells box from a few years ago looked great, but I couldn’t justify it. A 3disc version included the 5.1, but was missing the demo from the larger box. Bought that instead and listened to the demo on Spotify
    – Dylan’s bootleg series boxes offer a “taster’ on streaming platforms, not the whole box. The boxes do seem laden with material.

    If I were in charge, I would think of a lower tier for the casual buyer, and if you are going to go super deluxe, then go big or go home. Imagine if:
    – The Roxy box: The four discs in a “Jethro Tull” style format, then a true SDE singed by Ferry/McKay/Manzanera, for £250+.
    – The Floyd early years box: I was lucky enough to get this for only £100, but the £500 price tag seemed crazy. I reckon they’d have shifted a lot of these if they had just sold the inner box with the seven sets/27 discs for £179-199, and still keep the option of the larger box at £500, and NOT sold the individual sets later on. (I also wish the DSOTM/WYWH/Wall reissues would get re-released in Early Years Book format.)

    …but at the end of the day, the main problem with the Roxy box (and the Flowers… box) is that the content falls well short. It’s all about the music, stupid!

  23. Neil McL says:

    I love box sets if they are priced fairly. I stopped buying music for a while and just listened to Spotify. In the meantime I missed out on the two Tears For Fears SDE’s as wasn’t buying and really regret that.

    A question here for record companies is if you want to make money why not release these. You’ve done all the hard work by the re-mastering, curating etc it’s all there. You are missing a way to make money. That’s what happened with the Queen Coloured Vinyl set. It sold out, they made more.

    I try to be canny in buying, not to spend less but to get more.

    If the content is there I will buy. A great example is the Def Leppard Hysteria SDE which I paid full price for but got all the mixes etc I wanted.

    However, the best content vs value for money have been the INXS Kick, The Smiths The Queen Is Dead & Marillion Misplaced Childhood. These are spot on.

    One last thing, I’m not sure letting the artist or band curate an SDE is a good idea. Someone like Paul is a much better idea. I say that with the example of the Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected set. Only My Bag (Dancing Remix) was included from the 12″ Versions. Lloyd decided the rest weren’t very good. Maybe to him but us fans wanted them on there on CD and remastered. Further Listening by the Pet Shop Biys are a bit the same, a bit pick and choose and not everything we wanted.

    We all spend too much money and too much time on these things but we all love them. Cmon Record Companies give us what we want at a fair price and we will buy

  24. DaveM says:

    I do consider a box set that focuses on a single album at the RM price point a luxury item (I am a Yorkshireman who shops at Lidl and Aldi).
    If I were a RM fan then this set would probably be already purchased and played as I am a hopeless completist when it comes to the artists I like.
    If you have an almost DNA connection to the music you love, you want whatever is offered up by the record companies. They know about people like me.
    Sometimes they get it right, Ram is my all time favourite SDE. In the case of FITD the download was a spoiler and the price, but guess what, it has become my second favourite SDE. I would also say the Who’s Tommy, Quadrophenia and My Generation SDE sets, which were priced much lower than FITD are almost perfect as well, aesthetically and content wise. The RM set looks presentation wise not unlike the Who sets from the photos so maybe they are testing the market to see just how much can be squeezed out of us. There is no bling element at all to my purchases, nobody I know buys music like I do. I am fortunate that the missus really appreciates the box sets as well and actually calls the spare room, the Superdeluxe room.

  25. Fré Nieuwenhuis says:

    The most I’m willing to pay is 45 pounds for a complete box set. This means for me that it contains all tracks available on CD’s, an extended booklet and a gimmick/gadget exclusive to the set. For me it’s not neccessary to have vinyl. For example, the box sets of Bananarama (singles) or Belinda Carlisle (singles) are too expensive for me.

  26. Paul Wren says:

    Record companies need to monetise their back catalogues to make money. If they over-price then the market place will soon let them know by not buying the product, ie unsold stock results. Something is only premium if your wallet isn’t big enough? Paul Smith T shirts will last no longer than an ordinary T shirt, but even a used Rolex watch will outlive us all – so some luxury brands such as Rolex are value for money as well.

    • Joe says:

      yes, a Rolex watch will last quite a long time. The cost over time though is expensive. Last year I had mine in for cleaning. Roughly $850 US . This happens about every 5 years.

  27. Mike the Fish says:

    It seems like, as with ticket sales, it is being tested to see how much people are prepared to pay for this kind of stuff. The Roxy debut superdeluxe has been talked about for years. I’m aware of the th album and heard it years ago. I was interested, particularly in the 5.1, but well over £100 kills off casual interest, which then kills off getting other deluxes that may come out for other albums. Why breed ill will?

    McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt was the first album in his archive series I didn’t buy (I only bought Mc II as the super, but I didn’t like it enough and sold it at a big loss) and I was buying some albums that I didn’t love but became interested in revisiting and hearing bonus tracks. The horrible way they put the FITD super deluxe together: style over substance and high costs left bad feeling on my part and I realised that the album for me was pretty lousy so they lost the excitement sale of any format of the album. The snail’s pace of the release schedule also erodes the excitement and other more interesting releases (or series of releases) appear in the mean time.

    The Queen News of The World release could have been really exciting, but Queen have taken the Mick so many times with stingy releases and then when they finally offer something a bit more they charge a fortune for it and don’t even include a 5.1 mix. Instantly it’s less appealing, repugnant even, due to blatant over pricing and rich men seemingly not wanting to give much value for money – again. They seem to hold the people who made them very wealthy with an element of contempt.

    Remember how rubbish we thought Peter Gabriel’s So super deluxe set was? It’s jam packed with content and excellent value for money compared to some recent releases, and it’s still lacking era b-sides, remixes, and a 5.1 mix.

    There have been some excellent deluxe sets in recent years combining good/great content and price, some at decent prices some a bit pricey. Universal – seemingly very willing to exploit their back catalogue and archives – have released a bunch of them, but recently they’ve been behind some insane releases, while other labels offer good value for money and a window to investigate an artist’s back catalogue.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      It’s ludicrous that the “So” album has never been issued in 5.1 surround sound. A 2CD+blu-ray with album, B-side/remixes and a 5.1 mix priced at around the £30 mark would do REALLY well and not duplicate much from the 25th anniversary box. The money is burning a hole in fans’ pockets!!

      • Mike the Fish says:

        Yes, it’s not like he’s shy about reissuing the album!

      • Steven says:

        Re So, it’s especially ludicrous when one considers a lot of the work has already been done – 5 or 6 5.1 mixes from the album have already been released on the Play DVD (itself overdue a blu-ray release) from several years ago….

      • fenwick says:

        @ Paul regarding the Peter Gabriel “So” album comments.

        I one million percent agree with you. And Peter being such a perfectionist, and taking forever and a year to release new material, I am shocked he hasn’t sanctioned this approach to his entire back catalog.

      • Mathew Lauren says:

        +1

        I couldn’t have said it better!

  28. Mar Wolfgang says:

    Nice analogy to Veblen’s bling factor – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicuous_consumption – people love sending pictures of them seeing their favorite bands on social media but few show their latest superdeluxe purchases.

  29. Michel Bendichou says:

    No difference to most consumers in your Paul Smith (who is he?) example. Consumers, by and large, are not rational as most economics theories rely upon. Therefore the price they they are prepared to pay is the value they receive (even if regretted thereafter).

    Personally, I am after the sound so might pay £20 per high fidelity re-issue (or new issue) of something I want to LISTEN too. That immediately rules out paying premiums for CDs unless that is the only medium available. Would I pay £100 for a Zep 1 with 400 versions of the same tracks?….. No.

  30. Frederik Blieck says:

    Box sets cost way too much and and the number of box set releases is too big. I’m not talking about the deluxe or CD+DVD version of a regular CD but the real box sets. Since a couple of years I can’t buy any longer what I want, because box sets take too much budget. so record companies, please d o not frustrate your major clients. What could be done?
    – For me there should be a real separation between vinyl and CD. You either choose a vinyl box set or a CD boxset. That would already cut the price of some boxsets.
    – I also urge companies not to charge the buyer for artist ouput that does offer an added value (things like ‘take n°13 of track n°2)
    – Stop doing 20th anniversary, 25th anniversary and 30th anniversary versions, where each time the tracks or the look of the release is slightly changed; This is PERVERSE.

    For me the best example of a label policy and strategy is Nuclear Blast. Their service by the way is exceptional. And above all the quality of their releases is what it should be: standard version, deluxe versions between 35 and 50 euros, vinyl releases in many versions for ereasonable prices. Best proof that respect for the customers and quality rereleases and rereleases is possible.

  31. Mick Bull says:

    I am in my sixties..
    I am a massive Bowie fan!
    Since his death two years ago, the record companies have been putting out very expensive deluxe, limited edition, box sets…
    Vinyl at £170+!
    Sorry, but I for one can just not afford to buy this gem!
    Yes I want it for my collection!
    Yes, I know it will come up on a selling site at twice, or more, the price in six months time because people buy them to sell on and make a profit, and the chances of the price ever coming down is slim due to the very large and active Bowie collectors base!
    Please let’s have some releases with new tracks, or different versions, at prices the ordinary music lover, on vinyl, can afford.
    Vinyl is my thing, cd’s are ok for the car, but at home, I play my LP’s….
    The sound is so much more warm and full….
    Come on record companies, lets have these sets at realistic prices please so all can afford them…

  32. Mikko Suhonen says:

    For me the box set gets to be a “luxurious” and “too expensive” if the same content is included in several different formats that makes the other obsolete. If you are a vinyl collector, what do you need a cd version for and, in my case, an expensive and unnecessary vinyl addition makes the box too expensive if all you need is a cd. In a smaller scale the same applied in the Beatles Pepper and Magical Myster Tour boxes where there is both the dvd and blu ray with the same content.

  33. Joachim says:

    My simple approach to record collecting and the prices: I am in the wonderful situation that I can use a certain sum of money to collect music in physical form. This is luxery in a double sense, I have money I don’t need for living and I spend it for something unnecessary. For decades I didn’t possess a car so all this money other people spent for a car went into my collection. So every month I can deceide what to do with this extra money. Is there a good set out there, is it worth the money? This decision is based on the fact that I can afford this hobby. So sometimes I say, yes this Roxy SDE with a signed postcard and a cool shirt is worth 130 Euros. A few month before I refused to buy Sargent Pepper because I already have it in mono and stereo on Vinyl and CD. This is obviously still a luxery decision.

  34. Guy says:

    Nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, but on a related Human League issue, did you know the ‘premium’ seats (several front rows in the stalls) in the Hammersmith Apollo for their December gig this year are £106, with others ranging from £84 to £62. Factor in ticket fees & transaction fees (both an excuse for further rip-offs) and it’s a very expensive evening. Perhaps aimed at those who like to flash their Rolex watch at dinner parties, they can now flash their tickets!

    Now I like the Human League but they are hardly pop royalty. Prices aimed at those who paid the £80 for their 3cd/1dvd box set upon release?!

  35. Isauro says:

    Interestingly this topic is on the table.
    High pricing, high expectations.
    I’m into this luxury £130 boxes only if the following are included:
    – I’m really a fan
    – High resolution versions available: original and new (if available) stereo mixes (Something I really appreciated was the hi-res downloadable version of George Michael’s LWP included in the Deluxe Box Set version)
    – High resolution 5.1 versions. Or now the Dolby Atmos or Auro 3D mixes.
    – CD version of all music included in the box.
    – All or almost all b-sides and remixes (I’m not so into demo or outtakes).
    – Book with history, artist/band comments, art, etc. (Memorabilia not necessary)
    – High quality materials (japanese-like)
    – No vinyl (I won’t play it and usually the box is oversized)

    Some of the above missing, no buying…. Some boxes have reached almost this requirements for half less the price of this Roxy Music box: Pink Floyd’s immersion boxes.

  36. tom doyle says:

    Any women out there?-what do you think? Come on, speak up! Is it just a male thing- this box set collecting malarky

    • PC says:

      Tom, I told my 16 year old daughter that I watch unboxing videos on this site. She thought that was hilarious.

      • Chris Squires says:

        SDE…. the new Porn.

        I do admit that it’s got to the point that if I am reading SDE, watching an unboxing or have my Amazon pages open and I hear the Mrs. coming upstairs I have been tempted to either quickly turn the screen off or open up xvideos and stick some porn on. It’s easier to explain and I would get into less trouble.

  37. Rich Z says:

    Ultimately every product and service on the market has and is a value proposition, commodities and luxury items alike. As vocal and valuable as the feedback and response from this forum is, it will be the economics of the industry (labels, artists, content owners, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, service providers, retailers, marketers) and revenues/profits from consumer sales and co-marketing that determine what will be produced and brought to market. Super Deluxe Editions are one SKU in an array of digital and physical offerings — digital downloads (mp3, .wav, ACC, FLAC, AIFF, …), streaming services (free, premium), catalog CDs, remaster CDs, expanded CDs, exclusive editions (Hip-O, MFSL), premium technology CDs (20/24bit, 92 KHz, SHM, platinum SHM, HQ, SACD, hybrid SACD), 5.1 DVDs , blu-rays, vinyl (standard, 140/180/200g, 45RPM, half-speed masters, color/multi-color, premium pressing plants, NA/EU/JAP manufacturing), and of course, non-super deluxe editions — offered to today’s finely segmented marketplace. Enough?

    Naturally, demand will vary by magnitude of the artist’s fanbase and level of their fanaticism. And some SDEs may be much more desired than others, e.g., McCartney’s Flowers In The Dirt is no Ram. If unit sales-potential of SDE X are half that of SDE Y and production/marketing/distribution costs are the same for each, then clearly the retail price of SDE X would have to be much higher than that for SDE Y to make sense to short-term profit-driven labels. Personally, I love SDEs as much as or more than most, but for me the value *is* the music, so give me a plain ol’ Further Listening 2CD from PSB or the no-fancy-packaging 2017 edition Delaney & Bonnie On Tour With Eric Clapton 4CD.

  38. Gisabun says:

    Box sets are overpriced.
    As I have stated before, I’m in for the music – not the crap they throw in like a few cards, a stupid very small scarf [Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones], replicas of “memorabilia”, piece of film, or any other trinkets.
    The only thing that you may lose on [the fan that is] is something that is unique to the box set. Of course it may be released later on [think Peter Gabriel’s Live in Athens from the butchered So box set].

  39. Highlander says:

    I haven’t read the 167 responses, but suffice to say…if any record label workers are reading this thread: please release the digital discs, especially the surround mixes, separate from these massive super deluxe box sets with LPs included. For my money, the best deluxe box sets going are by Jethro Tull. For super deluxe, the best for me are being issued by King Crimson. When you get right down to it, the original albums, which many super deluxe edition box sets are based on, were only 40 minutes or so in length, e.g. Chris Squire’s “Fish Out of Water” and Rush’s “A Farewell To Kings” to name two. So, please release the vinyl and digital discs separate, as most consumers don’t want both formats.

  40. Jeff Rougvie says:

    I kind of glazed over about 3/4 of the way through reading ALL the responses, but lively thread no doubt!

    A couple of things I didn’t see mentioned (apologies if they were, but again, I glazed) or would like to expand on:

    1) New artist advances. You may say “X album was recorded years ago, there are no artist advances to pay!” but that is not necessarily the truth. Yes, labels could reissue the album the SDE is built around without paying an additional advance, but they may not have rights (or more importantly, access) to demos & outtakes from that album.

    Frequently record companies are the worst caretakers of their materials. But you know who does keep that stuff? ARTISTS. I know of many artists who have taken MILLIONS of dollars off labels for catalog revamps because either a) they have possession of tapes the label owns the rights to but does not have in their possession or b) the label need permissions to create new editions. (please note: these advances are often tied to extensions of licenses as there are certain laws being proposed that may give artists reversion rights, which labels are loathe to do).

    2) the audience for these types of products is greying / dying. Sorry to be morbid, but the buying base for these items is shrinking, no matter how you look at it.

    Why is this important? Aside from the obvious reduced number of sales, there’s the corresponding expanded cost of origination per unit. It hasn’t gotten cheaper to make these things, people (research, mastering, manufacturing, above-referenced advances, etc).

    The irony here is that at the time of the CD explosion (the early 90’s, lets say) when you could’ve sold hundreds of thousands of SDE’s to active buyers, I proposed these types of multi-disc sets to artist and they either laughed in my face (Costello) or rejected the idea (Bowie). Yet in less than ten years, both had issued multi disc versions of the albums I suggested issuing in these formats.

    3) The label has to decide how to present the material and what to charge for it. This is not a vicious exercise in exploitation but an algorithm. We live in a data-driven universe and there are serious calculations involved – often based on historical data that may suggest: “we will sell X number at X price, but after 6 months, we must drop the price by X percent to clear out any remaining stock.” It is THAT cynical, but that’s the reality as year over year physical sales plummet (vinyl, of course, saw an upswing over the last few years, but X times virtually nothing is still virtually nothing).

    A luxurious book and multiple discs (no matter how irrelevant to the buyer) give the IMPRESSION of value for money. And there is no doubt SOME value to these things, but think of it like a DVD with directors commentary. Unless you’re raving mad for the film, how many times are you going to listen to the commentary track? Nearly once I’d guess. But these are line item features designed to make you feel better about the purchase and you can bet any major label can calculate if the investment is worth the return based on historical data and future sales projections.

    4) What is it worth TO YOU? This is what is most important. How urgently do you need this? Are you prepared to have it sell out and risk missing it entirely or pay extortionist prices on the secondary market later? I regret not pouncing on the Manics SDE of Generation Terrorists and now it sells for more than I am willing to pay.

    There are other SDEs I want that were originally sold for $120 US but have now gone down to $80 US, which I’ve determined is still not enough to compel a purchase.

    I am still alive and well without them – so the very forces that are driving these quandaries are (at least as far as I’m concerned) also teaching the intended consumer their purchase is not necessary for continued survival & happiness.

    That all said, if it seems like too much, don’t pay it. If you can’t live without it, buy it. Arguing about it will not change the price or your desire. Getting twisted in knots about it is a waste of your time, which is finite. Money is not.

