Don’t Stream It’s Over: Let’s make physical reissues special again


Why streaming deluxe and super deluxe editions as soon as they are released is damaging physical sales of music reissues

I was chatting to a friend of mine in the pub the other night and inevitably the conversation turned to music. I was trying to persuade him to get his old turntable out and start picking up some cheap used vinyl, when he mentioned that his 18-year old son has never bought any music, ever.

He isn’t stealing it, rather just streaming from Spotify, YouTube etc. Like many of his friends, he literally doesn’t see the need to buy music and because he’s a student and not a BMW-driving 40-something, he hasn’t got the disposable income, anyway.

As an aside, I actually think the last point is irrelevant. I never had any money in my twenties but somehow I’d walk into Tower Records in Piccadillly and always ‘find’ the cash to pick-up something interesting, like, for example, a Japanese CD import ofThe Ipcress File. Yes, I paid £23 for one CD in early nineties and I’m still getting pleasure out of it today. Stick that in your Spotify pipe and smoke it…

Anyway, the point is, that my friend’s son hasn’t grown up in a world of seven-inch ‘double-packs’, limited edition 12-inch picture discs, cassette singles and ‘CD 1’ and ‘CD 2’. So his attitude towards physical music is understandable.

But I did grow up in that world and, most likely, so did you. Therefore, if push comes to shove I will still probably pay £23 for a single CD, if it’s desirable enough. I do buy box sets and I do enjoy ‘holding the music in my hands’, to coin a phrase.

I am very much the target market for physical reissues, whether they be 2CD deluxe editions, multi-disc box sets or similar. So why, I wonder, are record labels treating me like an 18-year old and putting all this supposedly ‘deluxe’ content on streaming sites? Are they trying to actively stymie sales of physical music, or what?

I love physical product, but I’m also human and if you tempt me by shaking something ‘free’ in your left hand and something that costs £12.99 in your right, I might just opt for the one where I don’t pay £13 for it. I mean, let’s think about this. You (the record label) may well have spent ages searching in the archives for those ‘rare’ demos to used as bonus tracks, then patiently spent time ‘baking’ tapes so the decades-old spools don’t stick in the tape machines, then you might visit Abbey Road Studios to remaster (or maybe even remix) the old tapes. Then you go to the trouble of commissioning sleeve notes, and hopefully make an effort with packaging. And at the very end of that lengthy process, somewhat ludicrously, you allow the prospective purchaser the opportunity to click a few icons on his computer, access a streaming service like Spotify, have a half-listen and perhaps dismiss your product in SECONDS.

Where is the logic in that? Why would you do that? What’s wrong with saying, “if you want to enjoy what we think is a great physical product, then please buy it. But if you don’t, you are just going to have to do without, since there is no other way to purchase this music.”

Isn’t the point of deluxe physical products, to target the age group that still wants to buy them? So why are record labels trying to tempt *that* demographic (me and you) into not bothering? Also, having something available FREE (or close to free) online just devalues the physical product you have to pay for. And it’s confusing. Just what is the value of music these days anyway? It’s constantly being degraded. I know a cappuccino has a value of about £2 to £2.40 round my way. I know that, because that’s what I get charged. There is no ‘free’ option that involves me picking up my coffee and walking around the back of the shop where I’m forced to look at some ads on a wall (note-to-self: business idea for coffee shop…).

The reason I’m ranting a bit about this is because I’m passionate about physical music and I honestly believe that this policy of putting content from archival box sets (and deluxe editions) on streaming services as soon as they are released physically, is going to hurry physical product to an early grave. And I really don’t want that to happen.

I should add that I’m not some stuck-in-the-mud who wants to ban Netflix and make everyone go back to renting VHS’s from Blockbuster Video. All I am saying is that in a world where physical music sales are declining year-on-year, this tactic of giving consumers the option not to buy your product seems crazy.

None of these arguments really apply to ‘frontline’ new releases. Clearly there is a whole different model there and streaming offers lots of leverage for the younger demographic to stream, share, get it ‘trending’ etc. But the pertinent point here is in that instance you aren’t really eroding any physical sales because – getting back to my friend’s 18-year old son – no one was really going to buy the CD in the first place, anyway!

My proposal, to preserve physical product – and to keep it profitable for record labels – is that deluxe reissues, box sets and the like (i.e. old music that is being reissued physically) – should have an exclusive ‘window’ of at least three to six months where it is only available physically. I’m sure this would encourage people to buy more CDs and box sets. Once this period is over it can be casually tossed into the black hole that is streaming.

Good idea, or unworkable nonsense? Leave a comment.

This article was first published in yesterday’s SDE Newsletter. Get this free weekly round-up by subscribing here.

124 responses to Don’t Stream It’s Over: Let’s make physical reissues special again

  1. Griffin says:

    It took me quite some to read through all these posts/comments & didn’ t get lost.

    I will always try to buy the physical product, if it’s affordable & worth paying for (not just only a few tracks)! Otherwise I might considering the legal downloads just for the few tracks I really wanted. I also hate that the early birds get punished instead of getting the worms. Die hard fans pre-order the physical products paying a lot more than after a while. And most of the times also with errors/problems!

    But I’m agree with you that the exclusive contents (the selling points like first time on CD, never before released tracks etc) should stay exclusive for the physical product. Not for streaming (except standard release/CD1 without bonus/expanded tracks). But perhaps after the physical product is sold out/out of print then for streaming.

    • Griffin says:

      And BTW I can always do a rip from my physical product & put the files on my ipod. So I can carry all the music I like to listen for the moment always with me on the move/go (in my car/public transportations/walking/running etc)!

  2. j says:

    I read most of the posts here and few answer your question. I think your idea is a great one!!! To hold back the bonus material would make economic sense to me. At least some of the streaming services are already doing this. On Tidal they had a sampler of the new Dylan Cutting Edge and it inspired me to buy the physical release. In other cases, I will buy the physical release no matter what happens in the digital domain. You can never have enough Jethro Tull!
    As to the part about the “black hole that is streaming”, this is not on point. Streaming has become part of the fabric of our society. Tidal has red book quality for $20 per month with around 30 million songs. Wolfgang”s Vault has a huge number of concerts for $5 a month. The sound quality in the Vault is unvarnished and may not sound “correct” for some people. But hey, live Steely Dan is a low fi joy!!! The sound quality of the High Rez can be painful to listen to as the offering may or may not be representationally faithful. And you can take your physical product and use software like J River and create your own database in FLAC format so you can listen to Lou Reed Live in the laundry room.

    I bought my first LPs back in 1973 and have never stopped collecting.This is usually the first choice for me.

    A lot of people in Texas were very upset when the automobile showed up many moons ago. But today how many people ride a horse to work?

    Thanx for the thoughts Paul. Nice post.

  3. Glenn says:

    Agree with those that stated that labels should only stream the standard album tracks and not the bonus SDE material. If I pay for a SDE I would expect there to be some exclusivity associated with the purchase. I continue to buy CDs and vinyl (for singles that have tracks not on CD). Will ONLY buy digital for digital-only mixes (which annoys but not much more than all the promo-only mixes that come out).

  4. Dave Jones says:

    Loved the article, been in the CD records biz full time since 1986, I but every cd reissue expanded version of bands I love (or try to). Not sure but is spotify losless audio? that’s at least one thing that may make people pick up the CD version (quality if it’s only mp3 online). It’s becoming a money issue more than anything these days, I have an amazing Discogs store I’m building but less & less buyers of all physical music it seems (I have mainly a CD collectors following to begin with, I never “went back” to the vinyl format).

  5. Francis Wolf says:

    William, without wanting to be negative or disagreeable I would bet real money that dvd’s become obsolete before youtube does.

  6. william says:

    I think the biggest advantage of an artist coming out with a Deluxe or Super Deluxe version of their product is the physical stuff they add to it. The limited edition of a photo book, printed lyrics of the songs, music videos, concert dvds. This is a real difference between downloaded content. I am sure you could see the videos/concerts on Youtube, but how long will this format last? At least you have a physical copy that you can watch over and over again once Youtube becomes a thing of the past. And also, a lot of companies are charging for downloaded content. But as Apple has proven, they can cut off that content once their copyright or right to show that material is up. So, even if you have paid for a digital movie, or digital music, the Companies can take it away.

  7. Francis Wolf says:

    I thought Napster was great.

  8. Paul says:

    I have a huge fear that Apple (the manufacturer of the iPhone, not The Beatles’ record label) will at some point, look to buy the likes of Universal Records. They certainly have the resources in place to enable them to do so. That would not only give them a foothold in the creation of music, but it also allows them to implement a stranglehold on it, by signing artists to their label and releasing music digitally (and uniquely) via iTunes. This not only cuts Amazon et al out of the loop, it also boosts profits for Apple by ensuring a monopoly on artists’ output.

    It was a similar scenario in the Eighties when both Sony was producing CD players but not the software (i.e. the CDs themselves). It then purchased CBS Records, which was renamed Sony Music, and the rest is history.

    Apple could easily follow in Sony’s tracks, which would ‘lock in’ profits, but importantly potentially mean the end of physical releases for those artists. It would certainly be a tough decision for an artist – on the one hand, their material would only be available via iTunes, but on the other hand they have one of the largest record companies in the world ‘supporting’ and ‘promoting’ them.

    There would certainly be a reduced number of super-deluxe box sets available then, but that’s another story, I guess…

  9. Francis Wolf says:

    Weird to read an article in defence of record label profits and the unnecessary manufacture of ‘stuff.’ Surely we should embrace the arrival of technology that means resources don’t need to be wasted anymore. I always thought the digital revolution would be a great democratizing moment for music (even though greedy labels still monopolise and keep a stranglehold.) I found the news pretty depressing last year about the volume of music sales that are from reissues compared to new music. This is not a vibrant creative environment.
    Regarding the streaming of reissues, I don’t see the problem, people already know what Phil Collins albums sound like so what is there to lose? Streaming can only create the opportunity to introduce it to someone who (is fortunate enough) to have never heard them before.
    I wouldn’t lose sleep over Phil Collins’ sales figures, he’s made enough. I’d be more concerned about all the new music that doesn’t have a voice.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Not sure why you think it’s weird that this blog would be supporting and worrying about the future of physical music reissues!? There is a simple relationship with record label profits and the continued production of physical reissues. If labels can’t make money, then they won’t produce them.

      • Francis Wolf says:

        Sorry I didn’t realise the website was focused on reissues as opposed to new music. I misunderstood that, and I understand that from such a perspective what you say makes sense. The whole argument just feels a bit regressive to me. My alternative youth culture (in the 90’s) always placed the big music companies as a negative energy towards creativity so it just feels alien to my ears to hear people talk of how we must protect their profits. Popular music usually places itself as a voice for sticking it to the man, not nurturing his share holders.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Napster ‘stuck it to the man’ and look what that did. Cherishing music on a physical format is something people have been doing for over 50 years. Yearning for that to continue in place of streaming and digital isn’t some kind of radical stance. There is an automatic assumption these days that something faster, smaller, more accessible, cheaper, etc. is always ‘better’ – sometimes it’s not a bad thing to stop and question that now and again.

  10. Gary C says:

    Reading through the comments on the Phil Collins reissues, its a very familiar reaction to what is being continually offered to potential customers.
    The easy conclusion to draw is that all these SDEs that people are hankering for physically, are always sub standard, sometimes in the extreme; marbles and scarves, bad packaging, whole discs that need returned and swapped out, booklets badly printed..and never ever someone saying
    “that SDE has been nailed, that is exactly as I would have done it”.

