Monday, September 17, 2007

Romeo was restless / he was ready to kill

I have to be honest, I was tempted by the recent Universal reissue of one of the albums that made the biggest splashes in my life. My first exposure to Elvis Costello was in early 1977 when I acquired, somehow, via my friend Brad I think, a copy of an early Stiff compilation with Less Than Zero on it. I was so taken with the song, I, accompanied by various Suburban Reptiles wrangled my way into the then still vaguely alternative Radio Hauraki on a Sunday evening and got the counter culture hero, Barry Jenkins, to play it on his show.

bunchofstiffs I bought the original EMI NZ vinyl issue of My Aim Is True on the day of release, and have religiously acquired every Costello album, and pretty much every 7” and CD single since. Oh, and I’ve re-bought My Aim Is True on CD three times, the last two with a bonus disc of unreleased bits and pieces.

So, ever the trainspotter, I was keen to at least look at the, ahhh, 4th remastered reissue of the album (I can never work out why all these earlier mastering engineers allegedly got it so wrong that it needs continual remastering) not least for the added album of early live materiel that Elvis and I talked about back in 1998.

Yep, I was keen but I have to honest my desire to purchase this re-re-re-reissue evaporated rather quickly when I clicked over to Amazon and saw the item in question. Was it everything I wanted? Yes…..but not for that price. A thirty year old album that has been reissued over and over again, even with a bonus disc of much sought after live materiel should not be listed at close to US$30. And the comments below it seem to confirm that others agree (including one from me!).

It’s a greedy rip off, but worse was to be found.

I was, yesterday, wandering around Amazon’s UK site when I came across the new limited edition vinyl boxed re-issue of the original Joy Division albums, released I guess because the Ian Curtis movie is out and about. Warners, for they own Factory now, in their craving for cash, have decided that, since Joy Division fans are often nothing less than fanatical about the band, that they’d retail this for £120! Four 30cm slabs of vinyl, once again close to thirty years old, in their original sleeves (which have been around countless times since 1980) for thirty pounds a pop.

Seriously. You completists need this they say...

Universal, who put out the Costello, also earlier this year tossed out a remastered double CD of The Style Council’s classic Our Favourite Shop. The second CD consisted of a bunch of previously released vinyl mixes in the main. The UK price….£15.

I wonder how many they sold?

And then they have the nerve to accuse the public of ripping them and the artists off.

As they do.....

Then there was this, in the NY Times, a story which so rightly waves it’s hands in the air and screams righteously rip off about the whole RingTones scam. And scam it is, and always has been:

No, I'm sure that, if you follow the ringtone gravy train to its source, you'll find record-company executives. There they'll be sitting, rubbing their hands together with glee and hoping that their young customers don't identify the ringtone industry for what it is: the last great digital rip off.

Coolfer says it’s about what the market can bear….uhh no, that’s exactly the attitude that put the record industry in the position they find themselves now.

Yep you don’t have to buy any of these, but music for many is a must have item, its passion driven, and I guess those conducting the kiddie swindle (because that’s who buys these things in the main), and the overpriced remasters know exactly that.

So, yes, we are expected to pay these prices for recycled old, admittedly sometimes quite good, re-issues; and for truncated, often time limited, snippets, and yet the industry cries theft and poverty over and over again. And claims relentlessly that the reason for their woes is because people are not buying music..they’re instead stealing it.

Except that’s not exactly true as this survey so clearly indicates. In the US more people over the past two decades are buying music than ever before. People like to buy music. They just don’t buy as much of it per head. I’m sure piracy has made a dent in that…I know it has in some niche genres like dance where vinyl sales are very much down (although digital has rocketed but not to replacement level). But the easy equation of a pirated track is a lost sale is just complete nonsense, regardless of how many times it’s repeated. The simple, and very easy to ascertain fact is that people are generally more discerning now because they can be. You can, more or less, pick and chose which tracks you want, and most people don’t want a full priced album for their three hits, and 90% of people like hits, regardless of what style they enjoy.

So people buy the Beyonce song they like and ignore the rest, and if they can’t buy it as they want it, because record companies don’t want to sell it to them that way, they may take it anyway.

And when Warners are trying to screw people to pay one hundred and twenty quid for four slabs of very old vinyl…I can’t blame them.

Hypocrites……and if you feel the need to burn the Costello, you won't find me arguing...actually if you happen to have one......

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Danielle said...

As you know, Simon, I am a big old Costello fangirl, but I haven't bought a reissue of any of his albums since, oh, about five years ago. If you combine my purchases with my husband's, that would be My Aim is True number... six, in my household? No WAY. I have other options for getting those tracks, and I'm using them.

Also horrendous is his recent 'Visa Signature' tour in the US, for which you couldn't buy a ticket *unless you had a Visa card*. That's elitist crap, and I'm over it.

craigie* said...

Nicely put, Simon.

Just about sums up my attitude towrds the 'industry' we call music. Although 'exploitation' seems nearer the mark as a descriptive.

I'll happily burn you a copy, and add the tracks on previous issues, so it's all encompassing... you can find me on Costello-L or email craigie at gmail dot com.

all the best!

Stiffs-downunder said...

Hello Simon I see from your blog that you have some connection to New Zealand.
At present I am trying put together a discography of the Stiff Record label in New Zealand and Australia.
I wonder if you could when you get a spare moment if you could please send me the details of your first pressing of "my aim is true" cat number label colour , who pressed the record and if it had a u/k cover and last of all the colour of the back panel, also almost forgot if the record had "watching the detectives" on it.
Always interested in any items you might have on the Stiff label for the discography.

many thanks from here


Simon said...

Send me an email Andrew and I'll give you the details of that and lots of Stiffs.