Reissues Reach Record As Elvis, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd Join 2016 Bandwagon
SEP 24, 2016
Paul McCartney (R) and Ringo Starr (L) pose at a screening of ‘The Beatles Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years’ in London on September 15, 2016. (BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
The music reissue bandwagon is going into overdrive and is set to reach a record high in 2016. The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are storming back into the charts this week. They are will be followed by Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode and Oasis. The phenomenon isn’t just British. The late Elvis Presley, Miles Davis and Lou Reed are all joining in.
For years, record companies have been countering slowing sales of physical products, especially among younger consumers, by expensive box sets aimed at older buyers. The trend is growing, with record numbers this year coming from labels: Legacy (Sony ), Rhino (Warner), Hip-O (Universal) and more. New and announced titles, including anniversary editions and vinyl reissues, are currently running at more than 450 for mainstream artists so far in 2016, an increase from the approximately 320 at the same time a year ago.
Back in April, the IFPI business group said that digital revenues (at 45% of the recording industry global income) had overtaken physical sales (about 39%). Still, analysts said that while total year-on-year revenue was rising, mainly spurred by streaming, physical losses were being contained by increases in vinyl and re-releases.
Among the first out of the gates in advance of the holiday season, and widely anticipated: the Beatles with Live At The Hollywood Bowl (Apple) – music 50 years old and yet already at No. 7 in the U.S., and likely to climb, and at No. 3 in the U.K. The companion movie. Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years, it was confirmed this week, will be available November 18 on Blu-Ray and DVD, along with special 2-disc collector’s editions.
It’s also worth watching Led Zeppelin, whose The Complete BBC Sessions is the highest new entry in the U.K. Official Chart this week at No. 3. The title adds long-lost material to improved remasters of the rest on the original BBC Sessions.
The biggest box sets, always large-budget items with hours of content, last year were topped by the Grateful Dead’s 30 Trips Around The Sun, a 73-hour blockbuster costing $699.98.
This time, Pink Floyd has a 27-disc box set for exactly the same price, $699.98. The Early Years on Legacy is out on November 11 with more than 12 hours of audio and 15 hours of video, including 20 unreleased songs such as 1967’s “Vegetable Man” and “In the Beechwoods.”
There are a number of comprehensive Elvis Presley collections, with some fans dutifully buying each as new material comes to light or simply to get the new packaging. The RCA Albums Collection, a 60-disc set, came out to mark to 60th anniversary of the star’s first album for RCA Records and is priced about $349.98.
The cover of “Elvis Presley – The RCA Albums Collection” RCA
The Lou Reed posthumous release is equally prosaically titled: The RCA and Arista Album Collection. This 17-disc compilation is also less revelatory but pulls together the singer-songwriter’s albums, with a few of them out of print for years. It is a neat way of getting everything in one place, at least until more remasters or rarities show up.
Anyone who wants to summarize the career of Reed’s friend David Bowie could do worse than investing in his boxes. Five Years (1969-1973) was yesterday joined by Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976), which includes The Gouster, a previously unreleased collection that was an early version of Young Americans, and the rare Live Nassau Coliseum ’76. Both Bowie collections have material from the superlative Rykodisc reissues which are now getting hard to get.
Most major artists are now on the bandwagon with nearly all classic albums now getting a deluxe extra disc at least. The larger reissues scoring highly this year include Cluster 1971-1981, the various-artist compilation Close To The Noise Floor and Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late to Stop Now.
The Rolling Stones, packshot of the CD version of “In Mono”. ABKCO Records.
Take your pick: they will be joined by Crowded House (a big reissue program), Depeche Mode (video singles) and Oasis (the misunderstood third album Be Here Now). The Miles Davis Bootleg Series will take in his 1966-1968 years, the Rolling Stones put out the In Mono Box, while Sting, Graham Parker, Joe Cocker and Kris Kristofferson also get boxed. Even 1980s U.K. stars get a look-in: a 19-disc set by Dead or Alive and a super deluxe Kings Of The Wild Frontier by Adam & The Ants retailing at $149.98. The latter is a special super deluxe golden boxset with a DVD of promo videos, live performances, the first DVD release of Adam & The Ants Live In Tokyo 1981 in its entirety, a mini-documentary of the first U.S. tour in 1981, a replica Ant Catalogue and posters.
The big box sets of the past often contain conspicuously useless items: Pink Floyd marbles and scarves for example. The cynics may quote Morrissey’s lyric “Paint a Vulgar Picture” in which he sang: “Re-issue! Re-package!.. Double-pack with a photograph, Extra track and a tacky badge.”
Cynics might also scoff at Bono bug shades saving the world. (As included in the Uber Deluxe edition of Achtung Baby). But if such memorabilia helps save the record industry, well, that’s something.
I'm the author of books including All You Need is Rock, collecting my rock criticism for Bloomberg. I'm now editor of Dante magazine and write for ArtInfo and Forbes. Follow me @Mark_Beech