    So, is there an SDE out there that a fan could say was nailed, and not because it was an SDE deal that, speaking as a carpetbagger myself, wasn’t bought because it was cheap?

    Gary C

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I will offer forward ‘for consideration’ the Tears For Fears “Songs From The Big Chair” box. Although I worked on it, so it would be immodest to claim it was ‘nailed’, although I do think we did a pretty good job :)

      • Gary C says:

        You’d be right Paul, it was a cracker and kudos to all involved including you…and I paid full price for the bugger, bought my ungrateful brother one too

    • DaveM says:

      The best SDE I have bought that I consider ‘nailed’ is Paul McCartney’s Ram. Great box, artwork, looks great on the shelf, almost like opening an old family treasure, great thought out physiacl content and the CDs sound great. The mono mix of the album gives me goosebumps its that good. If only everyone did it that way…….

  11. Just sayin' says:

    They’re making fun of you boys over on Stereo Central now. And, I gotta say, rightfully so.

  12. Don says:

    “Are they trying to actively stymie sales of physical music, or what?” I think the answer is YES. From the record company’s perspective, if they can sell the same content digitally, for the same price (or sometimes higher!) without having to pay for design, production, etc. of physical sets, of course they’re going to do it. Call it a conspiracy theory, but I think the major labels would be happy to see physical product disappear altogether, and streaming the deluxe sets is just one way they’re trying to do that.

  13. Dave says:

    I do not think digital = disposable. To me it opens up a whole different journey in a way that radio can never do due to the format restrictions.
    How many CD’s can I buy anyway just to hear new music ? That makes little sense.
    I will pay for the added quality which is why I am surprised that more bluray is not promoted. I know there is a cost to the special editions but it seems to me that current pricing is bizarre as it seems to just want to price me out !

  14. Cal says:

    I collect cd`s but also buy digital and also pay for flac streaming with tidal, i have no issue with any, i like streaming sites especially if they do have the deluxe version it gives me a chance to check it out before deciding, ive been burnt too many times with re-issues, deluxes etc to find out the material has either been badly remastered ie too loud or sourced from mp3 or vinyl, this way if i stream and it sounds ok i can then justify the cost of the cd, in a ideal world you would buy the cd and that gives you a unique code to download extras like the video`s as they become available or extra content ie make it so buying the cd enters you into a hub for that cd so everything associated can be obtained.

  15. Julian says:

    One thing is for sure – this is a topic we are all passionate about … let’s keep music (a)live !

  16. TheProgster says:

    The only good flip side to all this is we get to see artists live on tour now…certain ones didn’t bother or just sat back and did little or nothing to promote their new album…now they are somewhat forced to do more gigs and tour more frequently to make any money…yes ticket prices have risen to compensate for the short fall of sales of CDs but that’s the way it has become now…and also the way some people can get new downloads for free through file sharing websites is something that we have to accept has become the norm now…I for one will still buy the CD of an album..I don’t care much for vinyl anymore too much crackle and hiss on the quieter tracks for me.

  17. Anthony says:

    Hello out there, I must say more than anything else that pisses me off is todays flat dull remastering techniques. 2010 I purchased the Super Deluxe edition of the Jams classic Sound Effects CD. It basically is a Pre-Mastered cd, flat dull lifeless. My first edition CD of the same album from the 80s? Sounds fuller with more musical detail and some bass end, There appears to be a whole spate of these dull mastered for I-Tunes CDs about. Can anyone tell me why are these Cds remastered this way?
    Anthony, Perth Western Australia.

    • RJSWinchester says:

      “Can anyone tell me why are these Cds remastered this way?”

      So that it sounds different to the CD you already own!

  18. RJSWinchester says:

    To be honest, the argument in this post only becomes valid when labels stop issuing physical releases and only make them available to stream or download. If labels choose to offer box sets to stream then that’s the business model they’ve chosen and to argue against it smacks of eletism and materialism by the “It’s been remastered (again), it’s in a big box and it has loads of extra stuff I’ll only listen to once but it’ll look good on the shelves” people who argue against it. I buy lots of physical CDs and box sets but enjoying the music means so much so much more than “holding” the physical product. It’s ALL about the music, not the box it’s in.

    • Straker says:

      “but enjoying the music means so much so much more than “holding” the physical product. It’s ALL about the music, not the box it’s in.”


      “the box set and reissue music blog for collectors and fans who love holding the music in their hands”

      • RJSWinchester says:

        Ahem indeed…

        Like I said, the music is all that matters. I much prefer listening to music than holding it in my hands. Try it – it sounds so much better that way!

        • Straker says:

          As a graphic designer and album cover fan, the music is most certainly NOT all that matters!

          Are you sure you’re in the right place? Does iTunes or Spotify have a forum?

          • RJSWinchester says:

            I don’t use either iTunes or Spotify and I’m most definitely in the right place. I buy upwards of 100 CD’s annually and have done for over 20 years but you’ve got to face the fact that the physical format is dying whether you like it or not. Box sets are a niche market and I think they’ll be around for a while yet but personally, and it’s taken a long time to realise this, I think they are mostly over-sized and contain loads of lousy demos and live versions of songs that I never listen to more than once. And most remastering is unremarkable.

          • Paul Sinclair says:

            That’s a bit of a generalisation, isn’t it? Not all box sets are overpriced and contain lousy demos etc. Really only a small proportion of box sets are ludicrously expensive, most end up being reasonable to good value.

  19. Paul Wren says:

    Streaming and YouTube are invaluable for me in litening to a possible new release before deciding I like it and then purchasing it. My current collecting area is early 1970’s Krautrock and this helps sift the wheat from the chaff.

  20. HS says:

    If “everything should be made available for everyone at all times”, then the record companies need to release “digital exclusive” tracks on the CD’s as well.

    Having one track an Amazon exclusive, another track an iTunes exclusive etc makes me feel like I am buying half an album on CD. Then there are the Target bonus tracks, Japan bonus tracks etc. The fact that in the last few years I have had to research almost every new album coming out on CD (an ending up importing a copy from, say Japan or the US) takes time and effort that a lot of people would not do. They see a regular priced copy of a CD in the store, check the track list and notice that some of the songs they have already heard from the album are not included, even though it is a deluxe edtion. CD goes back and the person decides to just listen to ALL the tracks made available from the album online. There is usually plenty of space on the CD for the various bonus tracks and if a person is (often) paying more for the album on CD then that person should get ALL the songs. There have been a few albums I just did not buy because I did not want to import four different copies just to get all the songs – and there would still be a track or two that were digital only. Before the songs would end up as B-sides on physical formats but that hardly happens anymore. So a lot of these songs end up only available on digital formats.

    I understand that there are people that prefer digital or streaming. But I don’t think that people should be able to spend a tiny amount a month to stream songs that should have been made available on physical media as well in the first place. There is no reason why the record companies can’t make everyone happy. Just release a deluxe version of a new album on CD with all the bonus tracks, make the same thing available digitally and to stream – and people can just choose what they prefer to do.

    I still think that super deluxe box sets of older albums should remain physical-only though, at least for some time period. These are obviously made for the fans, they cost a lot of money, include a lot of material and IMO should not immediately become a part of a lousy 10 pounds a month subscription.

  21. Fady says:

    Like you Paul, I prefer the physical product and I have never bought (and probably never will buy) an mp3. I can see where you’re coming from on streaming and there is no doubt that most artists gain very little financially from streaming services. In saying that, I also thought it was wrong (and this is more of an issue with big record companies than artists) that prior to the proliferation of music piracy you had to spend around $30 for an entire album based on trust when you’d only heard one or two songs . In that respect, streaming is a way for some people (including myself) to try before you buy. The other thing to consider is that the people who don’t end up buying are probably the same people who never would have bought the music in the first place.

  22. Fat Old Bloke says:

    I buy CDs/DVDs/Blurays that interest me and have some ‘value’ to me as to something I will enjoy for years to come plus the booklets and images that come with these products.
    Streaming has its merits for listening to music at work or maybe in the car/at the beach etc but it’s not something I am crazy about.

  23. JBF says:

    Ditto “John” above!
    Many people don’t care about that much about physical product.
    I truly believe that the legal streaming / DL sites are mostly making money from people who wouldn’t be buying the physical product in the first place.
    Does anyone here truly believe that thousands of people have decided not to spend “x” amount of money on an expensive boxset because it’s now available on Spotify? Most likely it was never their intention to buy the physical product.
    Just like passing on that 10,000 dollar handbag because the 300 dollar knock-off was available…Wasn’t going to buy the expensive one to begin with.

  24. RikTheHib says:

    Gents – I am a fan of both! (Let the flaming begin).
    Let me pick on a nice SDE of “Band on the Run”. Now, my dad had this on Cassette – played it in the car all the time back in ’73 when I was a kid – I guess I have to blame him for me being a fan. Then, as I got older, I got myself the LP – a reissue mind you. Zooming forward way too many years I get the Archive Collection version with a, wait for it – FREE – download on 24bit FLAC.
    Holy moly! It’s way better than that old cassette (except for the memories). This is how it should be done – buy the product, get a link to a hi-res copy. Well, IMHO of course.

    • RJSWinchester says:

      But it’s not free! The cost of the download is just factored into the price of physical copy you bought and it only costs the label the price of the server storage.

  25. Amy Green says:

    I don’t understand the appeal of streaming music. Consumers have been cheated far too many times out of the forms of media they started with, and never got a choice. It’s neat that vinyl has made a minor comeback, but we’ll never see 24/7 music on the MTV network again. Magazine sales have fallen, but, oh, I can read the REMAINDER of the article online. Not only do I love the tangible quality of CDs but in what way are they “inconvenient”? Pop in and play. Can you imagine the legends of music if they had come out in the digital age? Rihanna may have more #1 singles but that’s due to the immediacy of digital music. I don’t know if we would have ended up with the same super stars we got by people calling into radio stations and buying singles and albums in stores. I cringed when the remaining Beatles, Kid Rock and Bob Seger finally caved to iTunes. Great example to set, guys. Cut into your own sales, and open your music up to piracy. What’s the point?

  26. j says:

    Great stuff!!! I plan to read ALL of the posts of your followers & I look forward to thier input. I is OK to be detailed. My oldest daughter has NEVER bought a physical copy in her life & that is the end of the story.

    From the viewpoint of a practicing evil executive, not in the music industry, let me make 3 quick points quickly as I am on the road this week.

    1) What matters the most in this indsutry is “post tax net incremental revenue” (PTNIR) . It turns out that 75% of this funding stream is kept by the label. Roughly 10 % goes to the artist & the balance to the author of the song. The question becomes is the model viable?

    2) And the answer is yes. In 2013 the Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 had presale estimates of 250 to 350 K on a good day. The content was put on I tunes 1 week before release for free. The result was week 1 sales of 968 K physical copies sold. Justin made money. The label made money. The jury is still out in the context of long term outcomes.

    3) As fate would have it, the economics of this segment are still shaking out. Your post had words like “love” & “emotional” which are never used in the board room. NEVER EVER. I am giving you the truth. Unvarnished. Just the truth. Applied economics requires tough decisions on a daily basis. I will need to think about your resolution. There may be other options. Prehaps your readers have some ideas.

    The end of the story
    My oldest daughter is just like your friends child. But for differant reasons. My collections has 6,000 cds, 5,000 lps & laser discs, etc . I have many rare items that most people will never see or hear. My daughter has the luxury of picking & choosing cool stuff. Right now she is picking Beatles, Gary P Nunn & ABBA. We tend to burn & stream & just stream thru Tidal.