    The bottom line is there is no simple or correct equation that rationalizes the cost of ANY item (be it music or t-shirt) except your own.

    Your mileage may vary.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Very interesting Jeff, thanks. Yes, that is a big irony that they have rather missed the boat and waited for the audience to shrink. You could argue that they are STILL not doing what they should do with Bowie’s catalogue 20 years later. It’s as if they really do want us all to be dead before we get a properly expanded Hunky Dory, for example. The fact that the Rykos are – give or take – still the best versions for expanded Bowie 27/28 years later is pretty depressing… although David properly had much to do with that, I suspect.

      • Matthew says:

        Amen to that, thanks for the ryko’s!
        Still have my cassette copy of Hunky Dory my only legal way to listen to Bombers or the Quicksand demo…

  41. scottyboy says:

    A great article Paul. I’m a big Pink Floyd fan however I was no way tempted by the Early Years boxset due to its cost (£300+), the inclusion of vinyl and it’s shear physical size,though I have recently purchased the 6 individual boxsets via Amazon.de with their 3 for 2 offer for less than £100 (thanks Paul) but I’m sure these sets could be cheaper if you remove the duplication of content (either DVD or Blu-ray, not both) and the “replica memorabilia from the period” (i.e. tickets, flyers etc).
    I also own the 3 Simple Minds Super Deluxe boxsets (Sparkle.., New Gold.., Once Upon..) which are great but far too bulky for what content you get (discs & booklets).

    • negative1 says:

      How are the simple minds boxsets bulky? They are all in the small box sized sets. They come with a replica tourbook. And small digipaks for each disc and dvd.

      Unless you live in a shoebox, with no cupboard space. These things are tiny. Are you sure you didn’t get something else?

      The only bulky item they have is the boxset with the vinyl of the albums put together.

      You might want to check your boxsets again, and see if you are looking at the proper ones.

      later
      -1

  42. DaKraut says:

    Very interesting read. A few comments from me:
    The T-shirt comparison is, in my opinion, not quite fitting, because there is still a limited range of shirts you might be at a time. 20 Paul Smith shirts? There may be some who will, but I don’t think there are quite so many designs. As far as music goes, the range is SO MUCH wider with bands/artists from all decades since the 50s. And many, many, many of them get the box set treatment. And they are all individual – so to use the T-shirt analogy: they are all very expensive shirts by an incredibly large number of “designers”.
    Omissions: when a box set of a certain record comes out with outtakes, alternate takes, mixes, etc., we all want it to be PICTURE PERFECT, because we KNOW that we won’t get another crack at it, as no record company would put out the same set again…or hardly ever. So yes, a “forgotten” B-side can cause much chagrin.
    Well, I for one do internet radio, so my box sets or limited editions don’t just sit on the shelves, but are being played in the radio – thus, I’m trying to show people how varied music can be if you don’t just listen to the same old, dumb FM radio which gives you the impression by the very “narrow” playlists, that in the 70s, 500 records were put out altogether, 200 in the 80s and maybe 150 in the 90s. So, I truly welcome the opportunity to be able to play unreleased music and give listeners an insight into unknown or rarely heard stuff.

  43. Travis Sonsalla says:

    Paul asked in his Week in Review to post our thoughts here as those “in the industry” read the site. So here it is:

    I’m a simple guy and music is solely an auditory experience. Physical product ends up “sitting on a shelf” whereas the music is in use as I cycle through my digital and digitized music collection.

    I don’t need a 58 page color booklet filled with anecdotes, insider info, and lots of photos. Concert DVDs only interest me to the extent that I can digitize the audio from the performance.

    I’m now a rare concert attendee, as drive time, cost, etc. doesn’t equal the value of said time and cost. If I’m interested in a concert, I want to have good seats, and good seats don’t come cheap.

    So as a music consumer, I’m most interested in easy access to digital music. Put the Super Deluxe release on iTunes or similar sites, and I’ll be there to make a purchase. Physical product is only considered if the price is near or less than an online purchase.

  44. Tim says:

    I generally only acquire box sets and Xmas or birthday: makes things easy for my family if I tell them if a box set I’d like.

    This year it was the Orange Juice ‘Coals The Newcastle’ set. 6 CDs, 1 DVD, a lovely booklet and solid box. £45 the lot, direct from Edwin Collins’ own record label. I don’t think you can fault that for value for money.

  45. Pete Harris says:

    Record companies KNOW the loyalties of fans ‘of a certain age’ to the acts they love – I KNOW the Led Zeppelin boxsets were expensive for what they actually contained in terms of new, good music. But it didn’t stop me buying every one of them… and it didn’t stop me pre-ordering “How The West Was Won” even though there is NO new music there.
    BUT…. there will come a time when we’re all going to look at those largely unplayed boxsets and think (when the NEXT one comes along, as it ALWAYS does)… “You know what- I can’t justify the cost and I’m not going to pay it”. And once that genie is back in the bottle for this generation… there’s no genie to release for the next one because they simply don;t have the same attachment to the physical product….. and then the record companies will have to find a new gimmick to get our money… maybe ticket and product links…. if those artists are still around to get tickets for…. :(

    • -SG- says:

      So true… having gone to thrift store outlets, I have come across many classical and other boxsets that were deluxe for their era, expensive for the time and largely unplayed, left to be recycled. Every generation does this. Collecting can get silly. You only have so much time to listen to any of this stuff. Really, I think having oversized boxes that are expensive and offer little new content redundant formats in one box are the opposite of what people want, or even need, it is worse that the $100 shirt because you will atleast wear the shirt. Honestly, how many collectors out there are guilty of just buying this stuff and never playing it? WHAT SHOULD BE MADE is a compact collection that offers value, good liner notes and the best sound available and there you have it. It is not that hard.

      • PC says:

        I’m definitely guilty of never playing some of the box sets I buy, and sometimes that sickens me, but I’ll still get excited by the next must have set.

  46. ModernRomance says:

    I don’t mind paying high prices for high content-
    Queen vinyl box set
    Sgt pepper with 5.1
    -sets that offer high quality content and packaging- because lets face it, anyone on THIS site loves packaging – or valued 5.1 mixes

    What is hard to swallow is a box set of out takes or poorly recorded material and commanding a high price.
    In reality these types of sets will get little disk time. Sure cd1 of the set which more often than not will be the remastered version of the album , but cd2,3 will most likely be listened to once or twice at most . 90% of unreleased material was unreleased for good reason…!
    Sure there will be a gem here or there,but for the most part it’s sub par

    Take the Quadriphenia box. A terrible and incomplete 5.1.
    But including Pete’s demos which in the grand scheme are probably the high end of demos. But still,I’d be shocked if more than 10% of purchasers play these demos much

    • Tim P says:

      Re: Quadrophenia – I agree it was a complete shocker that a 5.1 mix wasn’t included in full (and then magically appeared a couple of years later on bluray). However those Townshend demos for me were an absolute revelation. I’ve listened to them more than the album (and the subsequent 5.1 purchase) in recent years. They not only show how studious and hard working he was but how utterly musical he is – he can literally pick up anything and make it work and sound good in the context of what he’s working on.

  47. Carl Stanley says:

    My main expenditure is on music, ninety per cent of the stuff I buy reissues. As great as beautiful presentation is, and liner notes detailing the recording etc, the bottom line is always the music for me. I can live without countless demos / live versions as they tend to only get listened to rarely, with the exception of something like the Banshees’ ‘The Scream’ Deluxe Edition where there are tracks which were never otherwise recorded. What annoys me more than anything is when record companies don’t include every remix – I’m sure most of us who buy reissues are desperate to get our hands on some obscure remix that hasn’t ever had a cd release. Whoever compiles reissues generally seems to have no comprehension of what fans actually want – the one reissue that has got this right is the Bananarama singles box set, which, personal taste aside (I’m a Bananarama fan, I might add), most people on this forum agreed had got the content spot-on. I’m always happy to shell out £100 for anything if record companies have an understanding of what it is I actually want as a fan, rather than just rereleasing stuff for rereleasing’s sake. I know the subject of Eurythmics back catalogue has been discussed extensively on SDE but here’s hoping that there is a comprehensive reissue programme in the not too distant future to rectify the omissions from the previous deluxe editions. As for Roxy, I’m quite content with the complete albums box set, the CDs of extended versions and b-sides were exactly what I’d been waiting for and the remastering was superb.

  48. Bob M says:

    At the end of the day sellers will ask for the price the buyers will pay. Or they will test the market to see what they will pay. It seems to me that their tests are working as most of the deluxe editions sell out. I wonder if the vast fluctuations in pricing are directly related to the artists and the perceived value fans and collectors place on their music. Personally I don’t care about 5.1; I am only interested in improving the stereo audio on reissues, deluxe or not. And I have to say that most of the time I have been disappointed on that front. So to risk putting out these large sums for a chance improvement is not in my game plan. But if the general sentiment is that the price is too high as consumers we have immense power – don’t buy. And there’s the rub. Someone else always does and soon the item is OOP. I guess we’re hooped.

  49. David Barron says:

    I always thought that a Super Deluxe Version Box set is a boutique version of buying an album, whether it is a new or classic album. It costs as much as buying something in a boutique and you keep it well maintained because of the cost.

  50. Florentino Stabile says:

    Paul,
    I am a devotee to this site, a music aficionado and a passionate collector. I have spent my fair share in the past much to the dismay of my better half. I do not smoke nor drink but I will not give up what truly makes me happy in this world and that is music. However that being said, I will not pay $ 200.00 Canadian for a box set by Roxy Music because it has a signed item. I love Roxy and Bryan Ferry but COME ON. Why is it that you can have groups like Jethro Tull and record companies like Chrysalis/Parlophone that offer 2 CD/2 DVD, a 90 page booklet, a Bluray and a whole explanation on the process on the making of a reissue of an album from their catalog for under 40.00 pounds or 50.00 Canadian…. or Marillion whether on their website or on Amazon also refuse to gouge their fans by offering their reissues at a fair price for 3-4 disc worth of material as they did with Misplaced Childhood. Why do Paul McCartney. Roxy Music insist on overcharging…. and taking advantage of the audiophile and music/physical media enthusiasts in us. I commend Chrysalis, Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull as well as the members of Marillion for treating their fanbase with respect… maintaining sales by assuring their fans will buy all the reissues because they are not being overcharged.
    All due respect to the other Hall of Fame performers I will refuse to buy those overpriced box sets.
    A balance needs to be met for those selected few and learn from the Jethro Tulls and Marillions of this world.

    God bless you Paul for keeping us abreast of specials… and God bless us all for keeping the physical media alive but at a fair price.

    Sincerely,

    Tino

  51. Nick says:

    Pricing has gone ridiculous recently Not Just For Super Deluxe BOx Sets But For Collectable Signed And Other collectible Items Too, I Posted On here a couple of days ago, how can they Value Bryan Ferry’s Box Set So highly? Particularly as the Signed part of it seems a poor afterthought, Kylie Minogues recent Pre order – Dancing had 100 Signed Photo Deluxe Bundles amd 50 Signed Test Pressings £150…. Listed on her UK TM Webstore -Sold Out in a Flash, how on Earth The the idiots Value a Test Press at £150? It would cost a few pounds to make (if that) and what’s Kylie Autograph worth…. £20 or so so how does £20-£30 equate to £150?.
    I would say – It seems if People are stupid enough to pay exorbitant prices then the Record company’s just keep pumping the Items Out, its so alarming, like recent items I’ve found online such as Some 7” Singles £20 each, Some Single LPs £30 each, Certain Triple LPs £80/£90 each really? If only there was a Musical Goods Related Ombudsman, these prices have gone through the roof and must be stopped before we are all forced to pay £30 for a 7” Single, £70/80 for a Single LP And £400+ For Super Deluxe Box Sets…. trust me, keep paying these exorbitant £150 prices for a Deluxe Roxy Music Box Set Or Flowers in the Dirt Box Sets and the even more ludicrous Super extortionate prices will be just around the corner…..

  52. Dan says:

    I’m just going to add two words to this debate: Genesis Publications.

    :)

    • colm47 says:

      Yes Dan, beautiful expensive books that most can not afford, but they sell out so somebody is able to buy them!

      I will add two words as well, Snap Galleries.

  53. baward says:

    Personally, I find it really disappointing when only one or two albums by a given artist are given the deluxe treatment, which happened with Elton John’s ‘classic’ period 5.1 SACD’s, which petered out mid-series even though Greg Penny (the 5.1 remixer) had confirmed that the missing ones do exist. I wonder how likely ‘Siren’ or ‘Manifesto’ are to get done if this album is a sales disappointment.

  54. probablyrustin says:

    Very interesting discussion, Paul – much appreciated. I think you bring up an interesting point here that the record companies don’t quite seem to understand.

    You’re effectively describing “conspicuous capitalism” – the phenomenon of one’s own “success” being displayed to others by way of their capitalist consumption (i.e. purchasing and displaying items associated with wealth and status, from expensive cars to recognition of brand-name clothing). By their nature, SDEs and music product lack this on a grand scale. Beyond a very limited niche of super collectors that may take notice and hold you in higher esteem as a result of the flashiness of your collection, folks generally do not achieve the intangible benefits of “conspicuous capitalism” as a result of their music purchases. Arguably, to the general public, other characteristics of a record collection could be considered more impressive – say, the overall size of one’s collection, or the variety and depth of genres represented (implying some degree of that intangible benefit, as well as perhaps an implication about the collector’s taste or cultural intellect). A collection smaller in size but filled with pricey SDEs might have the opposite of the intended effect (with respect to “conspicuous capitalism”) – that collection may be held in less regard than the large, well-curated collection (a collection which would in fact be harder to amass were the collector to focus more of their dollars on SDEs).

    So, there’s where the record companies are a bit lost. Their pricing of certain releases seems to imply that they think SDEs *could* in fact be purchased with similar motivations underlying “conspicuous capitalism” – and to some extent, they’d be right. But for the vast majority of their target audience, they realize that this proposition is false, so instead, we default to traditional, economic-based evaluations of the products on offer. We do look at it as a value proposition, with some room for increased prices on the basis of “luxury” presentation or collectability, however when the scales become far too tipped in the direction of “deluxe” status over content value, that trade-off devolves. I do feel that even if the labels did try their hand to reinforce the “status” of SDEs, like preventing the inevitable deep discounts that come with any deluxe release, it wouldn’t change the fundamental decision making involved for the buyer. They may earn some more sales from folks who give up waiting, but I don’t think it would necessarily shift perceptions of what an SDE represents – again, because there will never be that “intangible benefit” that in turn has no defined dollar value. If anything, I predict it would just slowly erode the market for such releases, eventually leading to their demise.

    The way forward is labels fully acknowledging that they are a value proposition, as many releases have, and taking advantage of that. Offer options that cater to different fans needs and budgets to maximize profits. Provide some “windowing” of prices or availability if needed – whether that’s withholding streaming or factoring in some inevitable discounting. But to do none of that risks alienating the few remaining fans of deluxe physical product, and that’s a far more dangerous game for labels to play than “how much can we get for this?”

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Well put! As someone else mentioned much early, I do think if labels publicised properly the limited nature of the products that would help spur certain fans into action who might be more inclined to wait. If you consider the two Tears For Fears sets that I worked on, although admittedly they weren’t particularly expensive (quite cheap, really) there was no communication about the numbers, which was a bit silly since the only advantage in not publicising is to allow you to create some more, which Universal DIDN’T do in the case of Tears For Fears. In that example, it’s almost a ‘lose-lose’. Labels don’t maximise their income and reach the entire audience (since some are ‘waiting’ for price drops) and not all the fans who want to buy, get to buy.

    • BDY says:

      “…other characteristics of a record collection could be considered more impressive – say, the overall size of one’s collection, or the variety and depth of genres represented (implying some degree of that intangible benefit, as well as perhaps an implication about the collector’s taste or cultural intellect).

      A collection smaller in size but filled with pricey SDEs might have the opposite of the intended effect (with respect to “conspicuous capitalism”) – that collection may be held in less regard than the large, well-curated collection….”

      This is a very important point, one that could be termed the Ye Olde Pub theory. There is a certain amount of snobbishness that goes on in the collector world (of which I am guilty). A 7″ vinyl box-set of the first 5 Damned singles pressed yesterday just hasn’t got the same cultural vibe as those same singles pressed and purchased in 76 or 77. You can’t replicate the smell of leather and cigarette smoke.

      SDE’s for me are a way of chasing audio holy grails – rarities, b sides, a way to replicate original vinyl mastering on CD…. I used to have an original RCA vinyl copy of Ziggy on heavy vinyl, and only with the release of the 5 years box-set did the mastering approach that sound.

      The limited edition method doesn’t and will not work for me. It just encourages hoarding, touting and illegal downloading. It’s perceived as retail trickery and breeds cynicism.
      I respond to content curation (on sites like this), content, reviews, reputations (look at how Steven Wilson has become a mastering God) and price points.

  55. Tim says:

    I wish record companies would at least vaguely stick to a standard pricing scheme, or at least explain why they don’t! I mean, how come for these 3CD & 1 DVD sets:

    REM Out Of Time – £40
    REM Automatic For The People – £80
    Roxy Music – £130

    It’s not hard to see why people see the Roxy Music box as a rip-off. I couldn’t care less whether it’s a status symbol. I just want a decent product at a decent price.

    • PC says:

      Maybe Out Of Time sold more copies than they’d expected, so they thought they’d gouge us with Automatic. Bigger box, bigger book, same amount of music, double the price. As for Roxy, I don’t particularly like their music anyway. I have a best of that cost $5. That’ll do me.

      • David Bly says:

        “Bigger box, bigger book, same amount of music, double the price.”

        While I was not happy at the price of “AFTP”, it IS understandable that when you have a 12″×12″ box with a hardcover book on high-grade paper in it, is is going to cost more to manufacture.

        And considering that “Out Of Time” was essentially ‘underpriced’ compared to some other sets with similar items in them (at least in the US), you can’t really say that R.E.M. are ripping off the public with the new one.

  56. Chris Mix says:

    What and interesting read, and a phenomenal article Paul, as always.

