The Second Disc

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The Final Word: How Not to Do Box Sets, by Warner Bros.

with 6 comments

Since our last post on The Tim Burton/Danny Elfman 25th Anniversary Music Box, a lot more dirt has been kicked up regarding the box, its limited availability and opinions thereof.

It turns out that the “limited edition” of the box is very much like The Complete Elvis Presley Masters. (The only difference between editions of the Elvis set is one run has numbers, the other does not.) The first 1,000 copies of the Burton/Elfman set, it was semi-confirmed before all copies sold out, would have a certificate of authenticity. The sets that were presumably to be wholesaled by Amazon and the like would simply lack an extra piece of paper. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Way wrong. Box producer Richard Kraft sent a message to the Film Score Monthly message boards the day all 1,000 copies sold out with a few notes:

  • As a result of the workmanship behind putting the behemoth box together, Warner Bros. will not ship the box out around December 21, as was previously announced, but around the first week of February 2011.
  • The limited first run will feature a bonus 17th disc (of as-yet-undetermined content) signed by Elfman.

Now what kind of label decides to announce extra music in a limited set – not some paper goods or needless swag that jacks up the price of the set, but extra music, the entire point of a box set in the first place – once the set has sold out?

The delay is bad enough: say you go to a restaurant with a reservation for a specific time, only to discover upon arrival that – oops! – they can’t accommodate you, and would you mind taking a different time instead? Whether you agree to a delay or not, you wonder why the restaurant couldn’t prepare for said delay better. That’s one major problem with the delay of the Burton/Elfman box. The Second Disc first reported on this set almost exactly five months ago, and an official track list and release date was up at the end of September. Given the excesses of the box – which you could probably fit a human head inside – couldn’t there have been some more foresight?

To change the release date so close to the intended release date is annoying (not entirely new for fans these days), but that’s only the injury. The insult is adding another disc to that first batch of copies after the fact, kind of a shifty, callow move by a label that should know better when it comes to box sets. How many people do you imagine are buying this 

Something that’s even more bothersome, and draws a larger, dangerous point about the catalogue soundtrack world, is how FSM users are reacting to those who are rightfully upset. Many of the people who bought this $500+ set went to Amazon to save money off the list price. Soundtrack collecting is an expensive hobby – collectors and producers both know that, and producers try to work around each others’ release schedules whenever possible – and in these uncertain economic times, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to shave off a little from the still-gargantuan price. Most posters, though, feel that those who ordered from Amazon, thereby missing an entire disc of music, got exactly what they deserved.

Now, to a degree, I get it. If you’re a collector first and foremost (rather than a listener), you’re mad. Your precious collector’s piece loses its worth. So when Warner gives you something extra, you’re satisfied, and woe to the others. It’s nothing new. These are the same fans who have excoriated other labels this year for daring to repress certain sets so other fans could enjoy the music they love. Intrada came under fire for reissuing Varese’s long-sold-out release of Predator (1987) earlier this summer (which sold out insanely quick once again), and Kritzerland was criticized for releasing one disc from an FSM box of Westerns as its own set. (Our friend and Kritzerland head Bruce Kimmel, who posts on the FSM boards as “haineshisway,” was derided as a “malcontent” for pointing out that, since Amazon and other wholesalers were taking orders before the limited edition set sold out, there are at least a few buyers who are likely owed a bonus disc, since they theoretically bought a limited set.)

But the pack rat mentality shouldn’t hold any water in the music world. Collecting is fine, but the end game for most fans – not to mention the entire purpose behind The Second Disc – is to draw attention to great music that people might not have noticed before. It’d be so easy to download this stuff illegally, but we usually don’t, because we like the music and we like seeing it get released. The “chosen-few” nature of a box set of mostly spectacular music hurts the already-tenuous nature of the catalogue business. Music – even specialty music – shouldn’t have to be made available to a lucky few with fast fingers and deep pockets. It should stick around for generations to enjoy. Before long this whole “limited edition” game is now threatening to topple over and soak the fans who want nothing more than to fall in love with some music.

Warner Bros. could have handled the Burton/Elfman box better, and we just have to live with that. (An autograph would have been a fine bonus for a limited set.) But if nothing else, we should take with us the realization that this game can’t go on forever.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 24, 2010 at 11:40

6 Responses

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  1. So the limited edition contains something limited. Not that odd, kind of nice. Sounds like people who bought the cheaper, non-limited edition were wondering if there’d be any trade-off for buying the non-limited edition, and the answer turned out to be ‘yep’. Not that odd.

    While you might not like the concept of limited editions, it helps ensure that an initial quantity will be pre-ordered — something which might not happen if people feel confident there’s no reason to place a pre-order. This helps get the project to proceed.


    November 25, 2010 at 19:59

  2. Well, the people who bought the limited set paid more money than the one on Amazon. Also at the time, it wasn’t stated such a thing would ever be available on Amazon. The announcement of a second run is good for everyone else, but the people who threw down a huge chunk of cash for the limited set are at least getting thrown a bone with the bonus, after learning the set isn’t nearly as limited as they assumed.


    November 26, 2010 at 00:55

    • I’d be lying if I said I had an issue with limited editions. I don’t, and they’re very much a necessary evil in the soundtrack world. But it sets a dangerous precedent when the carrot at the end of the string is music instead of some other collectible. Had Warner given the bonus disc to everyone who ordered directly from their site (limited or not) and had Elfman only autograph the discs for the limited order, there’d be nowhere near the pickle there is now.

      The one consideration I’m still mulling over – and I don’t think we’ll have an answer until much later – is that this disc could be completely superfluous. If that’s the case, when I scrape the odds and ends from my paychecks together, I might have no qualms about buying this set. But of course, nobody really knows yet – and that’s always the problem.

      Mike Duquette

      November 26, 2010 at 01:49

      • It is hardly a precedent, though. Retailer-exclusive bonus discs for movies always contain exclusive content as well. It’s not a new idea to have content other than a piece of paper. Bonus tracks on some editions of CDs are (were) common as well. Some CDs have multiple editions, each country getting different bonus tracks.


        November 26, 2010 at 16:53

  3. I pre-ordered from Amazon, it was not cheaper, quite the contrary, my price was the equivalent of $670 (from after taxes. If I had ordered from WB further taxes would have incurred. Oftentimes when I buy from the US I have to pay approx. 100 percent in tax, and that would had blown my budget sky high. I can not understand that if they make it possible to PRE-ORDER at other stores such as Amazon, then that should be just as valid as buying from WB. This is strange special treatment. It was supposed to be a limited run of a 1000 so why would it matter where you bought it from? The bonus disc should go to those 1000, no matter where they bought it. We do not all live in the US!


    November 29, 2010 at 15:20

  4. […] confusion in the air. Then, after the limited first run had sold out, direct buyers were promised a signed bonus disc – arguably not the best way to announce it, after there was no chance of ordering a copy for […]

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