    Thanks for the great stuff Paul. Don’t ever change!

  27. Renato says:

    I strongly disagree. Sorry, Paul, but I think everything should be made available for everyone at all times. What makes a super deluxe edition “special” isn’t the fact that there are some tracks that can only be found there, but the care that is put in making it. Plus, it sucks to be charged ridiculous amounts of money to have access to a couple of remixes that “aren’t available anywhere else”, or yet another live set that wasn’t even that necessary to begin with. I, for one, really like the current model of “standard edition, special edition with ALL the bonus content (in both physical and digital formats) and super deluxe edition including a plethora of useless – but still very nice – trinkets for the super fans”. I do pay extra if I like the artist/band, but if I don’t love the work, then I’d rather get a more modest version that contains everything on the super deluxe version.

  28. Scott says:

    I own and operate a small recording company and have 7 bands signed and releasing music. I just signed two more bands and their debuts will come out on June 3, 2016. I didn’t take the time to read additional comments yet, because I’m in a time crunch, and I couldn’t agree more with the original posting and the suggested solution. No different that how DVD’s are sold today. They will TYPICALLY release movies on DVD (which gets highjacked and posted for free by some jerk) a month or two before they are on premiere cable channels. Redbox and Netflix function this way. One of the bands on my label is the band I’m actually a part of. Since the concept behind my label was one, to brand ourselves with the demographics we targeted (between the ages of 40 – 60, collectors, want a physical product, want bonus stuff and essentially cherish their music collections). So, how did my band go about selling our own three CD’s in 2013 and 2015? We tried a bunch of different things, because we want fans to hear tunes as we finish them. We didn’t pander to Amazon (though our Japanese distributors sell our records on AmazonUS and AmazonUK for $100 – $200 a piece, plus international shipping). Which brings me to a closing statement. As long as young people look at digital music as “disposable” music, my company will make a tiny dent, and the more bands that fit our profile (sophisticated classic pop with a contemporary flare, think The Beatles sitting down with The Beach Boys, add liberal doses of Prefab Sprout and toss in some Steely Dan and then late-era Thomas Dolby and you might get an idea of what we sound like, or so our fans have said. Another band that is switching to my label but won’t release an album this year. Their bass player is Japanese, so they just were in Japan doing a mini-tour and at Tower Records, they had an entire listening booth dedicated the records released on my label. That was really cool to see. I will take the time to read through the comments above later this evening. If it generates an additional comment from me you can read it or not. Digital = disposable. Disposable implies worthless. Sad.

  29. Eoghan says:

    This really annoys me. I don’t know how many times I’ve splashed out on a special edition, only to see it appear for free the next week. I’ve just stopped buying them, baring the occasion where I really want to support the artist. But how big is the overlap between the Streaming and the Physical markets? With all the Special editions, 5 for ones, massive 6 CD packages that are on the market right now, the market appears to be booming. Maybe that market will only last as long as the nostalgia for the original albums does.

  30. John says:

    I know a lot of people (in their 30s and 40s) who really don’t care about deluxe editions. They think they take up too much space and they don’t care about awesome designed box sets and lavish artwork.
    Those people won’t buy deluxe editions anyway since they see it as paying extra for stuff they don’t want. They just want the music. Period.
    So releasing a deluxe edition and not giving people the opportunity to buy it through streaming/downloading will only encourage those kind of people to download pirated copies. It won’t help selling more physical copies.

  31. Yani says:

    Great thread!!
    I think I sit in a mixed camp here.
    I have literally tens of thousands of vinyl records – all original and collected since the mid-70s. Pretty much every one is duplicated (so more tens of thousands) one set has been played – often way too many tines :) but the other set is still unplayed – thats my archive for future generations lol..

    I have been collecting re-issues and deluxe box sets for a good few years – I am quite selective but if it has that something extra special then I buy it.

    I have never really got the MP3 thing but I have also had my entire collection archived to hi res audio (or as hi res as I could get). I have also a few terabytes of gaps in my colloection stored away.

    I dont see this as a replacement for my physical collection but complimentary. Nothing will ever beat vinyl, the smell of the vinyl the artwork the sleeve notes – its a piece of art in its entirety.

    I have also used Spotify and Deezer – Deezer especially I use as I travel the world a fair bit on business and its a fantastic way of passing a 12 hour flight :)

    Music is such a massive part of my being so I use these different formats for different purposes.

  32. Shane says:

    Great post and I couldn’t agree more Paul!

  33. gb says:

    great post. agree with all your points Paul.
    like many here, I grew up with vinyl/cd so I just like to have a physical product.
    spotify? just never got into it. for me, no point. I want to be able to play tracks on cds, I’m not always ‘on the move’ … if there is a certain song I like, I buy from itunes/amazon. otherwise I buy the actual cd. I also don’t understand deluxe editions going straight onto spotify. talk about biting the hand that feeds. it HAS to impact the *could have been* sales figures. will there come a time when ‘deluxe editions’ don’t even have a physical product? (just be compiled for spotify etc) – be like the 1st album Garbage remixes that were available last year.

  34. RJSWinchester says:

    You’ve gotta move with the times. I like a box set as much as the next person and do buy a few each year and probaly buy 100-150 CDs a year but most of the bonus material with box sets rarely gets listened to more than a couple of times (and I’m sure that’s the same for most people who’ve posted on this topic). And there’s only so many times you can re-re-re-remaster and flog the same crap in a bigger box with bonus ‘lost tracks’ (unless you’re Jimmy Page who is probably remastering the Led Zeppelin back catalogue yet again for the Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary Editions)

    In reality, box sets are just ornamens that look cool on your shelves. But hard core fans will always buy the physical media whether it’s available to stream or not so I doubt there are thousands of unsold copies of the recent Phil Collins reissues lying in a warehouse. Box sets are not dead and buried yet and existing and new boutique independent labels will licence the music and trawl the vaults if the big labels throw in the towel. Personally, I would much prefer it if labels just offered high quality downloads at a reasonable price.

  35. Bill Light says:

    I am an Amazon Prime member. To add to the absurd, I pre-ordered the Blackstar cd. On the release date, I received my copy and at the same time Amazon had the release streaming for free . Same thing with other cds like new Bonnie Raitt . If they are going to do that, they should at least let prime members know so that we don’t waste our money or at least get a chance to decide if they still want to pay for the cd. Paul–do you know what they pay artists in order to have their music free to prime members? It has gotten to the point where the majority of many artist’s catalogues are free for prime members.

    • RJSWinchester says:

      “are free for prime members”

      They’re not free. You pay for Amazon Prime!

      • Andrew Richards says:

        Not free but close depending on why you subscribed to Amazon prime initially.

        I subscribed for the “free” p&p and quick delivery. That was cost effective in its own right. Then Amazon prime video appeared. A fire TV box later that was a nice bonus. Then they added music. I’m getting more than I pay for (IMHO) so music feels free…

  36. Michael says:

    IMHO, there are basically 2 kinds of music ‘consumers’, those who ‘need’ the physical format and those who (quite frankly) couldn’t care less – I fall squarely in the former category and have no plans to succumb to Spotify or Apple Music as a sole source. Do I use them? Hell yeah! They are a brilliant way to discover new music, but if I like it, I buy it.

    So, against that backdrop, should labels limit what they release on streaming sites? I would argue no, why should they – people that buy music physically will continue to do so and those that have other priorities, be they financial or otherwise, should not be limited to what they are able to access as part of their legal monthly subscription; as this will in turn create a diluted service which I would wager most (if not all) physical format lovers find an invaluable resource to help them spend their hard earned cash.

  37. elliott buckingham says:

    Ive never heard a mp3 or a stream run smoothly like a live album has no gaps if you play the mp3 or the stream you get a slight pause between the tracks that isn’t present on the vinyl or cd

  38. england says:

    …and I thought nothing could top discovering that we had deaf fans (they told me that they could feel the vibrations and sub-sonics)… until I spoke to the studio owner’s son (working on reception during school holidays) who announced that he only “watched” music – ie if it wasn’t on YouTube or had an online video then he just wasn’t interested – and he was working toward a career in music..
    In a way I’m sorta happy that I’ve retired from the music business – I don’t imagine I’d get very far without a high level of computer/digital savvy.
    Personally, if I can’t hold music in my hand then I have a much harder time getting into it and understanding it (and remembering that I have either heard it or getting overwhelmed with duplicates) – even though I did resign myself to trying to cope with cds (finding it hard to read such tiny text), I do miss vinyl for the sleeves/inserts which sometimes told me more about the Artiste than the music did. (And the same goes for books)!

  39. Robert Atkin says:

    I like SDE’s if they are at the right price. You get a better sound from the physical object rather than a streaming track. I may sometimes wait until a special offer may come up or I may buy straight away. I paid £32.99 for the Blue Oyster Cult Box from Amazon. The last time I looked it was about £135.00. I paid £29.99 from HMV for Too Old to rock n Roll etc by Jethro Tull. I understand a couple of weeks ago it was £15.00 on Amazon for a short period. You sometimes win, you sometimes loose. I will not buy if the item is far too expensive.

    I also listen on Spotify now and again. What Spotify does sometimes is make only some of the tracks available. They should do this with all box-sets. All other streaming sites should do the same too.

  40. Straker says:

    Some fascinating comments here. You should get one of the papers onto this Paul – Your initial post and subsequent reader comments would make a great piece in the weekend supplements.

  41. peter chrisp says:

    Paul could not agree more, especially with these deluxe and super deluxe edition albums, while the artists no doubt put in a huge effort to ensure we get the best possible box sets physically
    and sound quality wise. As we all know, i would hate to think how many millions of people still
    copy behind closed doors, what they do i guess is their own business but we all know it definitely
    harms their royalties and earning power. If my memory serves me well it all began with Napster
    way back in the 90’s as suggested can’t quite recall the year and right up to the present i have no doubt a few more have surfaced since. I wonder why there are very little record companies that
    are around at the moment, Paul do you remember all of these record labels from the past there
    was so much competition they were huge? I will never ever forget CBS/Epic where either one
    was actually blotted out with some sort of mark. EMI, Atlantic,Electra,ABC, R.C.A, Asylum,
    MCA, Capital just to name a few, Vertigo and gee even the labels & the pressing of the albums looked superb, and once in a blue moon i will never ever forget buying an Aerosmith album in
    1976 “Rocks” even the vinyl had a certain “smell” i am not quite sure what it was, and i found a way to import and still proud after 39 years and still going strong. I guess there are a couple of reasons why there are dwindling record sales, the cost of making an album & cd, the chances of that artist selling millions unless they’re well established even then it wouldn’t be the same now
    as it was way back in the 70’s & early 80’s, hit singles, and how many record stores can you count?Umm most likely none as there was nothing more exciting than buying a record or an Lp
    at your fave record store unfortunately to my stupidity at one stage i had around 44o albums on vinyl and 99% of them were on import as the “local” record store could get an album form the UK,Japan, or the US, and as i moved house a number of times i sold all of my albums, i mean how dumb is that. As i am a huge Jethro Tull fanatic i will never ever forget buying their latest
    album at that time in July 1976 “Crest Of A Knave” and it was released in January 1977 in Australia!! Could you have imagined my excitement i literally fell of my chair and still do know
    as i still get a buzz importing after all these years. As i was friends with a couple of dj’s i would actually take an artists latest album well before it was available and they would play a couple of selections, now can you imagine their excitement! The funny thing the dj had a 3 hour show on a
    Sunday night between 9 & 12am and i had to get up for work the next morning and each time
    he would mention my name and what a buzz that was. It’s all too easy to copy in this day & age.
    I think too although the artist has not got much of a choice at the moment, i am not sure what the difference would be know, would a band or the artist sell a lot more records if there were not
    any of these so called “Spotify’s? As opposed to having them where you can now sample each and every track which does give them more exposure? as you have to move with the times? Paul as you say in he end there is nothing better than having you own physical copy form anywhere in the world that’s a real buzz. The only way to go would be to close all of these ‘copying” sites down. I’ll ask everyone a question here out of curiousity, ITunes good or bad? Should that be
    closed down completely? Paul keep up the great work brilliant stuff.