    I do consider my box sets to be luxury items, without question. Am I thrifty when I shop? Absolutely. I am constantly searching for the best value for my hard earned dollar. Thank you Paul for helping me on my quest with your articles and fantastic deal alerts.

    I have every intention of listening to everything which I have purchased over my collecting career. After all, I will achieve value for my money. I actually started my listening process over a decade ago beginning with artists, then greatest hits, followed by various collections. I have yet to complete listening to many unopened purchases made within the last few years. I will then finalize my listening pleasures by listening to my box sets, many unopened until that very moment. I love to view this as their premiere. After concluding my listening of everything that I have collected, I will finish out my days listening to whatever I please.

    Some days I just sit in my designated collecting room and admire and inspect my collection. One of the aspects I have always enjoyed is the reading of inlays and booklets. Oddly enough I also enjoy the scent of the booklets, especially a new one. For me these are two of the many reasons why I continue to build my collection. I, for one could care less about buttons, badges and postcards. I definitely do take it into consideration though if it is a limited edition or signed copy. The most recent examples that come to mind being the Dead or Alive and the Blancmange sets. Value is certainly in the eye of the beholder, however each individual’s perception will vary. Would I purchase a box set valued over $200? Most certainly, as that is my choice to make. Something tangible is more than worth it’s weight in gold to me. The memories and goosebumps included.

    Another question might be, will my collection ever amount to anything? Perhaps, perhaps not. However the continued delight and thrill of it could never put a price tag on my pure joy of collecting. To me it is my life time of work and my legacy, and nobody could ever take that away, or taint it. In conclusion it is so much more than just about the music, but ultimately that is where it all began for me.

    Any number of designer t-shirts could never compare to what I have and will continue to build.

  57. RJS says:

    “So, no kudos forthcoming for your investment or passion for physical music!”

    Isn’t that’s what the ‘Website’ option when posting comments on this site is for – creating a link to a catalogued index of your music collection on Discogs (even if it is incomplete)?

  58. Daran says:

    I have paid £110 for a second hand copy of Alan Wilder’s Recoil ‘Collected’ SDE – beatifully presented, exclusive content and rare at 1000 copies – numbered and signed by the man himself. I also shelled out £60+ for a DCC gold remaster of Hotel California, still regarded as the best sounding version of one of my favorites. So, to each his own in terms of perception of value. They are one-off’s for me, and I don’t think recent SDE’s from REM, Roxy and others are good value. INXS Kick 30th was a watershed moment for me, showing just how much could be achieved for <£25. Makes Roxy SDE seem the cash grab it is. But no SDE is a brand, and it's not lifestyle either, so to mass population they will never think it is a luxury item or value for money like they seem to with an iPhone etc. But we SDE lovers are not alone in being ripped off. Those of us who like their watches have long known of astronomical 2,000 % mark-up on some Swiss watches – after all, you don't really think it costs Breitling £2200+ to make a entry level quartz watch do you! That jet fighter aerobatic team they run needs paying for somehow you know :)

  59. Kevin M says:

    Seeing the montage picture used to illustrate this feature makes me think, that another thing is that unlike watches, smartphones, cars or whatever, is that whatevsr the merits or lack of in those things, you’re buying something originated by the company concerned, whether it’s Apple, Ferrari, Rolex or Skoda.

    Many of the companies responsible for these super deluxe releases are ultimately making money from other people’s work, whether it’s one or fifty years ago. Obviously that’s the nature of contracts, licences and rights to release material, but to me this is very different to cars or iPhones, and in some ways, makes them more accountable both to the customer/fan, and to the artist, dead or alive. Of course some living artists won’t care what’s done with their catalogues as long as some cash comes their way, and of course that’s their choice and fine.

  60. Otto says:

    I think a musician can be a luxury product. Just like a painter or any other performing artist.
    Unlike a luxury brand that is branded with expensive commercials, packaging and shops so people who are lacking confident try to project that image on themselves by buying the overpriced products.
    An artist is as value as he is at the moment. Not every painting will go for millions, not every band can ask a $200 price ticket. The same goes for box sets. They reflect the artist and it’s market value. If you are an 80’s band who had a few hits but isn’t in the charts anymore you just overvalue yourself when you put out an exceptional expensive box set. The market will look at it and judge on the value: a cardboard box, booklet and a lp or some cd’s and we all know that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

  61. Colin Harper says:

    (Re: my comment below, for some reason the other 600 words I’d written just won’t post… I’ll try a few paragraphs covering one point)

    Maybe among some of us it makes a difference if we know that this or that writer has contributed notes to a particular reissue – because we know they’ll be substantial and significant. For instance, the fact that Simon Spillett (Tubby Hayes’ biographer) has written the notes to the new Tubby Hayes archive live set on Acrobat (‘A Little Workout: Live At The Little Theatre’, released yesterday!) was a deal-maker for me in purchasing a copy – because his notes are like wonderful little books in themselves.

    Indeed, Simon’s notes on a forthcoming Gordon Beck 3CD set on RPM, which I’ve been involved with, turned out to be so substantial – and so good – that the label took the decision to move up to clamshell box packaging (and a higher price point) to enable their publication in full. A similar thing happened when RPM opted for a perfect-bound book in the set when I delivered 17,000 words a couple of years ago – more than expected, but I really relished the opportunity to do a load of research and many interviews – for their 3CD clamshell box of the Turtle Records 1970-71 story (more British jazz…).

    Often, then, for people putting archive releases together – on third-party labels especially, like Ace, Hux, RPM, Dusk Fire, Acrobat, etc., where the audio content will have been licensed in from either major labels, the BBC, artists’ estates or other sources – there’s a huge element of labour-of-love involved. Extra miles will be gone in creating a fantastic, comprehensive package as far as is possible.

    • Colin Harper says:

      (sigh…)

      After 101 attempts to try and conclude my thoughts by posting the missing paragraphs, about major labels vs third party licensor labels and about standalone deluxe edition books being genuine luxury items (with more perceived value than music box sets), I give up. The gremlins have won…

    • PC says:

      Colin is correct, of course. Some box set sleevenotes, such as those written by him, are a joy to behold and really show up the slapdash notes that come with many compilations. When I read well written, well researched, interesting, informative sleevenotes I always think “I hope the writer was well paid for that”, but I suspect mostly they were not. My bias towards the writer is because I’m a journalist. It seems to happen less often now, but box set sleevenotes are notorious for typos, which really annoys me. It must be galling for a writer to see something they’ve sweated blood for to be just plonked on a page without even a cursory subedit, so good writing becomes undone by a few howlers. If Colin sees this post, maybe he could address this point, or maybe Paul could, or both of you. Thanks.

      • Paul Sinclair says:

        My own personal comment on this issue is that after arranging interviews, conducting interviews, transcribing interviews, writing and editing your notes, making amendments, editing for length etc…by the time the designer lays it all out, you are massively fatigued and it’s very easy for mistakes to happen. You are over familiar with the words and you could do with some help – getting other people to check over things. And normally those ‘other people’ don’t exist, so you just do your best!!

        • Colin Harper says:

          Why, thank you, PC – and no worries Paul (above) re: the gremlins. It’s baffling – even tried rebooting my PC. Anyway…

          Paul is right to an extent in that sometimes, after doing a load of work on researching and writing notes, sometimes of great length, you deliver them to the label (assuming they’ll take the load from there) and find out 3 months later that something has happened and the finished product has introduced glitches – often irritating (but largely insignificant) things like the formatting (italics, bold…) having disappeared between your PC and the designer’s Mac. The worst case I recall, of this, was when I contributed a note to a Gordon Giltrap vintage live performance from Radio Clyde to a small label (I forget which) – after Gordon, whom I’d interviewed, seeing it and being very happy – only to find that a square bracket question-to-Gordon asking ‘is this correct? change if not’ about a particular detail (the type of guitar he was using, I think) had appeared in the finished booklet! Clearly, NO ONE at the label/design end had checked it…

          Another (more absurd) example is a note I was asked to write for Santuary in the early 2000s for a reissue of a very much ‘of its time’ 60s flower power-esque album. I described it along the lines of being charming, delightful, a period piece, etc – only to find, at the 11th hour, that the artiste in question – an individual who had unusually high regard for their genius (despite a recording career that had faltered one or two records later) – had gone apoplectic, withdrawn permission for bonus tracks they controlled, and threatened to sue for libel. It was pointed out that this was impossible, as nothing had actually been printed. It could all have been avoided if the label had told me the notes required artist approval! Another writer was brought in with 10 minutes to spare and wrote a hagiographical essay about the artist and the day was saved…

          One of the backroom things I did with the recent Pentangle 7CD box was proofread the various written contributions (from 7 writers) to impose consistency of presentation, formatting and answer one or two check-this-fact questions. I have to say, the designer on that set – Keith Davey at Altmark Creative – did a really superb job in his design concept, attention to detail and making sure almost all the things that needed to be italicised were (despite the inevitable PC to Mac headaches). Top fellow!

          You ask about pay, PC… Well, it differs. Paul would know more about major label rates (I’ve only ever done one or two things with Sony and Universal – from memory, I was asked to name my price and probably erred on the side of not asking too much). For me, if I take a project on – certainly in recent years – it’s because I like the music and feel I can research it and do a good job, using the opportunity to buy some time (probably at a terrible pro-rata rate in terms of time involved, but it works out enough), do the research and get information ‘out there’ for posterity. Luckily, if I end up writing colossal amounts – and I don’t always, only if the story needs it – the labels I’ve dealt with have understood the value of that content and stretched their budgets – and the physics of releases – to accommodate – like Topic’s ‘Anne Briggs: A Collection’ in the late 90s (c.11,000 words and 36 pages or thereabouts, in a jewel case – the limit of what was possible) or the RPM ‘Turtle Records’ clamshell set I mentioned earlier.

          One of the most pleasurable projects I’ve done relatively recently was ‘Spirits From Another Time’, a Quintessence 2CD set of unreleased Island recordings (1969-71), for Hux.

          I came to Hux with the idea, having some knowledge of the Island studio holdings (through working with Hux on two unreleased Island-era concert sets licensed from Universal in the late 2000s).

          The breakdown of some of the costs (from memory) might be interesting to SDE readers:

          License from Universal: £1500 or £2000
          Transfer of selected multitracks and mixdowns at Abbey Road (based purely on what was scribbled on the tape boxes): c£1000
          Auditioning of digitised results: nothing (possible for me to do on a PC)
          Mixing and mastering of digitised multis at a pro studio: c.£850 (very, very much mates’ rates – it was a colossal task)
          Additional vocals added to complete 2 tracks by Phil Jones, original Quin singer: around £100, wired to a studio in the US
          Additional guitar to complete 2 track by Dave Codling, original rhythm gtr: free (generously recorded by Dave at his home studio in Leeds)
          Notes: £100 (I was aware the project was a huge stretch for Hux)
          Cover artwork: selected by Phil Jones and generously given for free by the artist
          Design: £250, by the excellent Mark Case
          Pressing cost: don’t know, but probably in the region of £2500 for 2000 copies (2CD)

          I oversaw the whole thing, attending all the mix sessions, so it took a lot of time but it was a joy to do and all involved went extra miles to make it as good as possible. Phil Shiva Jones’ 2 new vocal parts, especially, nearly 50 years on, were stunning.

          So, that’s about £4,300 before pressing, if my memory is correct. That would be very much at the edge of what’s tolerable (and viable) for a third-party small label with an archive project. I pretty sure that we went much further than Universal would have gone themselves had they opted to create a Quintessence box set (along the lines of their recent John Martyn, Spooky Tooth et al. sets) – in that several tracks took a lot of work, and weren’t just lying around, ready to be bunged in a box.

          Hope this (rather long) series of examples is useful.

      • Chris Squires says:

        The best typo / fact check error last year was on the otherwise excellent Misplaced Childhood SDE where is was said the band recorded the demos at the house owned by the Thunderbirds creator “Gerry Adams”….. now whilst being a notorious master of puppets, after a fashion, he wasn’t that big in the music scene in early 1985.

      • Colin Harper says:

        Thank you, PC – and no worries Paul (above) re: the gremlins. It’s baffling – even tried rebooting my PC. This is going to be another post in 2 parts cos I’ve now tried umpteen times to post what I’ve written in reply (and on 2 PCS too) and it just isn’t ‘taking’. Let’s try part 1…

        Paul is right to an extent in that sometimes, after doing a load of work on researching and writing notes, sometimes of great length, you deliver them to the label (assuming they’ll take the load from there) and find out 3 months later that something has happened and the finished product has introduced glitches – often irritating (but largely insignificant) things like the formatting (italics, bold…) having disappeared between your PC and the designer’s Mac. The worst case I recall, of this, was when I contributed a note to a Gordon Giltrap vintage live performance from Radio Clyde to a small label (I forget which) – after Gordon, whom I’d interviewed, seeing it and being very happy – only to find that a square bracket question-to-Gordon asking ‘is this correct? change if not’ about a particular detail (the type of guitar he was using, I think) had appeared in the finished booklet! Clearly, NO ONE at the label/design end had checked it…

        Another (more absurd) example is a note I was asked to write for Santuary in the early 2000s for a reissue of a very much ‘of its time’ 60s flower power-esque album. I described it along the lines of being charming, delightful, a period piece, etc – only to find, at the 11th hour, that the artiste in question – an individual who had unusually high regard for their genius (despite a recording career that had faltered one or two records later) – had gone apoplectic, withdrawn permission for bonus tracks they controlled, and threatened to sue for libel. It was pointed out that this was impossible, as nothing had actually been printed. It could all have been avoided if the label had told me the notes required artist approval! Another writer was brought in with 10 minutes to spare and wrote a hagiographical essay about the artist and the day was saved…

        One of the backroom things I did with the recent Pentangle 7CD box was proofread the various written contributions (from 7 writers) to impose consistency of presentation, formatting and answer one or two check-this-fact questions. I have to say, the designer on that set – Keith Davey at Altmark Creative – did a really superb job in his design concept, attention to detail and making sure almost all the things that needed to be italicised were (despite the inevitable PC to Mac headaches). Top fellow!

        • PC says:

          Thanks, Colin and Paul. Chris, I have that Misplace Childhood set but haven’t read the sleevenotes yet. What a howler. I’m looking forward to reading it now.

      • Colin Harper says:

        Wow, Part 1 of my reply worked… (attached to Paul’s comment) Fingers crossed, here’s Part 2…

        You ask about pay, PC… Well, it differs. Paul would know more about major label rates (I’ve only ever done one or two things with Sony and Universal – from memory, I was asked to name my price and probably erred on the side of not asking too much). For me, if I take a project on – certainly in recent years – it’s because I like the music and feel I can research it and do a good job, using the opportunity to buy some time (probably at a terrible pro-rata rate in terms of time involved, but it works out enough), do the research and get information ‘out there’ for posterity. Luckily, if I end up writing colossal amounts – and I don’t always, only if the story needs it – the labels I’ve dealt with have understood the value of that content and stretched their budgets – and the physics of releases – to accommodate – like Topic’s ‘Anne Briggs: A Collection’ in the late 90s (c.11,000 words and 36 pages or thereabouts, in a jewel case – the limit of what was possible) or the RPM ‘Turtle Records’ clamshell set I mentioned earlier.

        One of the most pleasurable projects I’ve done relatively recently was ‘Spirits From Another Time’, a Quintessence 2CD set of unreleased Island recordings (1969-71), for Hux.

        I came to Hux with the idea, having some knowledge of the Island studio holdings (through working with Hux on two unreleased Island-era concert sets licensed from Universal in the late 2000s).

        The breakdown of some of the costs (from memory) might be interesting to SDE readers:

        License from Universal: £1500 or £2000
        Transfer of selected multitracks and mixdowns at Abbey Road (based purely on what was scribbled on the tape boxes): c£1000
        Auditioning of digitised results: nothing (possible for me to do on a PC)
        Mixing and mastering of digitised multis at a pro studio: c.£850 (very, very much mates’ rates – it was a colossal task)
        Additional vocals added to complete 2 tracks by Phil Jones, original Quin singer: around £100, wired to a studio in the US
        Additional guitar to complete 2 track by Dave Codling, original rhythm gtr: free (generously recorded by Dave at his home studio in Leeds)
        Notes: £100 (I was aware the project was a huge stretch for Hux)
        Cover artwork: selected by Phil Jones and generously given for free by the artist
        Design: £250, by the excellent Mark Case
        Pressing cost: don’t know, but probably in the region of £2500 for 2000 copies (2CD)

        I oversaw the whole thing, attending all the mix sessions, so it took a lot of time but it was a joy to do and all involved went extra miles to make it as good as possible. Phil Shiva Jones’ 2 new vocal parts, especially, nearly 50 years on, were stunning.

        So, that’s about £4,300 before pressing, if my memory is correct. That would be very much at the edge of what’s tolerable (and viable) for a third-party small label with an archive project. I pretty sure that we went much further than Universal would have gone themselves had they opted to create a Quintessence box set (along the lines of their recent John Martyn, Spooky Tooth et al. sets) – in that several tracks took a lot of work, and weren’t just lying around, ready to be bunged in a box.

        Hope this (rather long) series of examples is useful.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Colin… I think I worked out what was happening…some of your comments (bizarrely) were going to spam. Didn’t think to check, because all your other comments were being published properly. Anyway, I’ve approved them now, but trying to avoid duplication, where you’ve ‘tried again’. I hope everything is now published and many thanks for your insight.

          • Colin Harper says:

            Thanks Paul – yes, it’s all there now – some two or three times, so apologies to readers! I tried using both my PC and laptop to post so I knew it wasn’t an issue at my end. Strange… maybe your spam filter just thought my views were too boring! :-)

      • Colin Harper says:

        Wow, Part 1 of my reply worked… (attached to Paul’s comment) Fingers crossed, here’s Part 2…
        You ask about pay, PC… Well, it differs. Paul would know more about major label rates (I’ve only ever done one or two things with Sony and Universal – from memory, I was asked to name my price and probably erred on the side of not asking too much). For me, if I take a project on – certainly in recent years – it’s because I like the music and feel I can research it and do a good job, using the opportunity to buy some time (probably at a terrible pro-rata rate in terms of time involved, but it works out enough), do the research and get information ‘out there’ for posterity. Luckily, if I end up writing colossal amounts – and I don’t always, only if the story needs it – the labels I’ve dealt with have understood the value of that content and stretched their budgets – and the physics of releases – to accommodate – like Topic’s ‘Anne Briggs: A Collection’ in the late 90s (c.11,000 words and 36 pages or thereabouts, in a jewel case – the limit of what was possible) or the RPM ‘Turtle Records’ clamshell set I mentioned earlier.

