Nov 27, 2008

Entertainment - Are 'deluxe' albums fair to fans ?

Andy Dangerfield
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A "deluxe edition" of Leona Lewis's album Spirit has stormed into the chart at number one. But are fans getting value for money from these special releases?

Girls Aloud and Duffy are also releasing special versions of their albums, containing anything from unreleased interviews and demos to bonus DVDs, as Christmas approaches.

But should fans be expected to spend £15.79 (recommended retail price) again on the same material to get the extras?
"It's a two-finger salute to the loyal 200,000 fans who raced out to buy the original in its first week," says Yahoo! Music's chart expert James Masterton.

"Fans are being punished. If you bought the original, you'd feel incredibly stupid. If only you'd put your money in the bank and spent it now."

'New stuff'

The original version of Leona Lewis' Spirit has been bought by more than two million people in the UK since its release just over a year ago.

Now the repackaged release contains the same tracks as the original, but also has three new songs and a bonus DVD.

So what should people do with the CD they have already bought?

"Keep it!" said Leona Lewis in a recent BBC interview.

"The new stuff will be available on iTunes if they just want the songs."

But her cover of Snow Patrol's Run is not available as a single download until 1 December, two weeks after the deluxe edition album's release.

And fans miss out on receiving new artwork and the "making of" Forgive Me video, unless they buy the new version.

But Sony BMG says: "Deluxe editions are being led by fan demand."

"Leona hasn't done much new material in the last year. But there is a real hunger for new tracks from her."

'Bizarre situation'

So why has the music industry fallen in love with deluxe versions of albums?
The recent trend dates back to last year's special edition of Amy Winehouse's Back To Black, which contained live songs and her cover of The Zutons' Valerie.

"You had the bizarre situation of the limited edition charting at one position and the other version charting at another," the Entertainment Retailers Association's Kim Bailey says.

Record labels cottoned onto the wheeze and chart rules were relaxed in September, allowing deluxe and original versions of an album to count towards the same chart position.

Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad deluxe edition, which came out in June, also attracts the ire of Yahoo!'s Masterton.

Released more than a year after the original, which sold more than a million copies, the Reloaded edition had new artwork and three new tracks.

"Rather than getting her to record a new album, they just tacked tracks onto the back of the old album and re-released it," he says.

Universal UK's commercial director, Brian Rose, says: "If an artist brings incredible new content to us, we reserve the right to put it out and give the consumer more choice."

But he adds: "We will always aim to release the deluxe edition date on date with the standard edition."

Alternative approaches

Many artists are doing just that - releasing deluxe and standard editions of their latest albums on the same date.
Beyonce and Dido released different versions of their new albums last week and two editions of Britney Spears' Circus will be available from 1 December.

Some artists are taking alternative approaches.

Bloc Party released a digital edition of their new album Intimacy in August. Fans could pay £5 for the digital version or £10 to receive the digital version immediately and an extended version through the post two months later.

And Coldplay are releasing an EP, Prospekt's March, containing unreleased material from recordings for their latest album Viva la Vida.

Faced with a changing music market, labels are experimenting with different formats as they battle to win over record buyers.

Are deluxe editions here to stay? In the long run, fans will decide with their wallets.

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