  42. Daniel Lalla says:

    I don’t understand how the industry practically giving it away is financially viable. Then again people get jaded because we all know the ‘industry’ is a self-perpetuating machine that generally treats the artists shabbily – the artist gets a small fraction of the profits and people start to wonder why they bother. Concert ticket prices are high but I suspect the band gets more, as well as from merchandise there.

    Many problems: die hard fans often can’t get limited releases (e.g. RSD releases are sometimes the worst example) and end up paying through the nose on eBay is something has too much value or is limited… Expensive editions on new releases are a crap-shoot: you might have to buy a strictly limited edition at high cost and then find you don’t like the album but if you didn’t pre-order you miss out (and back to eBay or discogs). We don’t have any control over the quality of the remastering: many remasters are just brick-walled horrible versions that sound louder (but as compressed as AM radio with 6 dB or less of dynamic range – e.g. new Nirvana 24/96 bluray disc: 24 bits with tons of headroom and they choose to compress the crap out of it – all the Nirvana remasters were ruined with this. )

    And we know that while they’re remastering, they can have a flat transfer with no compression and a ‘modern’ mix (Steven Wilson does this in almost all his remastered work, especially for King Crimson, and even his ‘new mixes’ only provide very very gentle compression which only cops the very loudest passages of the music while allowing quieter passages more clarity – an excellent compromise)

    The industry does other stupid things like Blu-ray audio: they say audio only for ‘quality’ – what a crock of horse excrement: there is always a video portion, even if it’s just a menu. So unless you have a rare bluray audio disc player that can shut off the video circuitry (There are some) then it’s not helping the audio quality at all to have an ‘audio only’ disc. It’s just a cop-out to not include any videos or extra materials. And it doesn’t pass the ‘laugh test’ for me.

    Also, the blu-ray discs have the capacity to hold multiple versions of the album (if not the entire uncompressed full quality discography of the artist). So why not, old transfer, flat transfer, new remaster, bonus tracks etc…

    The industry is fairly stingy when it suits them and does many incomprehensible things. Then they ‘forget’ a few tracks when releasing different versions. Never seems to be one definitive edition with all bonus tracks at any time.

    Or high quality analogue vinyl drawn from an inferior digital master, or mastered with a digital device used at the very last stage of the mastering or cutting that ruins the whole chain.

    So even with over 9000 discrete items in my collection, I’m running out of patience with the industry and a lot of the nonsense. And I’m the guy who’s buying a TON of special editions and box sets, singles collections etc… Throw in ‘download only exclusives’ and I’m really pissed. Why should the downloaders get more than me?

  43. It seems counter-intuitive to put the SDE material on streaming sites, but I’m curious how many sets like ‘The Ties That Bind’ are purchased for listening to as opposed to owning the artifact. I’m not sure I would buy, or listen to, the bonus material on these sets without the packaging. I have a feeling as long as they made SDE sets with things like replica notebooks in them, people will continue to buy SDE sets. Some that I own, the packaging is so nice I probably would’ve been tempted to buy if there was no bonus music at all.

  44. Chris Banner says:

    I think you guys bemoaning the advent of streaming services are missing the point a bit.

    As a true music lover (and by that I mean having spent years obsessively collecting physical product at premium prices -sometimes upwards of £16.99 for an import or non-chart album back in the 90s), I ditched this habit in favor of streaming a few years ago.

    I now pay 10 quid a month for a streaming service (in my case the excellent Google Play) and plug any holes with uploads from my own collection.

    The advantages of using a streaming service are almost too numerous to list…and I repeat this is coming from a once-obsessive collector of the physical product:

    *Convenience – I now carry pretty much every song ever recorded in my pocket, accessible at the touch of a button, at any time.

    *Price – I pay a set monthly fee which never changes. This is as opposed to multiple monthly purchases of tangible product at over £10 / unit…..the savings are a no-brainer.

    *Deluxe and reissues / remastered content is almost always available on streaming services, so you can be sure you’re pretty much always gettting the most recent mastering of any given tracks. Some of my olders CDs can’t boast this.

    *Playlists….and by this I mean playlists made by me, comprising my favorite music / artists. How many times have we listened to “Greatest HIts” CDs and hated some of the songs inlcuded. Now I make my own, pulling songs from across the entire artists catalog.

    *Long-term business model. Yes everyone is bemoaning artists’ royalites but think about it for a moment. With physical media, the artist got a royalty once, when the media was initially purchased. With streaming, the artist gets paid every time a track is streamed. If the streaming user base continues to expand at its current pace, this will ultaimtely result in handsome royalty payouts once again. Remember, the artist gets nothing on second hand physical media.

    *Sound quality. Much has been said about this so I’ll keep it short and succinct. I’ve tried Tidal, Spotify, CDs, the lot….and I really defy anyone to tell the difference – on a consistent basis – between high-quality (320kbps) MP3 or AAC and CD quality. It’s all placebo effect and a load of nonsense in practice.

    Sorry guys but I think the naysayers are all about the nostalgia of music and tangible product, and believe me, I get that. But c’mon – does it really get any better for a music lover to be able to access literally any track, any album, any time, anywhere, at the touch of a button…..?

    I for one would’ve given anything for this when I was younger! Music isn’t any more or less disposable than previously….it’s just accessible more conveniently. I’d actually say more people have more regular access to more music than ever before.


    • Paul says:

      Fantastically well put, better than my rambling incoherent post especially regarding the discernible quality aspect. I love the fact I get for £10 what I used to spend £100s a month for with the convenience of not having lost a room in the South East (quite extravagant) to store it all

    • Fady says:

      Great post Chris. In the words of a famous song, “I want it all, and I want it now”. So that means having the physical product and an mp3 that I can add to my own mixtape (playlist).

  45. Craig says:

    I haven’t read all the above so sorry if some/all is redundant.

    Paul mentions that eventually physical deluxe editions will stop. I’ll go that further and say deluxe editions will just stop period.

    Why bother? In today’s disposable/click bait/ESPN/Cable news scrolling world, the majority of people don’t even listen to whole albums. They listen to the hits and that’s it.

    So why would the record companies put the effort in to find the rarities, remixes, etc. for a small group of hardcore fans who might stream them a few times?

    It only makes sense to make these special deluxe editions as physical product only. You can stream the remasters of the the regular album if you want, but the “bonus goodies” should be physical product only. At least as long as their still is physical product.

    With e-books, at the end there are sometimes ads or promos for another book. I’m not sure how that would work with music, but if the Apple Music artist page is further developed, maybe that is the way to promote the deluxe versions. And if they are going to digitize them, you should have to pay to download them at same price of physical product.

    Otherwise, I am fearful of artists and labels continuing to put $$ in the deluxe versions.

  46. Tino Stabile says:

    I am in total agreement with you Paul. You are 200 % correct. I am a music aficionado and there is nothing that gives me more pleasure when it comes to my passion for music than to hold the physical product in my hands while listening and discovering a box set let`s say. I am enjoying the Tusk box set that came out last year as much as the Bruce Box. I still get the feeling I had when I first heard Hungry Heart back so long ago when that song comes on. It brings me back to my childhood.
    The sad thing about this is because of technology the way it is our children and their children will never experience that. It is a sad, sad, sad proposition. What is perplexing in all this is that a few weeks ago there was a report from Billboard stipulating that catalogue music (old classics) overtook new music releases for the first time in a long time. So that means that there is still a glimmer of hope. As well with the resurgence of vinyl there is some hope albeit small. If record labels continue to put reissue content free this will make the actual physical pointless to some extent. Physical content means added booklets, liner notes that you can hold in your hand. See if your mp3 downloads and the people at Apple can supply this added bonus for the consumer. The downloadable liner notes are not the same.

    So Paul, count me in your crusade to save the physical product.



  47. Kiki says:

    I can only applause to this!
    To me, Downloads suck…. they were only made for steve Job’s fortune, and destroying the music market at the same time.
    Physical formats are here for collecting.. but also for remembering ! Who will care that Olly murs released 5 or 10 or 15 singles from his latest LP if there is no trace nowhere? who will care about an acoustic session of any singer if it doesn’t get burn physically somewhere?

    I think that the music market have now changed : mp3s are for people who don’t like music, who don’t care about quality, but just want a noise – usually poor phone sound – but they want it right now. Physical formats are more dedicated for us who still care a bit about quality (and moan when a record is wrongly mixed!) and want something to hold on, to have a trace of what we buy, who want to see, touch and read at the same time…

    Now I used to hear that singles formats were never making money… So the major spent 50 years not making money ??? that’s totally wrong… but what’s true by now is that any major want to make the bigger margin and not spend a penny in manufacturing. That’s a big problem for the industry, and for music lovers.

  48. Paul Bakewell says:

    Some very good points of interest here. However I must point out there IS such a thing as free coffee. Just sort out a free Waitrose card et voila lol !

  49. Angelo says:

    Let’s not forget to mention these two reasons which are also responsible for the poor sales of physical copies and the thriving reality of streaming/downloading: greed on behalf of the record companies, their lack of vision and the appaling quality of their products.

    For example, I decided to start a vinyl collection last year because I do love its strong features: collectible, large atrwork; the richer, warmer sound; and the enviroment/concentration it demands, creating a very special mood. But the truth is, it’s been a nightmare. Not only paying 20-30 Pounds per album is ludicrous, chances are high of getting scratched, warped discs or bad pressings plagued with surface noise. It’s been THAT bad and really discouraging. Not to mention when all the bonus content – abundant on digital music – is nowhere to be heard on the LPs…

    Consumers are simply valuing their hard-earned money and wisely “playing safe” by purchasing/streaming digital music or sticking to plain, basic cds with no frills when it comes to packaging and artwork – if it means getting the cheapest price possible. As someone who loves collecting music, it hurts me to say they are right.

    As long as record companies keep living in delusion by wanting people to pay premium prices for terrible products and asking for even more when they rarely do a good job, it’s all downhill from here. In this scenario, downloading/streaming will continue to preavail since it’s way cheaper and hassle-free.

  50. Carlton says:

    Maybe it’s a sign of my age (41), but I don’t understand the appeal of “digital” media, whether it’s free or not. I do use Spotify on my work computer, mainly to save me the hassle of bringing CDs in to work, but primarily I wind up listening to things I already own on CD or checking out something I’ve been thinking about buying (leading to my current buying spree on the Blow Moneys). To me, digital is far too temporary. With streaming, you’re subject to the whims of the rights providers as to whether it will continue to be available on their service (witness the recent flack over Doctor Who moving from Netflix to Amazon Prime in the states). With downloads, unless you burn it to physical media (which defeats the supposed purpose of downloading), any of the central file sellers simply have to revoke the licensing for the file, and suddenly it doesn’t work anymore.