        One of the most pleasurable projects I’ve done relatively recently was ‘Spirits From Another Time’, a Quintessence 2CD set of unreleased Island recordings (1969-71), for Hux.

        I came to Hux with the idea, having some knowledge of the Island studio holdings (through working with Hux on two unreleased Island-era concert sets licensed from Universal in the late 2000s).

        The breakdown of some of the costs (from memory) might be interesting to SDE readers:

        License from Universal: £1500 or £2000
        Transfer of selected multitracks and mixdowns at Abbey Road (based purely on what was scribbled on the tape boxes): c£1000
        Auditioning of digitised results: nothing (possible for me to do on a PC)
        Mixing and mastering of digitised multis at a pro studio: c.£850 (very, very much mates’ rates – it was a colossal task)
        Additional vocals added to complete 2 tracks by Phil Jones, original Quin singer: around £100, wired to a studio in the US
        Additional guitar to complete 2 track by Dave Codling, original rhythm gtr: free (generously recorded by Dave at his home studio in Leeds)
        Notes: £100 (I was aware the project was a huge stretch for Hux)
        Cover artwork: selected by Phil Jones and generously given for free by the artist
        Design: £250, by the excellent Mark Case
        Pressing cost: don’t know, but probably in the region of £2500 for 2000 copies (2CD)

        I oversaw the whole thing, attending all the mix sessions, so it took a lot of time but it was a joy to do and all involved went extra miles to make it as good as possible. Phil Shiva Jones’ 2 new vocal parts, especially, nearly 50 years on, were stunning.

        So, that’s about £4,300 before pressing, if my memory is correct. That would be very much at the edge of what’s tolerable (and viable) for a third-party small label with an archive project. I pretty sure that we went much further than Universal would have gone themselves had they opted to create a Quintessence box set (along the lines of their recent John Martyn, Spooky Tooth et al. sets) – in that several tracks took a lot of work, and weren’t just lying around, ready to be bunged in a box.

        Hope this (rather long) series of examples is useful.

  62. John Bollenberg says:

    most people buying expensive box sets are diehards who already have the entire physical collection of their idols anyway. They just want to have everything and the industry knows that hence the pressings on various colours of vinyl. These days people buy albums like collectors used to buy stamps in the old days: not to be used, only to glance at and enjoy. This has never been the idea behind albums and/or cd’s. These items contain music and people used to buy them to listen to the music. These days these box sets are aimed at the collector who already owns everything. Why put badly recorded demo’s on a cd when thesewere never used because they were too bad in the first place? From experience I can say that I have NEVER listened to the entire content of a box set and I have plenty of those. You tend to listen to the rarities first and in most cases for the last time as well. In the end it just gathers dust and has cost you half a mortgage. The only way an expensiveprice tag would be justified is when it is signed and/or includes something really unique, something which will never ever be made available again once the box set is sold out. After all a lot of artists have hardly earned any money with their music and now some record company buffs are harking in the hard earned cash. I have no problem paying more if I know that half of that money will go directly to the artist who has put his heart and soul and all of his life into creating something we have enjoyed so much. In all other cases I wait for the bargain bin to be filled

  63. mr luxury says:

    You’re getting this whole thing arse about tit – it’s the musical content that matters, not the packaging etc… The problem with the Roxy Music set is that they aren’t including the superior “flat” remaster from the album box set which they should be doing at the price they are asking, and the chances are that the bonus content has not been mastered particularly well either. People have always and will always place very high value on the mastering of the content – hence the huge figures people will pay for original vinyl from the 1960s and 1970s and beyond. They pay it because the musical content is superior to any other version. This cuts across formats too – the RCA David Bowie CDs being a very good example. It’s this which people are willing to pay for, not the fluff around it, and the market value of these things pays testament to the fact. People want first pressings because that is generally what the artist intended it to sound like at the time – they may change their mind in 30 years, but the audience isn’t interested in the rewriting of history, they want the work as it was even with it’s flaws.
    Most of these modern box sets are like putting a Ferrari badge on a Renault and then demanding for Ferrari level asking prices – which is why people feel gyped all the time. No matter how lovely the book looks – it’s hardly going to retain the buyers attention in the way a £1.99 Dostoyevski novel is, they are nearly always trite rehashings of stories most people already know bulked out by pretty pictures.
    It’s also true that the best modern box sets tend to come from the smaller labels like Light In The Attic & Numero Group – this is because the people curating the content are passionate about the work they do, and have faith in the content that they offer – so that they reproduce the musical content as closely to the original as possible without needing to compress or re-eq etc… If they put out a 1960s album, it sounds like it came out in the 1960s instead of a 1960s album trying to pass itself off as a modern production. So, these box sets and albums are met with approval and feel like “luxury items”. Maybe they wouldn’t seem so special if all these major labels weren’t so adamant about giving the audience musical dross.

    • Kevin M says:

      @mr luxury

      ..re the good old / first CD pressings you mention, it’s ironic that despite there indeed being reuse of old CD masters going on very recently, presumably in order to spend as little money as possible (eg the recent Bowie box sets reuse old EMI CD masters for Ziggy, Aladdin, and Nassau Live, and the Roxy using the 1999 master), they don’t even reuse the hugely acclaimed and difficult to find ones, even when there’s quite recent high profile ones ones like the 2010 EMI Bowie Station to Station master from the album’s superdeluxe and 3CD set, or the flat transfer Roxy you mention. They reuse the unacclaimed, easily bargain bin avalable or already owned by most people ones. So ironic.

  64. lee bowler says:

    i have a very basic theory for box sets, I do love them dearly but I have my own pricing model: £10 for each CD, £15 for Vinyl and £10-£15 for DVD/blu ray. The actual box, I allow manufacturing costs etc of £15. Therefore, a box set containing 3CDs, 1 Vinyl and a DVD = £70. Anything more than this, price wise, for this content and I struggle to justify the cost. Yes I know there is much work that goes into compiling, mastering, design/artwork etc but these boxsets contain already recorded music, so that isn’t a cost factor. The mark up on each of the CDs, DVD etc is more than enough for production costs, artist royalties, record company profits and the store/selling outlet

  65. Marty says:

    Music will outlast any ‘luxury’ item, they will fall apart or end up on the scrapheap while the music is still in our ears and minds.

  66. RJS says:

    Someone who buys a £65 T-shirt will buy the new Roxy box set upon release without giving it a second thought. Someone who pays £10 for a T-shirt will be waiting for the price to drop. Labels know that well-heeled and die-hard fans will pay for extravagantly priced SDEs whilst most others will wait for the inevitable price drop.

  67. Chris Squires says:

    I don’t know enough about these business models but maybe someone who does know can enlighten us. Paul hits upon a good point. If the launch price was maintained and not discounted quickly then the perception of premium product would be maintained.
    Who bears the hit on these discounts? Say launch is at £80 (automatic for the people) what do universal or whoever supply retailers at? £30, £40, £50? More? Less?
    So when there is a discount to the recent £47 deal alert are these sets coming from stock that amazon bought initially at £40 or £50 or whatever or are universal saying we can send you 50 sets at £20 each so amazon can cut to £47.
    So who blinks first, the supplier? The retailer?
    There seems to be two distinct groups here. When really there should be three if the companies were braver.
    1) those who are early adopters and would always buy at launch because they just want it. Buy at £130
    2) those who will wait for the price drop. Buy at £57

    Group 2 should be split into two groups
    A) those who will wait until it hits £57 and only then
    B) those who want the item but will wait until it hits £57 as they KNOW it will drop but would buy at £130 if they knew it would NEVER drop, except perhaps by 10% after a year.

    If they had made these numbered xxxx / 3,000 and stated the run number and we knew they were not going to drop below £120 they would sell out.

    Finally I think it is the duplicity of companies trying to hide the run numbers that are affecting sales. If they were upfront, numbering every SDE I think they would sell more and more quickly negating the need for discounting.

    • J says:

      Chris
      Excellent comment (as usual). A (very) brief breakdown of the economics of physical releases follows.

      On the cost side there are 5 prime costs: Recording, Mixing, Pressing, Distrubution & Marketing. The size of the expenditure is a function of quality. Abbey Road studio is one example of a top-flight facility and the cost is very high. Mixing gets the smallest budget in the cost structure, just ask Mr. Wilson. All other costs are the same in nature and quality will increase cost in each case

      On the Revenue side the contracts & environment is in constant flux. Let’s assume you have a disc for sale @ a $20 price point. On average the record company will get $10.83 (54%) & they have to pay the publisher but this is also in flux. The retailer will net around $5.40 (30%). If the artist wrote & performed the material they will receive about $3.16 (16%).

      Now if your name if David Bowie the artist share will increase dramatically and if we have never heard of you, it would be pure luck to get this level of revenue sharing. The record company will forego its level of % share & realize economies through nominal terms (volume)

      Box sets are especially unique in that the prime cost of recording is eliminated & the marketing cost may dissipate as well. Record companies pay attention to sites like SDE in that they can apply metrics to the number of responses and adjust marketing $ accordingly. And poor Mr. Wilson will still have a small crappy budget.

      Whatever price point the record company chooses is neither here nor there, If this music changed your life and has great personal meaning then you will purchase it at (almost) any price point and what other people think has no consequence.

      From an investors perspective, it is best to buy many copies of the releases that have a finite pressing life. For example, the Genesis box sets in the UK had an SACD and US issue had DVD. Buy 2 of each and you can realize a 300% markup over a time horizon of 6 to 8 years.

      Hope this helps
      J

      • Chris Squires says:

        Excellent, many thanks for that J.

        So when Amazon do a 40% sale, as they did last week, they are basically trashing their margin completely.

        Can’t see why they would do that unless a) They needed the space or b) it is a loss leader and they are hoping to snag a few more addicts to sell to at top whack down the line.

        For example Cathedral Oceans, normally £80 – £90 for a 5LP set, reduced to £44.99. It’s limited to 750. So they shoved out 20 / 30 or however many they sold last week just to get shot of them? No margin whatsoever?

        Glad I am not in retail of any kind.

        A good young artist must look at this state of affairs and cry, but I guess they are used to what they grow up with. How they must look at a middling band of the 70s who had a few hits and reel from the numbers that were made (earned), let alone the big boys who’s bank balances must have struggled to keep up if they were on any kind of decent contract. Go on any torrent site and look at the numbers being siphoned straight off the bottom line.

        • J says:

          Mr. Squires
          Spot ON!! The killer for Amazon is the shipping & storage cost. You can only ship it once or you are dead in the water.

          The key is to realize margin within a short period of time. If it does materialize then move on smartly. If you had contacted Amazon directly then you could buy the Cathedral dead stock for about $15.50 per copy but you would have to buy all of them.

          I just sold a sealed a promo Lou Reed Metal Machine Music Quad 8 track for an embarrassing sum of $. Since I own the warehouse(s) time is on my side. I also just bought some Super Deluxe Editions of Fleetwood Mac Tusk for $18 a pop (but I had to buy all of them). Ceste Le Vieve.

          And you are right; retail can be kind of a drag sometimes but wholesale can be even more exciting. Selling recorded music is very tame comparatively. If you have ever sold a 40 ft ocean going container filled with vintage blue jeans to former Soviet Republics then you know what I mean. The risk can be breathtaking. I guess it just depends on resources & appetite for risk.
          Cheers
          J

  68. BDY says:

    A very interesting debate with some excellent points.
    However, using the example of the new Roxy box, the main dish is an old and not particularly well loved master, and as has been pointed out, there are things missing as far as the ‘potential market’ is concerned. I get the feeling that the ship has been spoiled for a ha’porth of tar. I have the flat transfer RM box. The early LP’s sound great as flat transfers.
    Going with your analogy, Paul, the box is being perceived by collectors as a Paul Smith T-shirt with one sleeve missing, or a knock off Rolex (as was to some extent the perception of the last Bowie box).

    I bought King Crimson’s On and Off the road for 139 euros – not because it has 18 discs, but because it has ALL the recorded and remixed permutations of an era of KC that I love. I would guess I listen to a third of the disks regularly. I definitely consider it a luxury to have, and don’t resent the asking price one bit. It has nothing to do with quantity, and all to do with quality.

    Concerning the last two paragraphs of your article, I disagree. Physical music was sold as a luxury item during the yuppy years of the mid to late 80’s.

    The recorded music industry killed itself in the mid 80’s. The last vinyl LP’s I bought were so badly pressed that I returned The Eurythmics Savage 3 times before giving up.
    Back then, the only affordable way to buy CD’s was to rummage through bargain bins. A full priced CD was between 12 and 20 quid in 1987 ! A bargain was 5 pounds. In 1987 !
    In Holland, CD buying was even more expensive.

    When I started buying vinyl, it was fairly common to find ‘take-a-risk’ prices. You could pick up loads of vinyl at HMV for 99p in the early 80’s.
    The introduction of CD as an expensive wannahave format killed the pocket money prices of vinyl and restricted sales.

    A newly released CD single in 1988 was retailed at 50p to encourage chart success. When the song charted, the price shot up. As sales inevitably dropped, the industry turned its attention to new file based platforms and encouraged the demise of physical music carriers.

    What also didn’t help the industry was the overnight murder of vinyl and the introduction of a very limited CD catalogue…. and it really was overnight.
    The only people pressing vinyl between the late 80’s and 2005 were punks, die-hards and alternative bands.
    And finally, the introduction of the hideous jewel box and tiny artwork. After years of beautiful, tactile music releases, came this cold (and frequently awful sounding) format being marketed as The Future.

    The music industry has now realised that many music buyers are tactile people. The success of Japanese CD mini LP’s, box sets, remixes and decent re-masters has opened a window in the minds of the companies. Sometimes it seems quite panicky, as if the industry smells a new demise and is chucking out product to get what they can.
    When you can buy all of Queen’s vinyl LP’s in one easy box, it seems a bit odd to me as a collector, but each to their own.
    I really enjoy being a CD collector now. Finally, the industry sees the market where I am. But it needs to realise that my market LOVES the music and that one person’s wart is another’s beauty.

  69. Bill says:

    For me the point is about the laziness of the approach to content. Too many times the record company or whoever can’t be bothered to do a professional job of which they could be proud. But perhaps they have no such self-awareness and are free from the doubts and questions that plague some of us in work. I don’t care if the Roxy box costs £60 or £150 – it’s just been done carelessly. For me, the King Crimson boxes didn’t strictky offer good value for money because I’d already bought so much of the stuff. But, but, but, they are products where you can see the pride in production and I was happy to buy them. The same pride is evident with the Tull boxes. But not the ELP box and so many others. So, in conclusion, it’s not the money it’s the pride, or lack of, in production.

  70. Alan says:

    Not sure it can be compared with seeing an act live. With that, you have no choice. You either pay it or you don’t see them. There’s no possibility of the price being reduced at a later date.

    I think it is reasonable to go with the £10 per CD basis. George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice box was £30 and you got three CDs and a DVD in that. I’m not interested in this Roxy Music set, but if I was, I wouldn’t be comparing the price favourably.

    I notice a smartphone is included in the illustration of luxury items. I see that more as a necessity now. Everyone has one. Everyone doesn’t have expensive T-shirts, cars or watches because they aren’t necessary. I wouldn’t want to be ripped-off on those either!

  71. James says:

    I love Roxy Music. I just can’t afford to make this part of my collection right now.

  72. -SG- says:

    I think the popular gimmick of the CD or the LP has passed. I believe at one time it was more a luxury item when no one had a CD player or a good hi-fi system. You could impress your fiends with a CD because it was new. Imagine, it cost $1.25 for a 78 RPM record with 1-2 songs back in 1900. That was a luxury item. Just like having a color TV in the 60’s or HDTV 15 years ago, a CD player in 1984, an Ipod in 2003, etc. But like all technology the herd moves on to something else. The new iphone you have or new earpods you listen to your music with is the equivalent to say having a new stereo LP. So you will not gain a status among non collectors for having a deluxe set. Honestly, I think even among collectors the real status is in having first pressing LP’s by trendy acts: an original unpeeled banana cover torso sleeve of the Velvet Underground and Nico, and A&M copy of God Save the Queen, a Hessian bound Factory copy of Still by Joy Division.
    Anyone re-buying a deluxe set needs to have content to justify re-buying the record, because no matter how you put it, it is a repress/reissue, and it is the MUSIC that matters at this point, the coolness of having an original minto copy of a Roxy LP must be transcended by something that makes it compelling. Many times demos are simply curiosities that render a listen or two, so in a deluxe set you need content in the highest fidelity possible and offer value like XTC is doing with their reissues. An exorbitant price is a killer for sales, most casual fans will just pass. The recent Purple Rain set was a great value, likewise they could have made a limited amount that had a hardbound book and photo prints etc and charged $120 and that would have sold out as well. Someone willing to pay $150 for a album set will just buy it to have the best or cor a completest thing, or get it as a gift, but isolating the bonus material is really not such a good idea. if they offered the same Roxy material in a basic package and sold it for $25 they would likely make a lot more money. Likewise you can still buy a shirt that basically does the same thing for $6 that a designer shirt does for $100, and no one complains because there is a choice a choice.

  73. Chris says:

    I’ve been ill for the last several days and so missed most of this discussion; I wish I’d been here earlier.

    Re: luxury item vs. a cold value judgment . . .I think it’s *always* a value judgment, even if you consider something to be a luxury item; it’s just that the metric of value is different. Different people are going to judge the value of the content of a box set in different ways, and arrive at different conclusions. Some people think the Roxy Music set is worth it, and some do not; some thought _Flowers In The Dirt_ were worth it, and some did not. You can poll people and attempt to comprehensively assess what folks want to see in a SDE-type set; but no answer is going to be universal across this community, a community that’s small and (unfortunately) probably getting smaller.