    Give me my days when a new album came out, someone sued over a lack of credit, and it went out of print and –bam–I had a collectors item. I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for single CDs (mostly Madonna, Saint Etienne, and some other fanclub centered rarities) that i could have easily pirated, but I want something to show for my money, and I want it in the best quality possible rather than some compressed POS from iTunes.

    The practice I would REALLY liked to see stopped is the “download exclusive.” Why are bonus tracks or sometimes entire albums going solely to digital outlets when there are also physical media consumers who would like to own them as well? But if something is download-only, on my radar it doesn’t even really exist. I wait and hope for a physical release, whether its through a box set or expanded edition. Or (and this one will likely piss off some of the record labels, but when they won’t serve my needs, it’s their loss) Russia puts out some nicely done bootlegs that contain this material, at reasonable prices, on factory-pressed CDs. In the end, I’m probably getting the same thing as if I kicked in my 99cents and burned it to a CD-R, except the disc is shiny and has cover art, but that’s how much I’m willing to go in for on m shiny disc and cover art.

  51. Kauwgompie says:

    The younger crowd won’t listen to SDE’s on streaming sites because they’re too young to know anything about the artists or music that have been re-issued. Besides, they are not buying anything physical anyway. So this argument only focuses on the older crowd, the forty somethings and above. The arguments outlined above are mostly 3 fold:

    1. If the older crowd listens to SDE’s on streaming sites, they won’t need to buy the physical product. This is only true IF the older crowd listens to streaming sites. Is there any validity in the argument that the older crowd doesn’t listen to streaming sites? I don’t cos I buy so many physical products that I have no need. You would need some stats to build this argument. How many of the SDE readers who buy physical products also listen to steaming sites?

    2. The older crowd listens to SDE’s on a streaming site and decide something is so good, they must buy the physical product. I believe this certainly happens but if I want to hear something I look it up on YouTube and always listen to it there. EVERYTHING is on YouTube. If a SDE comes out, chances are 100% of the bonus content was already on YouTube years ago. So I’m not convinced streaming sites much help the sales of physical SDE’s.

    3. If you don’t make the SDE’s available on streaming sites, people will download them illegally. Yes that sounds logical and may happen to a certain extend but are forty somethings really going out of their way to download stuff illegally and risk viruses and fines etc? And all of the stuff is already available to listen to on YouTube anyway so that’s not really an argument to download something illegally. I think if a forty something is going to download something illegally, they’re going to do it because they don’t want to pay for the product not so much because the content is not on a streaming site that most forty somethings probably don’t listen to anyway.

  52. Daniel Wylie says:

    Major labels sell their catalogues to streaming sites for big bucks. Very little of that money filters down the artists. Many artists who were signed to big labels and publishing companies, never recouped enough in sales to match their big advances, so the big labels see this as a way to recoup some of their lost outlay. Whether or not it ever gets offset against an artists debt, I couldn’t say. One of the main problems is the artists don’t own their own copyrights and can do nothing to stop the major labels exploiting their works. As an artist myself, I was given one great piece of advice by an ex manager. Always pay for your own recordings and license them out. I own all the rights to all my own music and have complete control on where my music can be used. I’ve licensed music to major labels (Sony/Epic) indie labels (Poptones / Measured / Sugarbush / Neon Tetra / You Are The Cosmos), TV shows etc, etc and all have time limits and non exclusivity and eventually come back to me. What I do need is for people to buy my music, either on CD, Vinyl or paid for Digital. I need this not because I want to be super rich but because I want to continue making music. It’s that simple. Any young bands reading this, pay for and own your own master recordings and license them out. If your music is good enough, even major labels will license from you.

  53. paul says:

    I would like to know just how much some of this stuff is actually listened to by people who purchase it. I’m now in the process of pretty much dismantling my collection built up over 30 years. Thousands of CD singles and CDs and records. Its all being ripped to my computer and sold while there is still a market for me to make some money back on it and believe me for a lot of it there is very little to be made.

    I just can no longer justify to myself spending the thousands of pounds a year on music that to a certain extent gets listened to for 1-2 months and then gets added to my ever growing pile of history. It’s pitentially even shorter with some of the SDEs. Yes it’s great seeing a wonderfully curated rerelease with all the b-sides 12″ mixes and single edits but Ive discovered it’s the original album I go back to time and time again not the bonus stuff.

    Now that you can stream most stuff I’m glad. It allows me to be very selective in what I will actually purchase and what I’m happy to stream and I’m finding that streaming is more than enough for 90% of whats released. Part of me would love to have bought Second Toughest in The Infants and James Laid/Wah Wah but having streamed it, it would have been a very expensive dust collecting box as I’m just never going to listen to it enough. I’ve made enough with what I’m selling to invest in new stereo for those Cds I’m retaining but to be honest these ears can’t distinguish a shocking difference between lossless and 320k to the extent it ruins my listening experience and I think that is the music industrys biggest problem. The vast majority can’t tell the difference between streaming and CDs. at least the movie industry could clearly show the difference between VHS and DVDs but have had a harder sell between DVD and Blu-ray.

  54. Stanley Patel says:

    You can’t beat the physical format

    You have something for your money . Cd & LP have the potential to sound amazing in your own home.

    Digital/Streaming can sound Ok but never as good as a well set up top flight turntable. If anyone thinks streaming can then by all means state the make , model & price of the equipment that can do it . Thanks.

  55. SimonP says:

    I’m a Spotify previewer, but will usually buy the physical product if the price isn’t too much of a pee take. If it is then I’ll go down that Digital Avenue annd buy it there. Case in point: I recently bought the Smashing Pumpkins Aeroplane Flies High Deluxe on Google Play for £8.99. There’s some dirge-y crap on there but, at 10p a track instead of £1.00, who cares!

    I do hope that there’ll always be physical product on the shelves, but the world has become somewhere that provides a same day delivery service for almost anything we buy now …

  56. Bob M says:

    Paul, you raise many good points, and obviously, you have, for the most part, a captive audience invested in this site. I have a number of nephews and a niece that haven’t purchased music in years ( and spiral that out to their friends and their friends). Probably the only physical product has been the new Adele, and perhaps that speaks volumes. I am pissed off that some of the new releases are not available physically, or, since I am not into vinyl, only coming out on vinyl! How strange is that, when you think about it! I have no plans to stop buying CDs, and the only time I don’t is when there is no chance of physical product. And in those cases, I actually BUY the music, download it in FLAC, convert it to AIFF, then burn it to a physical CD and print what cover art or booklet (rarely) is available. I have invested a lot of money in my stereo and I am not going to change what I have until there is no choice. And that, I think, is the real villain that is under the bed and in the closet at midnight.
    The labels purposely drove vinyl away, systematically and with gusto. The dollar signs of people having to switch formats and buy new gear were bright and constant for many years. I personally welcomed the change, though there was a lot of issues, at first, with the mastering and audio. But I was tired of having to bring back my vinyl, seemingly weekly, to try and get a copy that didn’t have warps, clicks, pops or whatever. I was tired of having that unremovable snap in the recording that almost became part of my memory of the track! So, after finally settling in with far better sound, remasters and remixes, the CD has been a joy in most cases for me.
    So now the labels are attempting to eradicate the CD, or so it seems, feeding us tidbits like these deluxe and special editions, knowing they have a captive market, just as the vinyl purists are a captive market. But they also know where the real volumes are – and will continue to move toward that goal of no physical product. The only thing that will prevent this from happening is the consumer. As many others in this comments section has stated, if the sales are up, then they have a reason to manufacture.
    And one other comment I’ll make – I love my music AND I love good audio. Everyone loves their music, but very few, on the scale of things, give a crap about good audio. We have returned to the times when having a little transistor radio on your beach blanket to keep up with the latest top 20 is good enough. And good enough is rarely good and never enough.

  57. Chris says:

    Whilst I tend to agree with the main point of your article – that streaming could potentially kill physical sales, I think there are many other considerations….

    You talk about streaming, but don’t mention about “paid for” digital downloads. Whilst I cannot deny that it’s nice to have the physical product and I’m guilty of purchasing many deluxe box sets over the past few months, I actually prefer digital.

    Aside from the fact that my entire music collection is digitised and streamed around the house, download is preferable for me for a few reasons…
    1. Space – with over three thousand albums, I’m running out of shelf space normal CDs, let alone the large of shaped boxes that deluxe versions come in.
    2. Availability – living in Singapore, it takes 1-2 weeks before any Amazon purchase reaches me. Digital downloads are immediate.
    3. Hi resolution – I like high resolution music and it’s often the case that this is only available on download – it continues to annoy me that certain “comprehensive” box sets don’t include the high res on the DVD – e,g. Fleetwood Mac / Tusk (as it turned out I bought both the box set and the hi Res download as the 5.1 was only available on the box set)
    4. Environment – whilst I would love to indulge in vinyl again, living in 80%+ humidity , it’s probably not a good idea.

    So I will continue to buy box sets in lossless / high Res, which as I’m paying a premium for, hopefully won’t impact the sales. I will also continue to buy physical box sets where the record companies force me to get exclusive content. The joys of being a completist music fan……

  58. Runicen says:

    A great number of good points both brought up in the article and in the comments here.

    For reference, I’m 32 and what you could probably call a “casual pirate.” I was in my teens when the initial Napster, file-sharing gold rush started (sounds like a “back in my day” talking about the Lars Ulrich debacle now), so I fully understand how amazing it was when it seemed like you could instantly pull up anything you wanted instead of either paying what seemed an absurd price for a new CD or being left in the cold if no CD was readily available.

    I spent a few lean years downloading gigabytes upon gigabytes of music and, you know what? Most of it never got listened to. Seriously. The stuff I really enjoyed I ultimately wanted a CD of after many repeated plays of my ill-gotten gains, but most of those ephemeral files, some of which have been on some hard drive or other for a decade or more… Never played and sinking into the background. More often than not, I’m deleting those old files that “I’ll get around to playing sometime” to make room for rips of the CDs I own!

    I bring this up because – while I still think file sharing is incredibly important to, say, keep available music that record labels stubbornly refuse to re-release for sale or release the rights to so someone else can do it for them – it’s proof positive to me that the ephemeral nature of downloads kind of prevents any meaningful connection with the music.

    As another commenter pointed out above, there seems to be a generational divide when it comes to music where I can look at people my age and a bit younger and still see that habitual attachment to music – even if it’s picking up the odd disc here and there. Go much younger than that and it’s like music exists in the sense of “muzak,” to just be audio wallpaper (maybe Eno did his job a little too well…). Whether this is taught or what, I couldn’t say, but it seems to be pervasive, which is definitely a downer because I know as a fact that there is a lot of joy to be had in collecting physical product.

    More than anything else, I’m alarmed both in the way that streaming services artificially deflate the worth of music (going with Paul’s coffee analogy, it’d be like Starbucks setting a booth out in front of their store and giving away the drinks for free) while repeatedly failing as a viable business model (i.e. they need vampiric infusions of fresh investment cash to keep afloat) but also in the way in which audio seems to be backsliding on a technical level.

    We’ve gone from vinyl and cassette to CD. Now, the analog/digital battle aside, CD at least represented some kind of improvement, even if only on a mathematical level – no longer bound by what a groove will take when it came to mixes and masters, less prone to damage, etc. Then, we went to MP3, which made a modicum of sense with storage still commanding high prices. At this point, with terabytes of storage space available for a pittance, it’s laughable. The hi-def physical formats were priced for an elite, upscale market and failed accordingly. When an industry that so easily convinced the world to move to CD, even at the silly asking prices they first commanded, fails so badly at rolling out a replacement format, something’s gone amiss in the captain’s chair.

    This is a bit all over the place, but I think it’s a combination of the labels honestly not having a clue and, to an extent, older fans not passing on the joy of the hobby and the listening to potential younger fans. Having seen both sides of the “download v. physical” debate, I stand by my observation that downloads are a poor replacement for(but maybe a decent augmentation to) physical product. It’s too easily forgotten and ignored and will always been superseded by a passing glance at a shelf followed by “Oh, I haven’t heard that a while. Time to give it a spin.”

    • Paul Edwards says:

      Some good points, i have been the same. I’d hear a song by an artist and go and torrent all their material. Often it was never listened to much and just sat there unused.
      IF its good I then explore more and go and buy the physical product because of the sound quality and the desire to hold the actual album in my hands. I did this recently with early Chicago – fell in love with the horns and after downloading illegally still went and bought their first 10 albums on CD

  59. Richard says:

    Since when did touching physical items or looking at artwork become integral to enjoying music, which is an audible pleasure? I listen to music on an iPod at work, on my car stereo when travelling, on my phone in the kitchen and when time allows I sit down and enjoy it through my AV and surround set-up.

    You see I listen to music wherever and whenever possible and in none of the above situations is the music that is playing lacking something due to me not holding the cardboard/plastic container it can be conveyed in. The lyrics and notes are always in the same order and the audio experience remains the same. I enjoy music. I am either already very familiar with the artwork or I can see it online whenever I wish to.

    I don’t think Atom Heart Mother sounds better when I am staring at a big picture of cows on a gatefold sleeve or that St Pepper’s offers any extra audible gratification after getting out the inserts that come inside certain editions. The Bob Dylan Mono box sounds great wherever I am playing it and holding the mini replicas from the CD box doesn’t change that.

    I enjoy streaming to preview music. Anything I buy on CD goes straight onto my hard drive in lossless and then is streamed through my AV receiver. I buy 5.1 discs to enjoy surround sound.

    Music can be obtained and played in numerous ways and in varying quality but good music is good music and I don’t consider owning packaging relevant to enjoying it.

    I don’t agree at all that expanded editions of albums should only be available initially to people who like touching and looking at music. That seems to be a separate fetish to actually listening to it. People who want to hear music should and will be offered it all in the varying ways modern technology allows. It is extremely selfish to want to stop other people enjoying music just because you want to hold packaging.

    The packaging is just part of the marketing machinery anyway. I have lost count of the comments on this board over the years where people have said they have been swayed into buying an overpriced product because of attractive packaging.

    • HS says:

      There is already a lot of music out there available only to those who stream or buy digital. I see no reason why the same can’t apply for those who buy physical formats. And there is a big difference to listening to a lossless rip from a CD or a stream from, say, Spotify.

  60. James says:

    I have never streamed. I have never downloaded. The only way I have ever consumed music is by buying the physical product. And I will continue to do so. And I will always gladly pay a premium for good quality physical product. I do not have iTunes so I waited for the last U2 CD to go on sale to listen to it. I don’t stream but I love Prince and I waited for his last two albums to make their physical CD release before I listened to them for the first time. There will always be people like me, like us, who want the physical product. I hope that record companies and especially the artists always remember this. And if they want to go to the exclusive release model where only a certain number are produced and cost more, that is fine with me. BUT….make sure that the real fans are the ones who have a chance to get these and not the eBay hounds who snatch these things up and then sell them for a premium to people who could not buy it direct form the artists because of the opportunists. That has always been my complaint regarding RSD exclusives. Sometimes, the people making the money on RSD are not the artists or the independent record stores, but the profiteers. However, warts and all I will always take physical product over any other method.

  61. DaveM says:

    I am not quite as pessimistic, as I think although sales are in decline they are still buoyant enough to keep the physical product around for a good deal longer. The Spotify release delay angle on the Phil Collins is interesting (and may work in a limited way), but realistically how many ‘casual’ listeners would have bought the product anyway? I think these reissues are aimed at obsessives like us. Another point is that when I buy SDEs / re-issues it is 90% about the improvement in sound quality, and again a casual or younger potential purchaser will probably not be listening to / bothered about HIFI quality (like an old dinosaur like me) as most devices have an acceptable sound anyway and most modern music is compressed to suite and that is what they are used to.

  62. Le Baron says:

    One more thing, more and more proved to be true by the number of Deal Alerts you’ve recently posted: What’s the point in preordering an expensive box set (or buying it on the day of its release) as it’s pretty obvious it will be made available at a very lower price at one point in the (sometimes very near) future?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      What’s the point in buying a new car when they depreciate so much? Not everything is logical. Buying an exciting box set by a favourite artist is more than just pounds and pence, it’s an emotional experience. Most people aren’t going to think “I’ll wait a year I can probably save £25”

  63. DG says:

    If you pay for a streaming service then you should be entitled to access whatever’s available, deluxe or not. Its the record companies who can never ever get the model right. Personally, I prefer CD as my format of choice and that’s simply down to sound quality (when CD replaced crackly scratched vinyl, it was a revelation in my view). My beef is when I HAVE to either buy vinyl or digital for a release – Massive Attack take note.

  64. Gary C says:

    Think the record companies and the artists can’t really say no to the revenue that Spotify brings in. I’m more than happy to part with a tenner a month to carry music around the world, whilst so many box sets gather dust at home…probably a familiar story around these parts.
    Not everything goes up on Spotify anyway, so there’s still room for iTunes and others.

  65. Tony May says:

    It feels so good to read your words Paul. Music is (and always has been) the b all and end all of the universe to me (aside from Family and Friends, of course) and it has been horrible seeing how music, not just the physical format, has slid down the rankings of importance as the generations turn. Sadly, with the birth of the mp3, I don’t see a long term future for music at all now – as far as something that will be viable to sell to anyone goes. As you point out in your piece, your friends 18 year old son does not see music as something there is any need to pay for. That is not going to change and as the generations like ours die off no matter of ‘Deluxe’ edition, Box-Set or anything is going to change their minds.

    Why am I so pessimistic?

    Well, because when I grew up (in the 70’s and 80’s) music was something of great importance to virtually ALL teenagers. What you played, who you listened to was part of expressing your personality- making your mark on the world? Kids today have not been brought up to think like that and as society often learns to its detriment years later, how we are brought up to think and behave is something once ingrained in us is almost impossible to change. Music used to be on the television regularly, the pop charts ( which have now completely lost credibility and hold no interest because of that) were a constant subject of conversations in school breaks and bands/artists all had a definable image that was marketable (where today a lot of popular acts you would not recognise if you were standing next to them!). While ultimately it is the music that drives people to buy a physical product to ‘hook’ people long term you need to get them to ‘buy in’ to a brand or an image that they can identify. Nothing like that is happening nowadays – all acts seem to be trying to sell is either sex or ‘attitude’…

    I tell you all this because I think the record companies see little choice in whether they should allow ‘Deluxe’ editions to go on ‘Spotify’ as soon as they are released. They probably know that by doing so they are wiping out their chances of increasing sales but equally they know if they don’t that it only takes one person to buy a physical copy and file share it and all is lost anyway, at least with items on ‘Spotify’ they may reach the ears of one of our generation who is then likely to purchase the physical product…

    It’s all very depressing, I’m afraid.

    • Chris Squires says:

      You make great point. I remember in detail the Tuesday lunch hour at school when the charts would be revealed at 12.45 to 1pm from number 5 to number 2, then the countdown from 40 to finally play the number 1 record. It mattered whether Ultravox had been held off the number 1 slot for another week or Duran Duran had hit the top. Whatever Gary Davies read out mattered to almost everyone in the school. It couldn’t matter less now who is number 1 or how many downloads a record has. The idea that a group had made it because they had a top 5 record doesn’t matter anymore. I can recall artists who had a 1983 single hit the Top 40 but I just don’t think my kids will remember anyone current for their music, only their social media profile. Tweeting seems far more important than making decent music. God, I am old. Who are the equivalents of China Crisis, Altered Images, Landscape, The Skids and Trio in the modern world? That is my lament.

  66. Patrick Gleeson says:

    I agree 100% with you Paul, but it’s not up to us – or at least it won’t be up to us. Our generation had a need for music that just isn’t there anymore. My two kids (19 and 14 years old) have a completely different association with music than I have.
    They see music as a peripheral thing, much like TV: a service to be used, enjoyed briefly but ultimately discarded. The music industry are caught between two stools trying to pander to both markets – missing the point completely.
    Big retailers who stock mostly big sellers and chart hits forget kids stream / download these anyway. If they sold more deep catalogue and SD Editions, they might pander better to the people who bother to browse their racks – anyone see a tween / twentysomething anywhere near a record store recently ?

  67. ken says:

    This morning I was going to listen to one of the latest Phil Collins reissues on Spotify but decided that I should hold off. I would rather pick up the physical product at the store pull off the plastic and pop it into the player. I was disappointed in the last two but I never owned a Phil Collins CD. I do have the original vinyl right up to Serious Hits Live.

    I resisted CDs until the record companies decided that vinyl costs too much and forced obsoleted it to increase their profits. I got into CDs when all the extra tracks started to get added and cars came with a CD player.

    A lot of the magic of music has disappeared over the last 20 years. The Physical box sets and deluxe editions are reviving that for me so I agree with your thoughts 100%. Only I think don’t put any additional content on those sites only the original released product.

  68. Chris Squires says:

    One other issue that record companies will have to face (it’s almost as if they are trying to commit suicide) is that by going down the streaming route they not only create a generation who don’t want to pay for music but also a generation who don’t have the ability to concentrate for more than 30 seconds on a playlist. I have two teenage daughters and have never heard them listen to more than one track by an artist at a time let alone an album. I have two lovely turntable set-ups in the house that my kids couldn’t give a toss about as they stream to their tinny phone speakers. No ability to concentrate and no love of an artist or their output. Once us 40 / 50 something shuffle off there will be nobody left who is “Into” anything as their attention is stretched too thin by messages and incoming social media nonsense. There will be some who buck the trend, my daughter’s 16 year old boyfriend bought “Dark side..” and “Hunky Dory” on Vinyl at the weekend and has just wandered off with my copy of “Record Collector – 2014” but not enough to sustain against the tide of indifference and inability to think. I would move all box sets away from spotify. yes, let them have the standard No Parlez or Songs from the Big Chair for example but why would someone who only wants a casual listen for 15 minutes need the demo of iron out the rough spots or I Believe – the standard album will do.
    My last point is this – if we are looking for the guilty as to why music is in poor shape, don’t necessarily look at the stupidity / avarice of the general consumer look at the companies themselves who have been awful at handling this modern phenomena and SDEs on spotify are just one example of this..

  69. Bruce says:

    I disagree strongly, Paul. If anything, streaming has allowed me to listen to deluxe sets that I wasn’t sure I wanted to purchase, and I then decided to buy the physical product.

    The Bruce Springsteen River box and the recent Phil Collins reissues are both examples of this. I’m not a huge Bruce fan, but I was very impressed with the material I heard via streaming and purchased the CD/blu ray box set. I was very disappointed with the bonus track selections for the Collins reissues, but the live performances are excellent and I bought the CDs after having the chance to listen to them via streaming.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That is the counter-argument. People ‘test’ products via streaming and then perhaps buy them. That is the theory. I suspect lots of people listen to deluxe reissues on Spotify and either a) decide it’s not very good or b) like it and ‘plan’ to buy it physically, but just find themselves listening to the stream, so ultimately don’t bother. Both of those result in no physical purchase.