    Speaking only for myself, I don’t care that much about posters and concert ticket reproductions and backstage pass reproductions and postcards and so forth. I don’t mind them if they’re present, but they don’t persuade me to get something. I don’t play vinyl, so I don’t care about vinyl. I care first and foremost about the music: whether it sounds good, that it hasn’t been brickwall mastered, etc.; that there’s a solid amount of interesting musical content that can’t be obtained any other way; and so on. Second, being a nerd, I care about information: sessionographies and discographies; detailed biography/history over florid complimentary puff pieces by a fan; etc. For me, Bear Family and Mosaic Records make the best box sets in the world; of the sets not made by either of them, the Revenant Records Charlie Patton _Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues_ set, the comprehensive period-oriented King Crimson boxes like the recent _Sailor’s Tales_ set, or any of many produced by Fantasy such as the Complete Riverside Monk, the Complete Riverside Bill Evans, etc., are what I want. (the Universal/Hip-O Select _Complete Motown Singles_ sets would make my list if the sound wasn’t so poor so often — I did buy them all, but I wish I was more enthusiastic about them).

    When something gets announced here, I generally wait until release, and I read: I read what people here, or on the Steve Hoffman forums, or on Amazon, or on fan forums of a particular band or label or genre write about its contents. If the sound gets panned, or if folks point out that there’s stuff that obviously should have been in the set (e.g. missing B-sides) but isn’t, then I’m probably out. And if I’m out for those reasons, the presence of posters/backstage pass reproductions/vinyl-I-won’t-need/etc. isn’t going to sway me. It’s just not what I’m looking for.

  74. Mark says:

    I agree your essay was a good summation and on topic!The one that really gets me is Denim Jeans, I have spent time in the new manufacturing areas in Asia and beyond and Jeans in Australia sell for approx AUS$100 – 500 dollars and a lot of people view them as Fashion Neccesity/s and care little of workers conditions and rates of pay. Bangladesh for instance 40 American cents per hour / shift work rate .
    Box Sets on the other hand have a better foot print in manufacture with less Ego.
    Something I have noticed over the last 10 years they are investments so listening and looking after your B/Sets 1st editions can have a knock on effect {warm and fuzzy}when you see your Prince long box { buy back then $70.oos now selling most of the time $250 } there are many more etc.
    I hope everything is as it should be!

  75. Kenny Smith says:

    Record companies are on the ropes. This is their way getting money back from us for almost 20 years of “free” downloadable music. Bands are getting their money back from concert ticket prices

  76. Dr Volume says:

    Interesting post Paul. Fortunately I don’t associate, or work with, people who care what labels you wear or what Car you drive or how much your house cost – far from it. I suspect a lot of music lovers and SDE readers are the same so unless people start walking around with box sets under their arm hoping to get a nod of recognition from a fellow obsessive then Byron Ferrari and pals need to wise up and re-think their pricing.

    The benchmark is the XTC reissues – loads of content for a decent price with extensive sleeve notes in a simple package – does anyone really want any more than that? Who really cares about oversized boxes and lavish books?
    The heated debates on here are always about the standard of mastering/mixing and whether all the different b-sides, bonus tracks, edits and remixes are included – nobody is really that bothered about the books, the posters, sunglasses, badges and reproduction gig flyers etc are they?. I’m sure if they’d issued this as a neat little box with the discs and a booklet for a reasonable price they’d have sold loads and made more profit than they will from this aspirationally priced Roxy Boxy.

  77. mike says:

    as we are on the topic of box sets…what do people this about this imminent release…

    https://thesoundofvinyl.com/*/*/The-Velvet-Underground-LP-Box/5QV50000000

    • colm47 says:

      Hi Mike:

      Was scrolling through the comments and saw yours.

      I have ordered the box set from recordstore.co.uk who I think are connected to soundofvinyl.com and universal music as well.

      I have the previous MGM LPs box and it duplicates a lot of that so did I really need to?!
      I did so because firstly I love the band (one of my favourites).
      Secondly, it’s limited to 1000 world wide so I thought it might sell out.
      Thirdly, I signed up to their email list and got 10% off my first website order.
      Lastly, I have a chronic addiction for vinyl box sets and I need to get treatment!!

  78. Peter Piazza says:

    Forget the super deluxe editions, just look at the “ordinary” releases. Back when I was a boy buying vinyl LPs back in the 60 s & 70s, you knew before you went to the record shop pretty much what you would pay for the latest album that you wanted to purchase. (In Australia) you would have your cheap budget labels and your standard record company labels. The prices for the latter would be the same, irrespective of artist or record company. Obviously double albums would cost more, but still the same price between record companies.
    Today the prices of different albums by the same artist on the same record label are never the same, let alone different artists on different labels.
    For example, can anyone explain why currently the price on amazon.co.uk for the 4 LP vinyl version of The Concert for George is £102.69, while (to my mind) the fairly equivalent 4LP set John Mayall’s 70th Birthday Concert is £73.42?
    Maybe the artists performing George’s songs are all wearing Paul Smith T-shirts on stage!
    BTW who pockets the extra money – the artist? the record company? the retailer?

  79. Shaun says:

    When you compare Roxy Music’s box set to Jethro Till and Fleetwood Mac’s there is no comparison in VFM. But at the end of the day it is what people are prepared to pay and market forces over a period of time will decide. Live performances are different. Most of the acts that would feature in SDE are over 50 or 60. They are at an age where there is little motivation I would imagine to tour the world extensively and for a long period of time. Hence economics dictate ticket prices at £200. If people are prepared to pay those prices so be it. I can’t and I accept it. Most SDE visitors are of an age where they probably paid less than £10 or even £5 to see many of the acts featured here. Those days have gone. Like football and many sports live concerts are big business. We the fans don’t matter because their enough people out there who will pay the inflated prices.

  80. Iain says:

    I have spent approx £400+ on getting the three Metallica deluxe editions of their first three albums and they are great things to have. Lots of content, live material, dvds etc and worth every penny imo. A luxury item? Well yes. Could I live without them? Yes. Have I even listened to all the stuff on them more than once? No. But no one held a gun to my head to buy them. Had I not been able to afford them I wouldn’t have been bothered about missing out on them.

    The difference between deluxe editions and a designer t shirt is that the SDE is mine, for me to enjoy and cherish. More personal. A designer t shirt is just a statement for the public to see and if they like, admire. That’s why I don’t consider them to be considered in the same way.

  81. martin farnworth says:

    Interesting to use the comparison of a t shirt over what you could say is a niche item- i.e a cd/vinyl boxset over whether it is a luxury item. You could say the same about forking out on any hobby/interest that the general public has no interest in. Spending a lot on music releases I suppose is a bit different and possibly appear absurd to the many who consume yet spend so little on it.

    I would guess the actual content is more important than the physical packaging to most readers-although i would suggest the aspect of luxury relates to the packaging itself. It’s more obvious to describe luxury relating to something tangible and not how many exclusive tracks are included.

    Having said that packaging is important. An example of below par packaging was the Music Complete vinyl box set which I bought mainly for the exclusive content and not the packaging. When most of this was later released on CD I considered my purchase being devalued especially as the packaging itself (lacking and felt a bit cheap) didn’t really add much value.

  82. Dean says:

    I don’t think you have the whole story here. For one thing, the main thing you’re buying is the album, in this case the Roxy Music debut. But this box even got that wrong, and included an old mastering that everyone knows has been redone by Steve Wilson – whose excellent reputation suggests would have done a damn fine job.

    Then you have comparative considerations. How is Jethro Tull album to finance a new 5.1 mix, a new stereo master, three discs of extras, and a 90 page book – for £30 or so?!? WTF.

    The point here is that the label got this wrong. And it wasn’t the kind of wrong they could have known anything about – as soon as word hit the street about this release the knives were out. It suggests zero market research. KNOW YOUR MARKET!

    We – SDE fans – want physical product. We’ll pay more for it. But it sure would be nice if it felt like the labels cared about their consumers, rather than marginalizing them. With some very clear mistakes, and a price that’s obscene, the label turned what should be a celebration of great music into a hatefest. And no – signed merchanise isn’t worth anything to me – I don’t want signed stuff. My number one consideration is the music. Then the book. Then the box.

    But Paul – the labels don’t seem to care. If they spent any time listening to their customers they’d stop brickwalling their CD’s. I have two artists I love – Steve Earle and Robert Plant. Both have new(ish) albums out. In both cases, for the very first time, I returned these new discs for a refund because they’re brickwalled to death. It’s a disgrace. They must know it, but once again, they give no consideration to the consumer.

    It’s oly the small boutique labels, like Cherry Red, who are trying to do things right (not saying they always succeed, but they try). The majors though – we’ll they’ve forgotten how to sell product.

    • peter chrisp says:

      Dean an excellent point you have raised with one of my fave acts Jethro Tull their deluxe edition box sets are excellent and are some of the best at remastering, huge content, and the booklet is amazingly comprehensive & what can i say about the music and can’t wait for Heavy Horses and all in all we get an extra 97 tracks, lyrics, and a track by track review a complete rundown & you look at the cost and with what Paul has suggested above is an excellent summary of all proceedings when it comes to these special editions & when we see a new box set on the way one of the first things we look at is Paul’s thoughts on the forthcoming release then i look at the price and i think hmm???

  83. ant says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42701623

    possibly interesting article from yesterday

    Is the greatest hits album dead?

    “With a box set, it tells a story. It has to look beautiful, it can’t just look like a plain old CD. The music is special, but the packaging has to be special too.”

    (p.s.Hope the seeds of love box set will pull out all the stops)

  84. Giovanni says:

    The Clash sound system box set was top heavy price wise £100+ did’t really have anything new in it R/M albums DVD few rare tracks (which most clash fans had ) live tracks music wise nothing new. But what a great box set design tons of extras books,poster etc etc lovely in every way. Now that was money well spent.

    • colm47 says:

      Ciao Giovanni

      I have that box set as well and I just had a look at it again, it really is a cool box set.
      I couldn’t remember where the cigarette/poster was though but eventually found it!!

  85. Marcel F G Rijs says:

    The new Kim Wilde box set does get it right. A yellow vonyl LP, a CD and a canvas plus art cards for 50 euro. But then that’s new music, not a 40 year old album…

  86. colin says:

    ON THE SUBJECT OF BOX SETS – With Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the Inside the Pleasuredome release in 2014, you got quite a lot of content, all the music as a dowload but at £85 it wasn’t cheap. Oh how those who thought about it and didn’t take the ‘pledge’ may regret it now as even the standard ‘not signed by Trevor horn’ copies sell for about £200 on ebay or Discogs! They didn’t sell out on pre-order and a number of them were sold on Amazon for about £40, so if you got one of those you certainly got a bargain! FRANKIE SAY_______Box Sets Are BOSS!

  87. Phil Wilson says:

    I think we now know that almost all box sets will drop eventually, so on a 20, 30 or 40 year old album we can wait to get the live disc or the demos a bit longer. Will a range rover drop to half price, probably not. Fleetwood mac rumours box can be had for 25 quid, so 130 for a box set is too much, as is 200 quid for a U2 ticket on the frontish of the upper tier at the Manchester Arena. Simple fact is, they are not as good as when they were selling out stadiums, but 200 for a seat at that distance away is too much. There are people starving in this country, and people who have more money than they could ever need should not be charging so much in these times. Prince charged around 85 quid there 2 years ago, and was as good as ever, i decided against U2 as the amount being charged is just not worth it.

  88. Miguel Rocha says:

    I agree that £130 on a single music release is less frivolous than £65 on a T-shirt (!!!) but if I spend the Canadian equivalent of £1000 on a fridge, I’m hoping that fridge is the only one I’ll purchase for my home for 10 years. If I’m going to spend a certain amount of my hard earned cash on music, it better give good value for my money. £130 is going to eat significantly into my yearly budget…if the music industry is going to treat me (or fans in general) like that, music will no longer be a priority. I already feel like they’re going to destroy the resurgence of vinyl, especially reissues, with massive price gauging.

  89. wayne says:

    Part of the issue is also reissue fatigue–i.e., we get the brand new re-master of something or we see things reissued gain and again with a little more content each time. If this were a one off reissue where you get everything and it isn’t reissued yet again with additional content (de-valuing what was once seen as collector’s item before), I think folks would be less upset about this stuff. The fact that we get the standard Ludwig remaster (which everyone already has) taking up the space of something that we don’t need to have again. Instead, it should have included the Wilson stereo remix as well as including the content for the rest of the set lossless. It seems like the folks that put together these sets are interested in many times giving us just a certain amount of material or the artist (McCartney) is interested in putting in lots of paper which I won’t be likely to look at again.

    For me, it’s always about the content meaning the music. A high quality book? If I wanted a high quality book I would buy that separately. I agree with someone else here who pointed out that, at this price, it was a limited edition signed by all of the band members, the quality would be perceived much differently. There are different presentations for different type of collectors and, instead, this seems compromised in many, many ways. Other times, you get releases that struggle to provide extra material and yet are priced out of reach accordingly. Not all expanded releases are the same in terms of quality and content but they are often times priced as if they are. The Jethro Tull book with CDs and the XTC releases have gotten it right. Bryan’s release has the earmarks of being form over content with design being the paramount aesthetic here. Let’s be honest here as well–these are priced as the last cash grab for many bands simply because their aging audience won’t be around forever. How collectable is an object? Only as collectable so long as there are fans. Fans are getting older and dying much like the artists themselves. Few artists have a shelf life that will last forever and predicting which ones will is always a gamble. Music has never been seen like paintings where the painting is unique and has a history that it brings with it nor is there much prestige in mass produced objects.

  90. Bernard O’Hara says:

    That is a great post, Paul, very thought provoking. I guess ‘value’ is ultimately decided by the customer. I got the Shadows polydor albums boxset a couple of months ago and considered it an absolute bargain at £50 – particularly as it contained a signed print. There were 11 albums in the box – yet many people I know said ‘I have all the albums already – not buying it. If it is your favourite artist, and it has something special or unreleased then you may well pay a premium. But there is a tipping point, a price elasticity – and i guess this Roxy boxset has illustrated that point. It has to be something special to justify the price – particularly as 1) we know what a commercially available cd should cost (£10 max, unless the deluxe, where you might pay a slight premium) – so if the set includes 4 discs, how can you get anywhere near £130?) 2) price comparison is so easy now, as SDE’s very existence attests 3) as you say, there is often discounting – so worth the wait.

    But the whole singularity of music, and the point you make about others not seeing or appreciating your prize purchase, is absolutely spot on. In fact if someone doesn’t like your taste, they may well make fun of your purchase? (Unbelievably, not everyone likes the shadows…!)

  91. Steve says:

    At the Neil Tennant talk at the Barbican last week the chairman of the event observed (on acquiring musical product) that the direction of travel now is that either people are expecting to get it for free or are prepared to pay a lot for something perceived as special. No real in-between. I thought this was as very valid point when looking at my own purchases of 2017, a vast number of which have been informed from this site.

  92. Paul Lockett says:

    I think the most I’ve paid for a box set is £130. This was for Editors’ “Unedited” 7CD + 7LP set – a total of 14 discs in a (very large) box along with a gorgeous booklet.

    Actually, it’s worth every penny.

    It’s also interesting that there are some comments on here regarding labels getting their initial pricing wrong – one guy comments that had the REM box set been £50 instead of £80 they would likely have sold double; here I disagree – the purchasers of box sets tend to be fans of the band, not casual listeners. Nobody ever said “I really love ‘Automatic For The People’ – I think I might go out and blow 80 quid on the box set version”. It wouldn’t matter if it was £80 or £50 – to the casual listener, it’s still massively expensive and arguably overpriced. In fact, I’d argue that anything over £10-15 is simply too much for most casual listeners. Fans will definitely pay more – but everybody has their own limit.

  93. Robert Laversuch says:

    This might sound odd but I feel there is a difference between actual value and the worth we attach to sth The original Roxy Music Album is sublime and the box will add to that no doubt. The reason I would wait is that I own so many box sets and the cheaper they are the more I can afford to buy which is PURE greed I know. There will always be sets that are better value than others depending what you are looking for in a set or hoping for. Thank you for a most interesting debate.

  94. Music Man says:

    The very fact that this now sells for approx £77 delivered from the USA says it all for me,
    I have no interest in the so called taste and style of Ferry, Tesco jeans or Anthony Price suits it still sounds the same,
    I bought the album on day of release many years ago, my friends thought it was a rip off then ,,,,,’what no Virginia Plain ‘
    Nothing is new,

  95. Michael says:

    Every single year I debate whether continuing to buy CDs is worth it or whether I should just download. A big part of the enjoyment though is the hunt and getting what I think is a good price. Right now I still buy quite a bit and physically it only takes up one corner of a spare bedroom.

    However, I do think about when it’s time to get rid of all this stuff, who is going to want it and will it just end up in a landfill? I have price points in my heads for what I think things should cost and if it exceeds (ex Automatic for the People) then I don’t bother or wait until it drops in price… if it ever does.

    I have made one switch in my purchasing. I used to believe I needed ALL the albums by artists of general interest to me but now have switched over to greatest hits or best ofs for third and fourth tier bands.

  96. Ken Evans says:

    My biggest issue is, having 4000 or so discs and living in a rather small flat, is that I don’t like large boxes. Excellent example of what not to do was the George film by Scorsese – giant box, book is nice but of the 4 discs inside all I need is the bluray and the CD with the demos – so, the book (much slimmer than the box) is on a bookshelf, the two discs I play sometimes are in slimcases (you know those half-width jewel cases you buy 100 in a box and take up half the space) and the actual box is in storage never to be seen.

  97. paolo says:

    Everything’s luxury basically. You can buy a t-shirt for 10 euros, but if you are bothered by owning a luxury thing you’ll buy one that costs 50/60 euros from X brand. The same goes for music, more or less. If you want the ‘Roxy Music’ album you can get it for less than 10 euros, but if you want the luxury boxset you’ll have to pay 100 euros. It’s really down to your own needs, you can easily live with a simple t-shirt and the ‘Roxy Music’ album, or you can choose to fork out a ridicolous amount of money to wear a brand and own a boxset full of extras you’ll probably listen only once. Personally I think the problem is for those people who want to own luxury items but cannot afford the prices, and there starts all the complaint about how much things are overpriced. My advice is: less is more.

  98. smiths22 says:

    The problem is that however groovy a box set might be, it sits on your shelf, only to be seen and played by you…..and if you allow me to add Paul: played once maybe two gathering dust on the shelf….
    IMO they can’t be considered a deluxe item because physical formats (CD or Vinyl belong to the past and they’re are not the latest tech), physical formats are devaluated in general nowadays except perhaps between collectors but we are only a niche at the end of the day.

  99. Chris Squires says:

    I think the reason for massive price hikes in ticket prices that gets everyone’s goat is two fold and probably obvious to all.
    A) it’s now the most valuable revenue stream as music is turned on its head. People release an album to promote a tour instead of vice versa
    B) promoters are going straight to eBay prices. Why stage a tour with ticket prices of £20,£40 and £60 when half of them will be up within days at £100, £150 and £250 on reselling sites. Why not go straight to that price point and keep the profit yourself.

    In regards to b) you can also see this with limited editions. Virtually all amazon exclusives or nice items like the AWB White Vinyl set or upcoming Belinda Carlisle set are advertised well in advance of release on eBay for double the money and they do sell.
    Maybe labels are thinking like promoters and seeing if they can cut out the resellers and go straight to the premium price. What they have to get right is content. It’s no good selling a gig at £200 if it’s a 60 minute travel through the new album that no-one knows. It has to be all singing and dancing. This Roxy set is Bryan and the lads in the scout hut doing a 45 minute gig with no encore and dodgy lighting. No one would have complained at £100+ if it was a 2.5 hour extravaganza of well thought out stage craft and a superb set list. We wanted one and got the other.

  100. Simon Long says:

    “To put that into context, if we estimate that the Roxy Music box set cost around £45 to produce…”

    You what? 3 CDs and a DVD in a hardback book doesn’t cost anywhere near £45 to produce. That might be what you’d expect it to retail for, but it’s way over the production cost. An unpackaged CD costs less than £1 to press; a DVD under £2 (and those are short run prices, not what a record company pays). So that’s less than a fiver to produce the discs. Hardback book – maybe another £5-10, tops. So the price to produce the set is £15, max.

    Selling it at north of £135 is a mark up of 800%. There’s no man-maths in the world that justifies that price. Anything over £50 is pure profiteering.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The book was litho-printed in Italy, I think. Proper art paper, not digital printed shiny stock. It’s semi-irrelevant because the point was that mark-up is acceptable in fashion retail doesn’t work in music. There’s no way it cost £15 though. That’s way off the mark.

      • Simon Long says:

        Sorry, Paul, but books really don’t cost that much to print, whether it’s done in Italy or here. The typical manufacturing and distribution cost of a standard retail text hardback is under £3, and they sell for £10-£15, so a mark-up of 400% is typical. If you go into a bookshop and buy a posh art book, you’d struggle to pay more than £40 0r £50 for one – which, assuming the same mark-up, means a cost of under £10 to produce.

        I’m sticking to £15 to produce the set, I’m afraid – it’s really not going to be far off that. The mark-up here is ludicrous – almost as bad as Marillion’s FEAR super deluxe the other year. It deserves to sell in tiny quantities so that the record company ends up with a bunch of remaindered stock and a loss on their hands…

        • Rob Deighton says:

          I’m with you on that… I work for a publishing company and know how much a book costs to make – we get books printed here in the uk with 220 pages litho printed – they cost about £5 to £6 each and add on a slip case for about £2. They would never be printed digitally as digital printing isnt suitable for large print runs so litho is the only option.

          I don’t really care what process labels use manufacture but £100+ is too much for a box set for 4 cds and a dvd.

          Ten years ago we had those Genesis career box sets – yes the mastering was cr*p but look what you got -Hi res SACD and DVD of the 5.1 mixes, new stereo mixes, promo videos, a 20-30 minute documentary on EACH album, period concert footage of the band, a book. They retailed around £60 to £70 for up to five albums at a time. Now to me that is good value.

          Soz but ferry and co are ripping you off

        • Jakob says:

          Where are you getting those numbers Simon? Because that low a per copy price is not anywhere near my experience in the publishing industry.

          • Simon Long says:

            Jakob, I am sitting here with a copy of the hardback catalogue for the Floyd “Their Mortal Remains” exhibition – a 320 page full colour hardback on art paper, larger than A4 format, and, as it happens, litho printed in Italy, just like the Roxy Music set.

            That particular book (which is pretty much directly comparable to the RM one – if anything it’s more expensive, as it is larger and has a custom lenticular cover) *retailed* at £26 on Amazon – that included all the costs to author it and the printing, manufacture and distribution, and a mark-up for the V and A and the owners of the exhibition.

            Please don’t try telling me that books like this cost £45 to produce – they clearly don’t.

    • Nigel Hall says:

      Aren’t you kinda forgetting the cost associated with finding the tapes, booking studio time, remastering them and quality assuring the outputs?

      Yes it’s a one-off cost that has to be spread over the number of units produced but it’s still time and external cost that has to be paid for and recouped from sales.

      • Chris Squires says:

        Spot on Nigel, I am staggered at the same old tosh that many people bring up time and time again. To get this to market has taken dozens of people a long time, it doesn’t just magic it’s way into the shrink-wrap for a tenner. Paul could answer how many hours he has had to spend when doing his projects, let alone licensing images, words, music, the equality printing. There is more to this than anyone of us simple consumers could hope to understand. The cost per item has to include more than just blank CDs and cardboard and that isn’t £15. Try and do this for £15 and there would soon be complaints over poor reprographics or typos in the text or getting the work experience chap to do the audio and having a drop which nobody notices.
        It would seem, and this is borne out by post after post that some expect the earth for peanuts, equating like for like when it is no such thing, producing a bookset is not the same as decently printed, bound book. Yes this set is a lot of money, on balance it’s launch should be been nearer to Automatic for the people (£80?) with a £45 to £50 deal alert. The two CD is there for those that don’t want to get involved in higher priced items. But the moment we stop valuing these things for what they are is the moment we lose them for good, and I watch some posts and think that is what some people do want anyway. A good “levelling” one size fits all 2 CD set. If I can’t afford it, then you can’t have it.

        What I do think is that IF they are going to charge the earth £100+ for an item then it ought to be definitive and spectacular. There will be far fewer complaints then. It’s all about VFM, we truly can’t expect big box items for £30 yet we shouldn’t accept parsimony from the company for £130.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Indeed… this project has been running for at least 6 years, probably longer. They’ve undoubtedly run up tens of thousands of pounds in costs in tape transfers/baking, design, re-design, copywriting, consultancy fees, artist fees, mastering, licensing, 5.1 mixes, stereo mixes (whether used or not), DVD authoring etc. etc. If they’ve spent £75k and produced 3,000 sets then each set has ‘cost’ £25 before you spend ANYTHING on manufacturing. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’ve spent A LOT more than that.

      • Rob Deighton says:

        But doesnt this use the 1999 bob Ludwig remaster? I would expect the main feature (i.e. the album) to have a fresh remaster as mastering technology has moved on in 19 years.

      • Kevin M says:

        @Nigel Hall
        The main album isn’t remastered, it’s the old 1999 master as many have already said.
        As for the book, the above info from someone in the industry, and also the (not cheap but very acceptable) price of the official, major, archival “David Bowie Is” book when released, says a lot to me about book prices..

  101. Daniel says:

    My gauge has always been the price. If it’s non-limited, I’ll wait for the eventual price drop. It’s like playing the stock market…will it go lower, or BUY NOW. I have broken my rule for several signed exclusives (Blancmange, Suede, Felt, A Certain Ratio) that add extra value to me. I really enjoy downloading the bulk of my music so it’s portable but have a weakness for unique boxes or colored vinyl and will splurge for them (and at the back of my mind resell later if I decide I really don’t need it). I downloaded the Smiths QID set until the price was right (last week) and pulled the trigger. Same for the Verve sets.

    • Kevin from Edinburgh says:

      Box sets – in very many cases – are luxury items as far as I’m concerned. This perception is governed by how much care and attention has gone into the package as much as the contents per se.

      So let’s compare the Roxy set with two other sets. The recent King Crimson set (Sailor’s Tales) retails for around the same price; it contains three studio albums remixed into stereo and surround, loads of live concert recordings, and includes a decent booklet (and some bits and bobs). It’s something like 25-26 discs. The forthcoming Jethro Tull contains stereo and surround remixes of a classic album, plus extra tracks, a live double album, and all the content in various codes on the pair of DVDs. Oh, and a booklet that, going on previous efforts, will provide as much info as anyone would want. So comparable content, but around a quarter of the cost of the Roxy set.

      Neither comparison does the Roxy set any favours. They’ve even used a much earlier mastering of the original album. I’m sure buyers will be happy with it – and I sincerely hope they are – but the pricing of this seems out of step, wrong.

      But going back to my first point, I think this is an exception to the majority of box sets, as although they differ enormously, I find most to be attractive (and have to rein myself in).

  102. Tim-Meh says:

    Last time I took a box set to a dinner party, White Zombie didn’t go down too well.

  103. Christophe says:

    The last Springsteen box set ( Born to Run Darkness and The ties that bind ) are good exemples of what must be à good value : cds studio outtakes live dvd or blue ray and extensive book !

  104. Kevin Galliford says:

    As for those 65 quid Paul Smith REM t-shirts; yes they are nice but 65 quid for a cotton garment will never be an acceptable price, designer or not designer! They were’nt even in his sale!

  105. Kevin Galliford says:

    I bought the U2 “Achtung” non Uber boxset for 70-80 quid but that was only because it was my favorite album of all time & it was priced at the top end of what I was willing to pay. All Things considered , considering the number of discs, book, & docu , I did persuade myself it was worth it but it has to be an extremely brilliant album & package for me to spend that sort of money. I will never pay the Roxy price of 130 quid for that. AN acceptable price for me for an all singing all dancing boxset is 50-60 quid, like the Verve “Urban Hymns” boxset. I have a feeling that Roxy’s label is pushing it deliberately to see what fans will pay & if they deem it a success, that price level will become the norm, not in this House it won’t be! I’m not paying that price for any boxset Mr Record Label!,,

  106. Daniel ( from Berlin ) says:

    my “yes” for a box set:
    bananarama “in a bunch”
    because it’s almost complete and like an archive collection of all the singles from 81-93
    ( the only negative: no demo versions were used – a big plus: the instrumental versions )
    my “no” for a box set:
    human league “a very british…”
    they obviously used only demo version from album tracks for that box set and so it seems to me very clearly that they will release later all albums as “deluxe editions” with the demo versions of all the hit singles too. very predictable.

  107. Henrik K says:

    I might be wrong
    But i cant remember thinking about box set
    10 years ago
    I think its about one thing
    Money for the record companys and the artist
    And the fans buy it
    I have some and do enjoy to re visit great album
    Some boxset are simply stunning and Some are dissapointing.
    Great article as always paul
    Love the site

  108. Colin Harper says:

    Very good points, Paul. Your notion on the matter of perception of value versus luxury item is definitely the heart of the matter. I agree that few people – in my experience – think primarily about box sets being ‘aesthetic artefacts’ or ‘status symbols’ first and containers of content second. I can’t think of anyone I know who wouldn’t first (if not almost entirely) be thinking about the content. Personally, I can think of only one box set I’ve bought of which I recall thinking ‘what a beautiful artefact’ – the Popul Vuh soundtracks set, with a matt laminate packaging or somesuch – minimalist design, modestly priced, but aiming very high. Yet I bought it because it was a terrific price from a German retail site, and I only had half the content…

    I suspect one of the key problems with the Roxy box is that Ferry being Ferry has focused on the design of the book etc. and made content decisions that Universal would never themselves have made. I’ve said around here before, based on word from someone very close to the project at the start, that a designer was hired, audio content prepared and the whole thing (including two or three design options) was taken as a 9-disc project to a meeting with Bryan – who then insisted that his own people do the design. I imagine the planned budget went to hell, the content was halved, the cost doubled, years went by, and almost no one is satisfied – except Bryan, who doubtless spent months humming and hah-ing about what gsm of paper and what font to use in the book.

    HOWEVER fantastic the book is, in presentational terms, the perceived (and real) problems with price and content will overshadow it. I suspect, more fundamentally, that there is probably a ceiling to the perceived value that printed content/a book brings to a music box set. I’d liken it to house prices: in certain areas, no matter how fantastically you furnish your house, you will not sell it for above X – because that’s the ceiling price in that area. I believe that principle applies to books within box sets – we all expect them to be there, know more or less what we expect them to contain, but we subconsciously regard them as having only a modest ‘value’. This can be a shame, sometimes, because – and this goes for books in general – the average punter will have no idea about the true cost of the content. One photo license could cost £200 or more. Multiply that by many. And, less tangibly, the writer could have laboured for years in researching his text (e.g. one box set I annotated 10+ years ago contained 45,000 words that were honed from what had once been a projected book).

    In terms of box sets/books, I feel most sorry for Harry Shapiro, whose book on Gary Moore – extensively researched, albeit paid for by Moore’s estate – has ended up getting ‘out there’ (because a mainstream publisher couldn’t be found) as an item with a 3 or 4 disc Moore live box set. The few reviews – in CD review columns – I’ve seen have barely mentioned Harry’s book. The perceived value of that book will probably suffer as it looks like a freebie in a box set of music.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Very good comments and insight re Ferry. I like your ‘house’ analogy, too. Don’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

      • Colin Harper says:

        Thanks Paul. It’s a very interesting discussion you’ve started! I’ve 600-odd more words to post – but I seem to have found the SDE posting word limit! I’ll try posting two more posts with the rest of my thoughts… :-)

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Weird… wasn’t aware of any posting limit. But yes, please do post again separately if that works.

  109. Yani P says:

    I guess it depends on what type of buyer you are. I am a record collector so to me whatever the item is it has to bring me joy to own it. I think disappointingly many box sets are overpriced and actually quite poorly constructed.

    What I love is when a deluxe set is actually a work of art in its own right and I think that is the challenge – if you charge top dollar then ensure it is a luxury item that will be desirable to own.

    Weatherbox from years ago, the Pixies clamshell again from years ago. More than just the music – also a desirable work of art.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Peter Gabriel’s “So” box was actually very nicely constructed and presented. It’s just the contents that let that one down…

    • Chris Squires says:

      Weatherbox is a stunning piece. One of my favourite items. I bought mine on day of release from Crewe Our Price as I just happened to be working there that day. It’s hard to keep the glitter on the jewel cases which of course can’t be replaced. What a work of art.

  110. EW99 says:

    I bought a great Paul Smith T-shirt a few years back http://img5.zozo.jp/goodsimages/532/3310532/3310532_1_D_500.jpg . It came with a badge too!
    It may have been £65 originally but I paid about £20 for it. Same as SDEs, when the price is right I’m happy to jump in.

  111. Kauwgompie says:

    Some very interesting points are being raised here. One additional thought why we look at box sets as a value proposition may be that, as Paul wrote above, box set buyers are very aware that we can get the same songs by simply listening to Spotify, download them for free or pay $10 a month for Apple Music. And the home front reminds us of that every time a nice box set gets delivered in the mail. We feel guilty because we indulge in something that only we enjoy, no one else. In my house no one cares if I play the same music from a fancy box set, Apple Music or internet radio. Having that fancy box set just feeds my consumption-happy brain. I do feel guilty about that and that is why we are always looking for Deal Alerts. Every day. It has become a sport to buy box sets at the absolute lowest price. It’s better for our guilt, wallet and marriage.

    • Chris Squires says:

      Hey Kauw. You just described my morning in bed watching cricket from Australia. Trying to justify myself to my wife, I went through every item on my amazon app that I had bought in the recent sale and a few of the German / Italian specials. Pointing out what I paid and what the current best amazon price is….. Guilt in spending money….. pride in having got a good deal and subconsciously hoping my wife, who couldn’t give a toss, would be ok with it all. “Look, Grace Jones is now £90 and I only paid £40”. A puppy would have done a better job of looking less pathetic. I kid myself that anybody I know cares one iota. The only pride to be had from owning any of this stuff is entirely personal and singular. Rather like stamp collecting or train spotting.

      • Aevion says:

        Sadly I can relate to this to an extent. While my budget doesn’t allow me to purchase big expensive sets, I do have an extensive collection of CDs as well as a partner and a few friends who constantly wonder why I even bother. I do use Spotify for when I’m on the go, but I’ve never got the same satisfaction as buying a physical CD.

        Occasionally I get the whole “man you’re a dinosaur” from some people as well, and honestly, I’m proud to be a dinosaur. I’d rather pay for a physical item rather than a bunch of files (iTunes) or worse, a bunch of files that I will never come close to owning (Spotify). I relish in the thought of opening a package, immersing myself in the words and photos of the booklet, then listening to the music while admiring at how good it looks in my collection (especially the casebound books).

        Sadly I’m part of a younger generation, some of who don’t even know what a CD is (admittedly they’re not as bad as millennials), and I do feel like a rare case. But either way, I still intend to continue to buy music that I love, because if it’s good it’s worth paying for.

  112. Andreas says:

    In my opinion the record companies are trying to push up the prices in order to see how far the die hard fans are willing to go. Some years back there were no Super Deluxe Sets but “only” Deluxe Sets that costed a little more than the standard versions. For me that was ok – I am definitely willing to pay for such sets. But since some years now, I have the feeling that the price of a number of Super Deluxe Boxsets is in no relation to the content that is interesting for ME. Often the Super Deluxe Box includes only a third CD with some unreleased stuff, but costs much more than the Deluxe Edition. I don’t care about pins, scarfs and most other memorabilia. What I want is an informative booklet and the music itself. I think it is a drag when CD sets are combined with vinyl. The record companies want to raise us to buy both. In some cases I am doing that for other reasons. But I don’t want to be forced to do so. In the end a Super Deluxe Boxset is not a luxury item. It is cardboard and plastic sold for way too much money. The boxsets issued in the 90s and 00s were often well done, informative and priced in a way that made you feel that it is worth the money. But if I think about the recent Queen News Of The World, Eagles Hotel California, McCartney’s Flowers etc., then I can only say that it is all completely insane. I spend much money on music, but I would NEVER buy such items. The Sgt Pepper boxset was better made in my opinion. You get more music for the money. But even here the price tag was too high. But it is like mentioned above: the record companies want to make us used to those prices. They also want to compensate for all the illegal downloads that have taken place in the last 15 years or so. And then the honest customer has to put up with such prices. Not me for sure. Only if the price-performance ratio is ok.