      My main point is that doing this is eroding physical sales. If I am Mr Record Company executive, I would want to slow down the erosion as much as possible, since physical is more profitable.

  70. EW99 says:

    I have to admit my shelves and loft are stuffed so I’m all about the digital these days unless it’s something I “need” to own physically. For example I bought both the Underworld box sets but not Tusk, I’ve pre-ordered the new Pet Shop Boys album on CD but not the new Santigold.

    I’m happy that I’m able to listen to things I’m interested in – like the Tusk SDE – on Google Play as I would never have bought them anyway.

    Maybe that’s where the record companies are coming from; maybe they believe that most people won’t bother to buy something just because it isn’t available on streaming sites and the pittance they get for a Spotify stream is better than the big fat zero they would get otherwise. I guess you may be right in that a small number of sales might be stimulated if there was a time delay between the physical and streaming releases, I can only speak for myself in saying that it wouldn’t make any difference to me.

  71. LB says:

    I am 37 – not quite the forty-something BMW driver record companies are supposedly targeting with their deluxe edition reissues – and to be honest I have always been rather averse to downloading and streaming music: the most I’ll do is perhaps download the odd hit single from Amazon – but never an entire album or boxed set without purchasing the physical copy first (yes, I know, Amazon usually provide a free mp3 version of the album you’ve bought as well – which I never actually listen to). Generally, the music of the 1960s and ’70s has always been my passion (I’ll listen to virtually anything from ABBA to Zappa) and so for me the physical as well as the aural nature of music is very important to preserve. Universal’s “Deluxe Editions” have generally been superb (although since they got rid of the clear plastic sleeves I think their overall quality has suffered somewhat), while The Beatles stereo and mono boxed sets have been two of my most satisfying purchases ever. On a less elaborate note, the reissues of Jimi Hendrix’s posthumous CRY OF LOVE and the UK version of Fleetwood Mac’s THEN PLAY ON have been equally noteworthy – they may come in no frills jewel cases but their reproduced cover artwork and booklets are smart and the fact that I still have something to hold and look at is infinitely better than having the content stuck on my computer, intangible and out of reach somehow.

    I agree with HS – maybe record companies should not allow their boxed sets to be streamed AT ALL. Even if people find the multi-disc “super deluxe editions” of classic albums prohibitively expensive, more often than not a two-disc deluxe edition is also made available simultaneously (as with The Allman Brothers’ recent IDLEWILD SOUTH reissue) which is cheaper, easier to shelve and store and, for me at least, just as satisfying a purchase. Albums were made as a whole package of music and cover artwork, and it is therefore imperative that people continue to buy music on the physical formats of vinyl or compact disc if they wish. When it comes to more contemporary artists, it was nice to see Britpop survivors Suede making something of a stand with their new album, NIGHT THOUGHTS, where you are virtually compelled to buy the album physically because of its companion film on an accompanying DVD – unfortunately, though, it can all probably be streamed as well…

    Like other contributors here, I will continue to buy CDs and vinyl as the “physical format” was what I was brought up with, and whoever it was that had the bright idea to cheapen music and make it disposable by compressing it into an intangible digital file for storage on a computer or Smartphone to be deleted at the touch of a button has frankly done the art of music a great injustice. It has fed the something-for-nothing culture among the so-called hard-up young who ironically won’t think twice about shelling out hundreds of pounds to go to a rain-sodden Glastonbury as though it was some kind of rite-of-passage and yet baulk at paying a mere ten or fifteen quid for a compact disc. As Jack Regan once said in THE SWEENEY (which incidentally I bought on DVD years ago rather than through some streaming service): “It’s all wrong, my son!”

  72. Paul says:

    Paul, I have a strong suspicion that if the record labels were to adopt the model you’re suggesting, then it takes us backwards, not forward.

    If a box-set were to be made available containing unique bonus content (tracks unavailable elsewhere) – but the price was prohibitive (I’m thinking here primarily of releases such as Kasabian’s “Velociraptor!”, for which they charged the rather staggering price of £180 for something which was possibly worth a quarter of that), then people would certainly think twice before purchasing it.

    If we assume also that the label does not make the unique bonus content available for free via streaming services then many of the fans who want to hear it but don’t want to pay the inflated prices would simply download it via illegal websites.

    The argument might then be in favour of making the material available on streaming services on Day #1, and making other material content available in the box-set which couldn’t easily be posted online (books, t-shirts, posters, souvenirs etc). If delivered at a “reasonable” price, then I’m quite sure many fans would be interested.

    People then have a choice – take the poor-quality streaming option (Spotify Free uses 160 kbps, Spotify Premium is 320 kbps) or purchase the box-set. It should be noted that Spotify suggest that 320 kbps is “High Quality”. Just for clarification, CD is 1,411 kbps as a comparison meaning that a technology which is now 30 years old is 4 times greater quality than Spotify’s highest available quality – and 8 times that of their free offering. Spotify has no lossless offering, such as FLAC or WAV.

    It must also be said that many people don’t seem to care what sort of quality they get from their streaming service. It’s not until friends have come to my house and heard my system that they suddenly realise what it is that they’re missing – mind you, listening to heavily compressed 160 kbps tracks via a bluetooth speaker (which further clips the output) isn’t in the spirit of hi-fi.

    Anyway, I digress…

    The record labels have to find a medium which appeals to both camps – the youths to which you refer who don’t purchase any physical media at all – and also the rest of us who consume as much physical media as possible.

    I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that the majority of laptops (and all tablets & phones) now have no optical drive. I think that this distinction is important – for why would a kid buy a CD if they have no means of playing it (other than via their parents’ hi-fi, should one exist) ?

    Put it this way – if you’ve grown up without access to a CD player, turntable or otherwise – and the only way you know how to listen to music is via downloads & streaming, then why would you consider “going back in time” to buy an optical drive?

    TV is definitely moving in the same direction – I don’t know how many of you have seen Sky’s new “Q” offering which allows you to “watch recordings around your home; Pause in one room, and carry on in another; Sync recordings to your tablet to watch wherever you go; Sky Broadband turns Sky Q boxes into Wi-Fi hotspots”. The price for this? I’m guessing here but somewhere between £50/month to £70/month.

    Doesn’t Netflix already offer most of this for £6/month?? These companies are living in the past if they feel that they can charge these kind of prices.

    I personally feel that the way forward is threefold –

    1. Physical media for people who simply prefer something in their hand (likely CD because the public rejected Super-Audio CD and DVD Audio and will probably reject Blu-Ray Audio too)
    2. Poor quality lossy formats (MP3) available for free via streaming sites
    3. High quality (CD quality minimum – 16-bit 44.1 kHz, 1411 kbps) downloads / streaming available from paid-for sites

    But wait a minute – isn’t this what is already available?? The main problem seems to be that the big players such as Apple are still peddling poor quality downloads. Whether TIDAL, DEEZER and whoever else will break out is unknown. We know that manufacturers are finally getting behind hi-res music with a number of players now available (though prices are still too high – kids simply won’t pay £500 for a portable HD Audio player), but prices of downloads need to reduce and subscriptions need to fall also (£20/month is too much – if Netflix can make thousands of TV Box-Sets available for £6/month then surely HD Audio sites can make their subscriptions for premium product available for less than £10/month).

    At the end of the day, I don’t know whether record labels even know what to do. Their age-old philosophy seems to be “Let’s throw loads of s**t at the wall and see what sticks”. They’ll be continuing to play that game after everybody’s walked away.

    • Joseph says:

      Best post of the thread!! (so far, didn’t nearly make it all the way down). But to narrow back in on Paul’s original point of staggering SDE “bonus” content to not be immediately available, labels essentially appear to be betting that the immediate streaming of such special or previously unissued content on release date gains more in sales than it loses. And I think that should actually be taken as a sort of back-handed compliment because it means….us dinosaurs aren’t the only ones buying SDE’s anymore!! I’m guessing labels have decided the immediate streaming is a necessity to help pull in the young’uns. Because they will (without reservation) go find it for free if the label does not stream/tease. And most of them will NOT buy. If the content can be heard direct from the label, at least there’s some relationship at work and a chance for legitimate interest in purchasing the physical product (or leveraging other ad-based revenue streams) while the kiddies browse for their streaming content. I am far from understanding any of that in detail, but I can’t imagine the labels streaming all the SDE content if it was really hurting bottom line. Also, a lot of SDE’s are capped production runs anyways – so when they sell out, they sell out. Nothing is lost. It is an illusion that labels have something to gain by maximizing how many physical copies of box sets they can sell through a wait & see approach – that is not the objective these days. Virtually all box sets have preset life expectancies far in advance of their actual production & release, and I think a lot of us know that. If the streaming doesn’t directly benefit the sales of a particular box set, it keeps the young consumer engaged for potential future business so they are not running off into the file-sharing nightmare (for labels) of 10-20 years ago. With respect to those who have naturally grown to pursue their music online, anyways. It’s not as the labels can just shut off the interweb and return everything to “normal”.

      Getting off-topic, but if I had to accept no internet to eliminate online music (and that would be the only way), then I choose internet 6 billion times in a row without blinking.

      It’s easy to believe we’re the only ones posting here – us nolstalgic Gen X’ers and the predecessors who are even more educated in physical media. And it’s easy to assume younger folk couldn’t possibly have interest in SDE’s – not of OUR favorite artists (because of course they’re ours, we own them or something). Truth is, we’re just getting old and young people stream and labels have used it successfully to introduce OUR artists to them, and streaming has become an absolutely vital primary strategic marketing tool with economic advantages short & long-term which us old-timers have absolutely no motivation to know anything about. Too bad it’s not about us anymore…

  73. edward says:

    I can see kind of see it both ways, I will happily fork out for a deluxe edition for my favourite artists but I also now fall into the category of being a streamer and Im certainly not complaining if super deluxe content finds its way onto spotify.
    I was actually considering the underworld super deluxe but didnt as it was on spotify and to be honest I was glad it was as I think I may have been a bit dissapointed if I had forked out all that money, as I think im more of a causual fan but I still have found some of the content great but have not had to fork out loads for a lot of stuff I dont actually want.
    In the end I will always happily purchase a physical product if I really want it regardless of it being available to stream and I think that probably counts for a lot of people, I guess the people that want it will always buy it regardless and in that sense I cant see the harm in putting the same content on streaming sites. the 2 can coexsist together.

  74. IainM says:

    Something subscribers to streaming services also have to think about is the fact that content can always be withdrawn at any point in time, so what was available last week may not be there for months/years at a time. It would be easy to see some sort of contract dispute that led to say a large label withdrawing its catalogue for a time, then when its reinstated only the latest releases go on straight away and the back catalogue is left in limbo for a time.

    • Paul Edwards says:

      This is the reason i won’t be going down the solely streaming route ever – look at an idiot like Prince. Depending on what day of the week it is he changes his mind over what he wants out there. I like to “own” the songs i pay for so, even if nobody else, in 20 years i can still play that obscure B side i bought!

      Not downloading at all does lead to missing out though – the Springsteen gig downloads are fantastic for example

  75. daveid says:

    I completely agree with this article. I recently purchased Bowie’s last 2 albums on vinyl with free download and got a hell of a lot more out of the experience. A physical release creates a tactile experience that cannot be replaced. It is something that can be shared physically, traded physically and is a connection to something real. You appreciate the cost of manufacture and the price of enjoying the experience.