  113. Brian says:

    Where for me the Paul Smith T-Shirt comparison breaks down is that we are essentially collectors, and for our absolute favourite artists we are also completists, and that means we frequently buy multiple versions of essentially the same thing – and I don’t know anyone who ‘collects’ and has dozens of Paul Smith t-shirts (although I’m sure someone has).

    So for me, as a collector, I will always have a wish list of items I want in my collection, but like most people I only have limited funds to spend on my ever growing collection and therefore will never be able to afford them all (and certainly not at the release price which in 90% of cases will be the highest ever price).

    That means I will hardly ever buy any >£100 SDE’s on initial release and at full price. Looking at the number of posts from the recent Amazon promotions in the UK and Germany I suspect many of us feel the same way – many of us will wait for the reduced price ‘bargain’ as that way we get maximum purchasing power from our limited collectors budget.

    So my purchasing strategy is very simple; truly limited editions for my absolute favourite artists I will consider buying on day of release – for everything else I will wait for the ‘deal’ – and for me that usually means when the price comes down to around the £50-£60 mark – and if it doesn’t I can live with that, as there are others on my wish list that will !!

    The only exceptions I ever make are for the handful of multi-disc/5.1 SDE’s that launch around the £30 price point which you know are a) simply amazing value for money and b) unlikely to drop much in price as they are so low already!! £30 I can justify by having one less meal out this month, but £150 as Darren has already said, is the price of a few weeks food shopping so much harder to justify!

  114. Ben Williams says:

    I’m 25 and I am only the one of all my friends (all around the same age) that collects music. They all stream or buy the odd CD from the supermarket or Amazon but they would never go to a record store for an album, buy vinyl or a deluxe edition.

    If I told them of what I have paid for some box sets, they would be astounded.

    I have had 3 disc deluxe editions for £50 and been beautifully presented but only had 2 hours of audio (McCartney sets mainly) and I have paid £20 for 20 disc sets (Elvis Presley & Miles Davis album collections) which have amazing audio content. So it’s a best of both worlds.

    I think some of the worst sets are those with ‘stingy’ contents and rediculous price tags in comparison to similar content (e.g. the recent 2CD/BR Hotel California set – did anyone buy that set?)

  115. Kevin M says:

    Interesting read, and I think you’re spot on about Pepper.

    • Kevin M says:

      .. also, it’s worth remembering hardly anyone moans JUST about the price of these things, there’s usually specific reasons and carelessness in CONJUNCTION with the price which winds some of us up, eg with Roxy, the missing B side and the reuse of the 1999 master which has been populating bargain bins for almost two decades, or the download only shambles in Flowers in the Dirt. Conversely, the full price of A New Career in a New Town CD set IMO was actually VERY good value, IF the set hadn’t contained several audio problems with the tapes /sources used. Rarely is anyone that I read just saying “aagh, it’s an outrageous price”, with no follow-up reasoning..

      (sorry about the capitals, I’m not shouting, I can’t seem to italicise here.. :) )

  116. Oscar Cosulich says:

    Hi Paul,
    I think that between buying a fancy t-shirt and a boxset of CDS in deluxe edition the enormous difference is the Music.
    A t-shirt is only a glamourous merchandise object in the market department; Music is the purest of the arts.
    Overprice it is simply blind and greedy.
    I don’t buy music boxsets for acquire a status f***ing symbol, I buy them only for the love of music and to discover something new about bands and records that I already know very well.
    And I do it knowing that only an happy few group of my friend (and luckily my girlfriend too) can understand me.

  117. Dave H says:

    An interesting comparison Paul. I looked at the price of the Roxy Music box set and compared it to Universal deluxe box sets of The Jam (The Gift and Setting Sons) and The Who (Live at Leeds, Quadrophenia). The price of these sets were initially £80 if I recall correctly. I thought the Roxy Music box set would be at a similar price being that it contained 4 discs.

    With the Roxy Music reissue being £130, it made me wonder what it contained for it being so much. Okay there is a 5.1 surround mix and as someone who enjoys listening to these mixes, I know I have many box sets where the price isn’t set as high. It must have a super thick book with loads of rare photo’s but from what I can see from the pics, the book looks average.

    I then have to ask myself, why do I purchase super deluxe editions like I do, is it because of the lovely presentation? Is it the coffee table book with loads of rare pictures? Is it the marbles, tea coasters and tour poster? No, I purchase these super deluxe box sets because of the music! It’s always been about the music and having a physical item in my hand to show that I spent my hard earned money purchasing it.

    I would rather have the Simple Minds and Tears for Fears presentation of their SDE, keeping things simple and the price reasonable than the large boxes and coffee table books. As the only way of getting the music is by purchasing the large box sets, I don’t have a choice.

    The down side of holding off from purchasing box sets until the price is reduced is when box sets are sold out and suddenly that item becomes a collectors item. That item for me was The Who’s Live at Leeds box set. I didn’t initially buy the box set and at the time and it was the only way of getting the Live at Hull concert on CD. The price suddenly went up on e-bay and other market places. If you managed to get one for under £100, you did well. I could name a few more SDE which sell for a lot more than their initial RRP.

    • Kevin M says:

      @Dave H
      It shows how the prices have often gone way beyond reasonable, that you interestingly and understandably regard £80 (The Jam / The Who) as a decent price now. I don’t necessarily disagree, but it’s worth remembering it wasn’t very long ago that for example, the absolutely superb The Velvet Underground self-titled superdeluxe set was £44.99 on release date, both in store at HMV and online at amazon.

      I see no significant price increase in the CD manufacturers I’ve checked since then, which suggests to me something else is happening, along the lines of suggestions by others above, that some companies are seeing just how high they can go, regardless of rights, mastering, or manufacturing costs. That’s what grates, even more so when there’s “missing” material and / or sound faults.

      • Chris Squires says:

        Good points Kevin / Dave.

        Pretty much all companies would follow this model in all industries.

        In 2006 or thereabouts Jaguar launched the XF in the UK, they hadn’t had a really decent car in years. Prices ranged from about £28k to £35k and I was lucky enough to get a pretty much top of the range one for £32k. The car was a corker. Excellent in every way and a real challenge to the German marques. Within 2 years an update was released and now the prices went from £35k to £57k. Admittedly the top of the range was shifted to include supercharged but the car I had bought for £32k was now £42k and out of my range. It was the same car. What had they done to justify the increase. Nothing. Well nothing but assess the market and see that the previous prices could be raised.
        We get angry because it is our market and we want it cheap. But if something sells out at £50 you’d be mad not to make the next one £60. Then the next one £70 if that sells out too. It will hit a point that they stop selling out, but until that is reached they will do what businesses do, try to make money. Universal is not a charity after all.

    • William_M says:

      I held off on the Tears for fears – The Hurting box set and missed out on it, been trying to buy it ever since but it’s close to £100 and waaaaaay upwards that people are asking and i just don’t think the extortion is worth it, crazy thing is if there is still demand the label could easily authorise another run of production and make more profit but they actually feed the scalpers in some way….Steven Wilson releasesare notorious for limited runs and huge value increases

  118. chrrr says:

    I think of Pop Culture as something that should by definition be accessible to everyone. The moments where that rule gets broken, things can get interesting or ugly. Astronomic ticket prices I would place on the ugly side (the line between expensive and unaffordable being of course an individual one). Certain limited, finely crafted products on the other hand can be interesting even if unaffordable – The Vinyl Factory has mastered this particular art rather well I think. These are the kinds of artefacts I would compare to that Paul Smith t-shirt. There are maybe a handful of albums or bands of whom I might be tempted to buy one of those art pieces, with the content to price ratio being not that much of a concern.
    On the other hand there are probably more a hundred albums I am fond of enough to at least consider buying a (super) deluxe edition – and this is where perceived value (and required shelf space!) _is_ important. A huge box with little/missing/lossily compressed content is at quite a disadvantage here. Which is a tad unfair when compared to the larger boxes with less content at three times the price by The Vinyl Factory. Then again, to close the circle, one might consider every pop music artefact that’s out of reach for the masses a bit sketchy so no need to complain.

  119. white pusscat says:

    The attraction of new packages with ever more versions (previously deemed inferior) of the available tracks is one of ever diminishing returns – as more of the archive stuff is released. There are only so many physical versions of the same release even the most dedicated are prepared to stump up for. Ultimately its about perceived value. The trojan horse is putting together almost every track in the vaults and pressing a limited run and charging a new benchmark price ; 6 months after that release, after whetting appetites and publicising its existence, selling it by the boat load for ‘half price’ has to be the end game and the real £generator for the labels sat on all the big-name back catalogues.
    Roxy Music SDE will be £60 by the time the For Your Pleasure SDE and Roxy Music Vinyl SDE are released – bring it on, I can wait another 6 months.

  120. Electric Sydney says:

    Some great considerations there Paul.
    I think it should be taken into account that anyone who would pay £65 for a t shirt is probably not interested in Roxy Music’s first album in any format. They might make comments on a forum where the subject is “I Just Paid £65 For A T Shirt, What’s Wrong With Me?”. Having said that, I’ll do like I always do, wait for the price to come down probably after I receive an alert from you. I buy Roxy Music albums BECAUSE there are people who overpay for a dumb t shirt.

  121. ANDREW r says:

    People have been trained to be much more discerning than they were in the past.
    You are constantly urged to shop around for the best price on insurance and holidays etc.
    This means that the consumer has a feel for the “correct” price. Ithink subconciously the customer has decided the Roxy set isn’t offering the correct value at the correct price point.
    The set should have been ltd to 3000 copies and should have been signed by all surviving members with new remastering plus a vinyl copy .If you had then priced it at £200 i wonder if
    we would be having this conversation? the value and scarcity would have justified the price .
    Problem solved. Item is now luxury object.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Excellent points. Much more transparency about numbers produced would be welcome. No one has any idea how many of these Roxy Music sets are knocking around!

    • Chris Marsh says:

      Andrew R: No! Really! Keep vinyl out of these sets. Have a set for CD/DVD/BluRay and a different set for vinyl. I will NEVER buy a set that contains vinyl because i KNOW that it will have bumped the price up a LOT and I know that this will have been the only reason for its inclusion.

      • Chris Squires says:

        I get your point Chris, but is there not a flaw in the logic.

        How can a set (Fleetwood Mac?) that contains 3 CDs 1 DVD 1 LP 1 book (let) be ignored for £42 because it contains vinyl yet a set that contains 3CDs 1 DVD 1 book (let) be considered at £50?
        I don’t know the answer other than buy the FM set and give the Vinyl away or kill zombies with it. But FM (OMD / Ramones also) is not bad value *because* it contains vinyl. I would suggest it is great value full stop. Or at least great value in spite of the vinyl inclusion.

  122. Adam Shaw says:

    I think that was spot on Paul .
    I think the major factor is “what’s it worth to you “?
    If it’s a band / solo artist that you follow or really like you will probably find a way to buy their box set somehow, but if you’re a casual buyer of that artist and the box has a steep price tag you will think twice or hope it goes down in price .

  123. Michael Shogi says:

    My take is that most long-time fans will buy a music box set released from their favorite band if it includes music that is unique to the band (unreleased demos, alternate takes, live takes, etc.), AND it is reasonably priced – or else, they will download the set off the Internet when it gets posted.

    A case-in-point is the new Queen “News of the World” box set. For about $130+, the box set includes exactly one disc of unreleased music (which is excellent) and a DVD (which is so-so). It also includes the vinyl LP, a few discs of previously released music, and a book of photos, with hardly any text, and other paper items, such as posters.

    Typical Queen fans will probably not purchase the set, primarily because it is so expensive. The long-time Queen fan will probably want to purchase the set, but, because of its price and lack of value, probably will not do so, unless he/she has the disposable income available to, essentially, pay $130+ for a single disc of outtakes.

    My point is that, if record companies want to continue to profit from recorded music, they need to consider value and price, particularly in light of Internet file sharing. If they continue to deliver sub-par quality (as in the Queen “News of the World” box set), coupled with outrageous pricing for such quality, then even long-time fans will refuse to purchase box sets and, instead, obtain them for “free” from the Internet.

  124. Lemmin says:

    Sorry, the Roxy set is strictly value for price for me. It’s about the music/perks balance and this one is too much money for what you get. There is absolutely no reason the book in this set needed to be so lavish for example. I’ll read it once then never again. Had this set included the album and maybe the extra tracks on vinyl I could maybe see the price, but maybe not. The recent Smiths deluxe box totally upstaged this set in execution and price.

    The notion that it should be looked at as a luxury item seems weird to me because even if I was rich I wouldn’t consider what I got to be worth the price. When you consider the fact that you could get the entire remastered Midnight Oil catalog set recently released for roughly $30 more it really makes the smack to the face this Roxy set lands feel even more painful and cynical.

  125. Kauwgompie says:

    Yes, all true, furthermore, everyone is used to paying a tenner for a cd, more or less. If you release a box set with 4 cd’s, most people would argue it shouldn’t be more than $40. Add a little extra for a book and there you have it, $50, the price a 4cd box is expected to be more or less. If you start the 4cd boxset off with $150, most people will just laugh. So record campanies are also battling what people think is fair to pay simply because they are used to paying that for the past 25 years.

    Also, buying music has always been a value proposition. Back in the early 80’s, I bought a 7″ with 2 songs, the A side and the B side. If you bought the 12″ version, that was the same song but a much longer version, you paid about twice as much. You paid more, but you also got more. And as a kid, you were very aware of that extended version. If it wasn’t at least 6’30” minutes, I wouldn’t buy it because why pay twice as much for the same song if it is only a minute or so longer? So back then we were already very aware of the value proposition. Then if you bought the album that was an additional bunch of money. You pay more to get more.
    The Roxy Music SDE is not “paying moe to get more”. Its paying wayyy more to get the very same.

  126. unique says:

    a printed good quality t shirt can be bought in bulk for about £2, and you can sell it for whatever you think you can get for it. those band tour t shirts that sell for £25 in concerts. that’s £2 to make

    but there’s design and license costs involved, at gigs you may need to give a percentage of take to the venue, you gotta pay someone to sell it too. typically in clothing retail there will be a 2.5 to 3x markup. so the £65 t shirt sold in a store probably cost about £25-£30 plus vat to buy from the supplier. that’s why clothing can be sold at half price to clear them, and stores don’t lose money, or debenhams does the 70% off blue cross, as they sell a lot of own brand products. that’s why primark can sell t shirts for £3 and £5 and make a profit, as they can get them made for a quid or less, including shipping to the uk

    as for box sets, the manufacturing cost per disc will be pennies, the box and all the stuff in it can be done for a couple of quid literally. the more deluxe lavish packages maybe a tenner all in, if it’s got a scarfe and marbles and book. of course that’s if it’s made in decent quantities. lower runs will cost more

    don’t forget of course that the box sets aren’t just made, they have to be designed and the music and contents put together, and that’s usually done by blokes paid far more than those in the sweetshops making the t shirts. even if the album was recorded over 40 years ago and sold tens of millions and made it’s money back several times over, putting together the new set will take time, and money in peoples wages. so the design of box the music and the clothing is what many may not consider

    the differences? the t shirt is tangible and you can wear it and impress people. the music, you can’t. you can’t even hold the music in your hands. you can hear it, you can feel it, but you can’t hold it. you can hold the package it comes in, but the most important part, which is the music, is vibrations in the air. so you can download the music or stream it, either legally or otherwise, and still get the same end effect as playing the box – if you put aside the psychological aspects of having a box, which basically sits on a shelf gathering dust whilst i play the music from my hard drive, as it’s the music that matters most to me. the people who made the box and the art and stuff probably never even visited the recording studio where the music was made, and maybe weren’t even born then

    so price your t shirts too high and people will wait for the sale or get knock offs or buy something else

    price your music too high, and people will download or stream it for free

    if you read certain websites for freaks who torrent, it’s the same old excuses you hear, if the industry blah blah blah and it was cheaper etc etc etc we would pay, but you know the truth is simply if you can get it for nothing, many people will get it for nothing, whether it’s legal or not, as long as they think the risk of getting caught is little to none

    so price the box sets too high and fans will just download them instead, so the next set if they bother, will have a lower run, so higher cost per item, and prices go up due to economy of scale. and that’s perhaps why the sets are rising

    generally more people are skipping buying cds at a tenner a pop and paying a tenner or so to spotify per month instead, same with bluray/dvd, they stick £8 or so to netflix, so for about £20 a month you get piles of music and piles of tv and movies to watch. people are caring less about the artwork and packaging, especially when most people play stuff from a phone or computer or other tech box that doesn’t take physical media

    the problem is however, if the record companies aren’t making money from the sets they may not bother making them in the first place, so the super deluxe idea goes away. they aren’t likely to recoup costs of 4 cds of remastered audio and trawling in the archives for demos and stuff if they are shifting 4 cd sets for £20, as they aren’t going to sell in large volumes these days when people expect it on spotify as part of their monthly sub

    so maybe the idea is broke and the bubble is about to burst. the older generation used to splashing plenty of money in the 90s and 80s on records is likely keeping things afloat for a while, but as time goes on and generations of kids now adults are used to playing music that came from the internet, and not having discs and stuff, they aren’t likely to want to pony up £100 for some knick knacks and music, so that business model will dry up and die

    remember though, that the record industry has only been around about 100 years or so. so whilst i see people banging on about the past and ch ch ch changes, and blah blah blah in the old days, the reality is most things are of a time, and maybe it’s time up for the music industry as we know it. the good old 70s are long gone, the 80s accountants day is gone, napster made big changes, now it’s spotify and netflix and youtube, something else will be next. i see people lamenting the changes in the top 40 singles charts. the charts are what they are, a list of what’s popular at that time, under certain conditions. nothing more, nothing less. when you were 13 watching top of the pops and didn’t have to work to get money to pay the rent or food, who was at number 1 may have been one of the most important things at the time. but how many 13 year olds these days care about chart positions? new things start and old things sometimes end

    for the time being, paul maccartney needs your money. he obviously didn’t make much from wings, and that divorce must have cost him a bit. so help the pensioner out and buy his boxset so he can afford food that’s not made of cardboard or whatever that meat free stuff is made off. likewise bryan ferry. he needs your money more than you need it. he don’t get his suits from primark

  127. graham cooksley says:

    Interesting how people have not mentioned the ‘mistakes’ some of these SDE’s and reissues contain for the money charged. On just some of my faves the Heroes fiasco in an expensive box and the mastering errors on recent Vangelis and Jarre standard re-releases. Personally I would rather have an original vinyl or CD issue at a fraction of the cost and just turn the volume up a bit

  128. AdamW says:

    I think you’re mostly right on this, but even luxury items are a value for money proposition. I got the Sgt Peppers box for about $108, and feel like they nailed it. I wouldn’t pay the same price for the Roxy box. Some of it has to do with the amount of material, but also, they failed to nail it – no Steven Wilson stereo mix, no “Numberer,” etc. I would pay $108 for a box that included those things. (I’m even struggling to get to $80 on the one they DID put out, but I might convince myself of that – time will tell.)

    The problem is, if you want to make it a luxury item, it needs to feel “definitive,” like the Sgt Pepper box. Book aside, the Roxy box just doesn’t feel “definitive,” due to the missing material. Otherwise, there are better ways to spend your money. For $80 you can get three or four of the Pet Shop Boys remasters, which sound great and whose booklets, though they are small, are terrific to read.

  129. Jurgen says:

    And don’t forget the fact that most people (if not all) will rebuy an album they already own (perhaps in a deluxe version). They have already spend some money, so that’s why the price for a box set can’t be too high.

  130. MFG says:

    Agreed in general with Paul’s comments. I would also add: most people I interact with these days don’t care about music very much, at least not as much as I do, and/or not as much as they might have when they were younger. I’m in my mid-40s, so compaints that I am getting old and grumpy are accepted. But I remember when music was a key part of a person’s identity, and something to be discussed with great passion. I don’t see that happening as much any more, neither with people my age nor with the twenty-somethings I occasionally chat with. People still go to concerts or festivals, but it seems like so many people are there for socializing first (see and be seen), and music second or third (drinking + drug use are also more important than the music for some).

    I think part of the problem is that the big bang of creativity for popular music in the second half of the 20th century is finally slowing down. I’ll provoke controversy by saying that most of the music created today doesn’t have the same impact on people as music of the past, because there’s not as much originality to be found, and most of the creative space has been occupied. The internet makes originality more difficult, since nearly everything from the past is instantly available for comparison. So overall, popular music isn’t quite as inspirational as it was for the previous sixty years or so. No wonder that deluxe edition music box sets don’t have the same cultural cachet as cars or clothes or other consumer items.

    • Chris Marsh says:

      MFG: great points. I’m even older than you and remember a time when it seemed that the cover of Led Zeppelin II was part of our school uniform as everyone seemed to have it (though I preferred Hot Rats).

      • Chris Squires says:

        It’s “jumpers for goalposts” I know but you are right. Fifth & Sixth form for me was the place to express ones “coolness” (hah!) carrying a 7” copy of “something else” was the first attempt, followed by “Love and Dancing”, “Tin Drum” and finally “No Parlez”. Only Tin Drum really did the trick and was responsible for a rather lovely 14 month relationship with my sister’s best friend (although as expected they weren’t BFFs for long once she found out). I am not sure it is anymore and if it is the mechanics have changed, but the memories for me usually involved girls and trying to get them to like you.

    • Mad Earwig says:

      I’m in my 50’s and I agree with your thoughts.

      Sadly I do not bother with concerts anymore, the last 3, (Pat Metheny, Band Of Horses and Dave Matthews) concerts all ruined for me by people incessantly talking all the way through the show.
      Another bloke constantly filming it on an iPad and posting it on his social media, (look at me!) it ruins the atmosphere the passion we get from hearing and seeing….why spend £50 on a gig to then talk all night at a loud level? ( didn’t matter when seeing Motörhead)

      As for the music, too much choice can stifle the enjoyment, many people are paying a tenner for a streaming service where quantity seems more important than quality, I don’t want a million mp3’s, I want a decent sound on a decent stereo.
      It’s why I gave on sky tv, 500 channels of tut, is less appealing than 20 good ones.

      Grumpy Old Men unite!

  131. daz says:

    i think it all boils down to what you get for the money, the roxy music can be downloaded and burned to a cd/dvd and there will probably be a book that has been scanned for you to read and you get to feel that you are being ripped off by the record companies whereas you cant just knock up a Paul smith t shirt in the house so you can feel theres somethng tangible there.

    now vinyl editions to me feel better as there is someting there which cannot be replicted at home but there is still a feeling that the companies havent learnt anything and are content to try and fleece us bu chatding stupid prices see The smith TQID 5 LP set was £65 ish and was on sale for £35 less than 6 months later.

  132. Paul Soper says:

    Personally, I never buy anything to get kudos from others. I’m not interested in what other people think. There’s no way I would spend £65 on a t shirt.

    People keep mentioning box sets will come down in price after a few months, but that’s not always the case. Flowers In The Dirt is £124, almost a year since it’s release. I was happy to buy that box on release, as a die hard fan. I won’t pay the same price for the Roxy Music box, though – especially as one of the three discs is a remaster from 19 years ago I already own.

  133. don cooper says:

    Back in the Eighties, Marshall Cavendish published a part-work called ‘.Face to Face.’
    The debut number had a rather tasteful shot of a naked couple, with Dare -ahem-prominently displayed.
    I never get invited to those dinner parties…
    .

  134. Tryone says:

    The Roxy 2 disc deluxe is £13 and will make a handsome profit.

    It would appear the more legendary and reputable your music, a higher price is commanded / expected. Like paintings.
    If we start fettering in the price of the canvas and oils for ‘Sunflowers’, etc etc

    • smiths22 says:

      I don’t think so…67 dollars for the 2 disc deluxe edition delivered by Amazon México is still too much for me.

  135. Alvin says:

    Frankly, I’m always amused when reading the comments on the outrageous prices the labels ask for a product. I myself haven’t bought the Roxy box yet for the simple reason everybody knows it will come down in price (and it already has). It’s the same story over and over again: just wait a few months and buy the box set at a price point you’re comfortable with. Why there’s any need to get angry because of the inflated launch prices, I’ll never get. Patience will get you there, folks!

    However, in my opinion, these box sets really are luxury items, be it not as straigthforward as the T-shirts Paul talks about. Most of us visiting this site do have friends with similar musical interests, be it friends in real life or online (forums etc.) where items like these will be discussed an dissected and, if one so desires, onze can show off with their latest purchases. The circle of friends might be smaller, but it does exist.

    Keeping that in mind, the musical contents of most box sets can be downloaded legally (even along with digital booklets) through proper channels and at a much lower cost at that, making it good value for money for those who cannot shelve out for the physical product. The way most of the super de”luxe” box sets are presented, simply has luxury written all over it. They are a “celebration” of a an album, an artist or whatever and as such need to deliver on the goods, i.e. include a book, cd’s, 5.1 mix and vinyl n order to present all of the ways the music can be listened to (please don’t start on cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes). The ideal box set simply has to be all-inclusive, format-wise as well as content-wise or it wouldn’t be what it’s supposed to be.

    That being said, if the new Roxy box had included a double vinyl 45rpm version of the album, I’d have bought it already at £129.99 and it would be playing as I’m writing this.

    • Chris Marsh says:

      Alvin: There’s the rub. If it contained vinyl, I wouldn’t buy it at any price. And I know others of the same opinion. That would be the record company trying to force people to buy one (overly-expensive) medium to get the wanted one. Mixed medium sets are a pox designed by bean-counters.

  136. Martin says:

    I think you are right Paul I buy loads of sets and vinyl and to me the boxes are would like or want but I don’t see many of them as a luxury purchase. I honk most of this is down to perceptions of record co’s release after release and repeated remastered versions that’s it is a sense of not jumping in and awaiting a bargain – sorry been bribed too many times. Yes will wait for the RM set to drop around £50 and I think most of the issues around the Macca set were they not around what was included and the formatting for the price?

  137. eric says:

    I think some Box sets are beautiful, but i need interesting extras to buy it.
    If i think a ticket costs too much, i won’t buy it either.

    Concerning the U2 boxes: i’m a long time fan, but haven’t bought the latest boxes immediately, because of the price. Now the u2.com fan club ticket presale only offered me tickets in the +200 Pound range, so I decided not go to any of their concerts on this tour. So, after 30 u2 gigs, i will be missing this tour, but i also haven’t bought the Uber deluxe Achtung Baby, The Live in Paris Blu Ray/DVD Box set, plus i waited for a price drop for the Joshua Tree 30th Anniv. and for the Songs Of Experience Box Set
    Thanks to this site, I was able to buy it at 60% of the debut price.

    • William_M says:

      I have all the U2 box sets and they are filled with crap i could do without, the uber deluxe for example…fly shades?, badges?, stickers?, poster?, copy of old fan club magazine that was actually sold in newsagents at the time anyway?, fridge magnets?, i’m closing in on 50 year old and have no use for any of that. They have also gave us USB lights and badges galore in other box sets. It also doesn’t help when you spend a small fortune on the above and their former manager states that you can throw any old tat into a box, present it nicely and the fans will buy it.

      Some of the best recent U2 releases have been through the fanclub, the cds, the books, the vinyls, the worst being the lithographs (posh name for a poster) and the metal membership keyring. I shopped around on the presale and got tickets for the dublin shows, the tickets worked out around £80, my accomodation is a no frills £50 and my flights will be as cheap as i can get, still a lot of money but i’ve become a bit more thrifty in that respect, not so much with the box set purchases though, i know they will come down in price but i am still that sap who pays the full price on release day only to be disappointed with my extra content of sturdy box and exclusive newspaper, then i get depressed when a few months down the line it’s selling for less than half price….i’m one of those ‘tat buying’ idiots McGuinness laughed all the way to the bank about.

  138. Chris Squires says:

    Nice article Paul. Well considered.

    To me the nail is hit squarely during your “conversation piece”. Companies and the mainstream “buyer” have moved away from *quality* to *delivery*. All that matters is how something can be accessed not how good / bad it sounds. Poor is now the new acceptable.

    Us poor sods who hang around the SDE bike sheds are a very small minority who still care about quality, but the companies are not listening to us naughty boys and girls who are not doing as we are told. Physical music and therefore *music* in general has lost it’s perception of value. The days of multiple millionaire’s in the top 40 are gone as a whacking percentage of what were once buyers will either spend nothing on accessing their music (Spotify free or torrent sites) or at the very most Spotify premium at £10 a month.

    These many millions of tenners will far outstrip people like us who would spend hundreds a month but there are less than a couple of thousand of us. Many excellent, low cost, exclusively signed limited edition sets of 500 or 750 go unsold for months. Here at SDE we do live in a bubble, it’s a friendly, informative and enjoyable bubble but a bubble all the same. We are not many and we are not being listened to anyway. How many awful sets have had their flaws exposed early in the process versus how many have actually been changed. Debbie Gibson is one that springs to mind but not much else. Grudgingly they might issue a replacement disc or two but only if they are pushed hard and have a conscience (How easy would it have been to press the Flowers in the Dirt download only CD – but they really showed how little we matter at that very point). Very few go the extra mile with the pretense that we here even matter. “Hey you missed this track”..OK we”ll add it before we go to press, there’s plenty of room…… Most will just carry on with the release as it is first presented and hope to get away with it.

    Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.

  139. Mad Earwig says:

    I guess value is subjective as I do not understand paying £65 for a T-shirt just for a brand name on what is just a T shirt. (My T shirt labels are on the inside!)

    I have enjoyed most of the Bob Dylan ‘bootleg sets’ as you get a lot of extra material, outtakes, live versions and I will not hesitate to spend £100 for an 8 disc set. It seems like a lot for the money and the value seems real and not a cynical marketing exercise.

    However, as much as I love REM’s majestic ‘Automatic For The People’ I waited ages to get a deal on it because it is a 1992 album (that I already have) and though it comes with an excellent live gig and a mixed bag of demos, it should have been £50 not £80 and the record company would have probably doubled their sales.

    I bought Led Zeppelin records as a kid, then wore out my albums to then buy them on thick Japanese pressings then again on CD, then again on a remastered box set and then again on Jimmy Page re-issues but I do not mind as each album had extras, new pictures and were reasonably priced. (new versions always re-light that fire)
    (Same with Hawkwind re-issues, great value, extra material and fairly priced)

    I love this interest/obsession/passion of mine and long may it continue.

    • PC says:

      I don’t think reducing the price of Automatic For The People from £80 to £50 would lead to a doubling in sales, not even close. As someone up above said, the casual fan is unlikely to be willing to pay more than 10-15 pounds. And as Chris Squires said, the number of people buying these box sets is very limited. I bought the Automatic set in a 3 for 2 offer that SDE alerted to. I would not have paid £80 for it, but 99.99% of people would never consider paying more than £15 for it.

      I opened the Jam’s 1977 box set last night and flicked through the book. The old pictures are nice, but if they weren’t there I wouldn’t miss them. I bought it for the music. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.

      Thanks Paul and all the contributors for a thoughtful and thought provoking discussion.

  140. Adam says:

    I look at the Roxy Music box set and compare it to my last and forthcoming purchases. The Black Sabbath ‘Ten Year War’ and Dead or Alives ‘Sophisticated Boom Box’ both of which were (well three actually because I bought the vinyl and CD of Dead or Alive) excellent value for money. I’m eagerly awaiting yet another top notch Jethro Tull reissue ‘Heavy Horses’ which if it matches up to its predecessors, will be another well presented, excellent value set.

    I guess it all comes down to how big a fan of a band you are, but for me there are limits as to what I’ll fork out for.

  141. Darren L says:

    There is some truth in your comment about the ‘value’ of certain items that can portray a social standing but I suspect the people hanging back from paying that £130 for the Roxy box set that they have waited a long time for are not the kind of people who buy a t shirt for £65.

    I count myself in that category. Didn’t hesitate to stump up for the Pepper box but that box offered a lot more than the Roxy box and was £30 quid less. Although the box does look nice I doubt it cost more than £25 to make. It’s not all about manufacturing cost of course but there are limits the average working guy will tolerate in terms of mark up.

    I sat out the REM box which was at £80. I paid £47 for it last week and at that price I feel I have got value for money, but if I had paid £80 for it I wouldn’t have been so happy.

    Part of the issue is that, except for the truly limited edition items, you know you will be able to buy it for half the price in 6 months. If you are prepared to wait you are very likely to get a cheaper deal.

    I have just done a weeks shopping for £60 in a well known discount chain, so a Roxy box set at twice that isn’t good value to me personally, but to the many people who spend a couple of hundred quid a week in Waitrose or M and S it will be OK.

  142. Andy says:

    Great article Paul, certainly some food for thought there.

    I remember when I was a not-so-well-off student in the 80s and already my music habits were starting to form. I liked to go to gigs and i liked to buy LPs and CDs. I still do. But back them I remember thinking that if I didn’t go to gig A and gig B I could afford to buy another CD (probably £12-£14 a throw back then). How times have changed! Now I’m just amazed to think how many CDs I could buy for the price of a ticket to a show by Roger Waters or Jeff Lynn or U2.

  143. elliott buckingham says:

    i am one of those people who go into shops and moan about the mark-up I was in bnq moaning about how overpriced the stuff was in there and the bloke about to buy something put it down and left. the proof of how overpriced cd sets or vinyl sets are is how quick and by how much the price gets reduced and the producer or artists of the sets concerned are still turning a tidy product at the lower price. these box sets would be better value if instead they focused on what the fans want an not on what the artist doesn’t like. Michael stipe hates shiney happy people could you imagine the uproar if he removed it from out of time just because he doesn’t like it. ….ramble over

    • Chris Squires says:

      Great point Elliott, I can think of several artists who don’t like their early material and won’t re-issue it. Particularly those who are still writing.
      As a fan I wanna hear everything. I have a few Kate Bush tracks (as does any KTB fan) that are just her rawly singing early lyrics (which changed) over a beatbox. This is Gold to me and every other fan and would be the major buying point for most of any future SDEs. But Kate would rather forget what went before. I admire some artists who are prepared to open the vaults. I really love So DNA by Peter Gabriel but very few artists want this kind of stuff out there.

      The sad thing is what most artists can’t face is that their early material is in almost all cases their best material. So demos from their first two, three or four albums hold more interest for many 50+ year old fans than a new album that is considerably weaker than their early stuff.

  144. Mathew Lauren says:

    Brave piece and “Kudos,” Paul. I don’t know where to start, so I’ll hold off.

    I was simply gonna post that a new series on NETFLIX caught my eye and lo’ and behold ~ 13 new (musical) songs from the “BABYLON BERLIN” soundtrack, during the Weimar Republic-era, were written by: (wait for it) BRYAN FERRY.

    There are many articles about B.F.’s endeavour here (involving the “BB” soundtrack), so google it if interested. My point here is that, Bryan is quite talented — well beyond what I realised! To delve into that genre (Berlin, between 1929-34) and then to fast-forward back to 2017 to complete his new solo album of a completely different genre, well, colour me impressed!

  145. Pds says:

    How true …”possibly inside your own home too”

  146. Auntie Sabrina says:

    But aren’t Paul Smith T-shirts, Smeg fridges etc discounted sometimes too? I’ve no idea, but the Roxy boxset uses old remasters for some of the tracks? It’s not just this boxset that’s over-priced, REM’s Automatic For The People..?

    Look at all the £10/11 CDs released up to Christmas that you can now buy for £5.

    Yes, the packaging I’m sure is beautiful but it’s a great deal of money

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