  76. Tarquin says:

    Interesting points. I guess there are two questions here:

    1. Why are reccos not actually holding anything back from digital to create SCARCITY? Logic suggests that this stupidity is a requirement from Spotify. Reccos agree that they will make all releases available on Spotify but haven’t thought to negotiate to exclude those which are special editions or premium purchases. Note that in the move to cassette and CD in the 80s, the reccos got this right and added bonus material as “bait”. It’s cheaper to sell CDs and Cassettes, let’s push the format and grow our bottom line.

    This difference makes me wonder if reccos really want to do SDEs. If they did they’d hold all the bonus material back from streaming. Material on SDEs should be exclusive. This is gross mismanagement of company assets. The value of a SDE is reduced if you can get it anywhere. You can only exploit your back catalogue so many times (cf. ZTT) until it becomes worthless. This leads me to the second question,

    2. Whether the reccos *really* want to continue producing physical stock with all the risk involved? Cost for uploading to iTunes, Spotify etc. is about zero compared with the cost of making a product and the related cost risk of low sales, storage etc. Physical is nice but – sadly – I can’t see a future for any format. SACD and HiDef should have been a panacea but the reccos really messed that one up, big time. I think there’s probably a great book waiting to be written about how the music industry really lost the plot in the shift from CD to MP3.

    In any case, I think the real issue here is actually VALUE. I too used to spend a lot of money on physical because often if you didn’t get them, you never saw them again. I still regret not picking up the “Soundtrack to a Generation” CD Single! However, there’s no scarcity now in recorded music. Most record companies like ZTT emptied their cupboards of all the scraps and offcuts and no-one cares anymore; everyone now has that ultra rare Greek remix of Relax that only a few people had a on 12″. There’s no incentive to search for it. You can get Adele on CD for 50p on eBay but live tickets are going for 20K plus. Why? Scarcity. Reccos have devalued music by their policies since the launch of the CD – free CDs on newspapers, anyone? – that they’re now not managing SDEs should be a surprise to no-one. The frequent complaints that SDEs are too expensive shows that 1. They’re actually not very good and 2. They’re neither deluxe nor exclusive.

  77. Ollie Carlisle says:

    I tend to use Spotify as a means of exploring something with a view to buying it. I realise I am probably in the minority in this but, for me, the ‘stream before you buy’ approach means it acts as a form of advertising for the physical product (with a bit more depth than the 30 second clips on Amazon).

    I can see the logic of an embargo period but I wonder whether this would just increase the likelihood of illegal copies being made available on the more underhand downloading sites. I suspect this is why record companies allow stuff to go straight onto Spotify as at least they get a few pence per million listens, or whatever generous fee it is!

    • Brendan says:

      That’s exactly why I use Spotify (or any other streaming). I think of it like a public library. I can try it out first (listen) and then decide if it’s one that I want to buy – which is preferably a physical copy.

  78. Chris Hanlon says:

    Nonsense. I purchase the deluxe version of boxed sets for the superior audio quality on disc and to enjoy the physicality of the product. I also have an Apple Music subscription so that I don’t need to be importing cd and bluray audio. I had to problem paying $135 CDN for The Ties That Bind….

  79. Straker says:

    This sort of thinking was some of the reasoning behind putting extras on DVDs. In the early days it was to wean people away from plain vanilla VHS releases and onto the (then) new format and some of that same mindset persists to this day which is why you get blu-ray exclusives and even some distributors still making an effort (fewer and fewer sadly) for plain old DVD.

    Folks may choose to stream those movies or TV shows or get them via subscription services but for the most part they’re not getting the bonus content found on physical discs so a similar model to what you suggest is already in the marketplace for visual media. It’s surprising that many of those same companies don’t apply that same thinking when it comes to audio – Perhaps they too have been conditioned after so many years to see it as something that has to be essentially given away in order to find an audience which is somewhat ironic after @20 years of high-street price-gouging on CDs.

    If you regularly don’t pay for something, ultimately you don’t value it in the same way. The current generation sees music (and TV and movies) as something they have a right to, free of charge.

  80. Rob Wilcock says:

    The record companies must be happy to allow their product to be streamed? Adele’s last album is probably the exception.

    I like to buy from the only High Street record shop we have, but you cannot buy most if not all single releasses.

    No wonder tickets for concerts are so high, it’s the only way for artists to make some real money.

  81. HS says:

    I agree 100% – except I would maybe take it even further and not have these super deluxe editions available for streaming, period! There are many songs and albums that are only available to buy digitally or to stream. There should also be physical only exclusives, especially by artists that come from the physical era (Madonna, Pet Shop Boys etc) and I think that lavish box sets should certainly remain physical-only. When it comes to those kind of releases, the packaging, liner notes etc are an important part of the package. Making the audio content available for streaming just cheapens everything down. But there seems to be the general thinking that EVRYTHING should be available to EVERYONE in an instant – without having to really pay for it.

    For me, if something is not available on a physical format, I do without it. I never stream and I have never bought a digital file in my life. Yet I buy around 50 CD’s a month and quite a lot of vinyl. If something is available on a physical format but can’t be streamed, people will have the same choice: buy the physical or just do without (or steal, if you have no morals). There have been some “releases” (digital only) that I would have bought in a second on CD – but until that happens, I refuse to be “forced” to buy it on a “format” that has no appeal to me. I vote with my wallet in hopes that the companies figure out that they can’t make everyone out there go down the road of digital releases. For example, there have been some old Motown albums by Diana Ross/The Supremes that have been made available recently, but only digitally. A lot of fans have been furious and boycotting these. Now there are talks about putting more focus again on physical releases, perhaps because the fans voted with their wallets and their voices. But I’m getting a little off track here – thanks for bringing the streaming issue up Paul. And once again, thanks for the excellent site.

    • Straker says:

      “For me, if something is not available on a physical format, I do without it. I never stream and I have never bought a digital file in my life.”

      You and me are kindred spirits. Dinosaurs, but kindred spirits nonetheless…

      • HS says:

        Hehehe – dinosaurs? Well, to me it has much to do with respect of the music and the product. The sound quality, the packaging etc. And also because I love to collect music and to take out a CD or vinyl and play it from start to finish, as it was released.

        Music has been released on physical formats for decades. There is nothing that says that should be stopped, just because other venues are also available today. There are loads of people out there that prefer physicals (and as in our case do not buy anything else). I feel that a lot of younger kids have little respect for music – they like it but view it as somewhat disposable. It’s just an MP3 – and if a song or two on an album doesn’t grip them in the first 10 seconds, it’s just deleted. I love hearing about people that buy music on physical formats for their kids. I really think that it makes them have more respect for the music.

      • Paul Goddard says:

        I have never purchased a download in my life either. Two reasons, I love the physical item and because I have a good hi fi have no need for a lousy MP3

  82. patjoller says:

    so true….. and that is why I’m trying to teach my kids how to put a needle on a vinyl and enjoy what’s coming out of the speakers. Purchased them a portable turntable and lots of old 45rpm.
    It’s so sad, as you said, that kids nowadays can’t see the best of both worlds, it’s great to have your entire music accessible but nothing compares to the feeling of holding the product and looking for what’s in the booklet, who done what, what the hell he’s singing, where it was recorded etc… And the great feeling of buying a single not only because you like the song but because there are songs on this that you never heard… Do kids know what we’re talking about when we say “B-Side”?
    I don’t know if there’s a real regain of vinyl sales or if it’s just a last attempt from labels to sell again old products to milk again their catalog, not to mention the missed point of RSD, something that’s more of a major label thing now and a great way to re-sell limited editions to insane prices. Anyway, I hope my kids will see the point in listening to an album or a single rather than just bits of songs on a streaming site.

  83. fettdog says:

    A great article. As a forty-something I love physically holding these deluxe releases in my hands, perhaps mentally harking back to my teenage years when that was the only option. :-)

    As an example of this, I bought and have many times enjoyed getting out and displaying the amazing contents of Frankie’s Pleasuredome box set. I haven’t even downloaded the digital versions yet and may never get around to it), preferring to enjoy the physical product itself.

    Now I’m not a Luddite, and in fact own two MP3 players full of music that I carry around with me, but there’s something very special about unboxing and enjoying the work and lvoe that goes into many of these deluxe editions and so I wholeheartedly agree with there being a window, at least 6 months, between the physical release and the digital release.

    Wise words, as always, Paul!

  84. Neil says:

    Not much use now but i’m pretty sure that Underworld was only £26 to preorder from HMV before it’s release which is the price it should be instead of asking people to shell out £50 + plus for it.

  85. David Robinson says:


    I am also bewildered by this. I grew up with late 80’s early 90’s releases so yes, I had the 12 inch, then CD1/2 and although I didn’t get all I wanted, I could concentrate on the certain artists to keep the collection growing.

    Now I don’t buy any ‘new’ music, unless its by certain artists that I used to collect before. But whereas before I’d buy the singles with extra tracks, I’m reluctant to buy 3 or 4 versions of the same album with different tracks. (Elton Johns The Diving Board as a case in point)

    I joined spotify earlier this month solely to hear 2 bonus tracks from the new Elton album, and was surprised to see so many deluxe issues on there.

    Simple Minds ‘Once Upon A Time’ is another one, I couldn’t afford the deluxe when it came out, so I’ve been been unable to hear it. Now I have.

    I understand the view of sales bleeding away to people like me who probably won’t now buy the Simple Minds album, but I can see both points of view. Older albums reissued could be put on for a limited time maybe, so people can hear and decide on ‘new bonus demos’s’ and new albums with multiple different releases could be put on normally.

    I am at the point where blindly spending lots of money on music is not an option, but i’ll spend if I like the content.

  86. Peter Muscutt says:

    You have a valid point there Paul; from a slightly different perspective it is galling to spend sometimes up to £100 on a ‘deluxe’ boxset only to find all the audio content on streaming sites, or hearing people say “oh yeah, I downloaded that for free” … like you and many others I appreciate the deluxe reissues, and feel they are something special (when we’re not being taken for a ride by cheaply assembled/rush-job/cash-in anniversary releases and the like) and should be appreciated and cherished (case in point: the vinyl box-set of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds I recently picked up for £40 complete the original album, 12″ remix single, huge poster and copy of the novel…). It kind of makes you wonder what the point of buying the physical deluxe releases is when people are just going to stream/pirate them for free. I can see the point of them doing this – for some, £100 is a prohibitive price point.

    I was enthused to hear about the Underworld ‘Second Toughest in the Infants’ 4-disc deluxe set, but feel the price is too high at present, so in a way I was happy to ‘preview’ the content on Spotify etc. but will definitely be purchasing it when it becomes more affordable in it’s boxset/artwork/CD form.

    I guess the main thing is to keep purchasing the physical releases and show there is a market for them with collectors/completists and that digital is not the future for everyone!

    Pete Muscutt

    • Pete, as SDE tweeted over the weekend you can get Underworld’s Second Toughest in the Infants’ 4-disc deluxe set on offer now for just £34.99 https://greatofferstore.com/*/Boxset-Offers/Second-Toughest-In-The-Infants-Super-Deluxe/4VMX065C000 – a bargain I picked up myself (thanks Paul).

      Paul, I agree with your streaming points but the window needs to be bigger – 3-6 months is not long enough – peple will just go “I’ll wait” but if you made it 1 or 2 years then people would be even more inclined to buy. Also by the time it’s available for streaming the purchase price may have come down meaning people might just buy anyway rather than stream.

      • Pete Muscutt says:

        Thanks Graham – I’m not on Twitter myself but many thanks for the heads up; I will look to invest in this one!!

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