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Best Laid “Van”s: Do Artists’ Opinions on Their Catalogue Titles Influence Your Purchases?

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Van Morrison - Moondance BoxNot long after Joe had posted about Rhino’s upcoming expansion of Van Morrison’s Moondance, I vocalized my pleasant surprise at the news. Morrison’s history with reissues has been spotty at best; a late-2000s reissue campaign was quickly halted and almost instantly commanded top dollar on the secondary market.

The next day, however, Morrison issued a statement denouncing the project, taking particular issue with the wording of the press release suggesting he was involved. “It is important that people realise that this is factually incorrect,” the statement read in part. “I did not endorse this, it is unauthorised and it has happened behind my back.”

This is hardly the first time an artist has openly criticized their own catalogue works. Prince, who was allegedly paid to stay out of the compilation and release of The Hits/The B-Sides in 1993, insisted on a bevy of changes to 2006’s Ultimate Prince and then planned a new album to curtail its release. Elvis Costello, whose catalogue has been released three times as expanded CDs on three different labels, suggested that current rights owners Hip-O/UMe had “gotten off on the wrong foot” with a series of live reissues, “doing too many records from the same time period and the same repertoire.” And Morrissey, even as he has gotten involved in radically revisiting his own catalogue, has had choice words for previous box set efforts.

Generally, though, such instances are rare. When it comes to the major labels, most will not (and in some cases cannot) embark on a vault project for a beloved artist without the consent (if not participation) of the artist in question. This isn’t for fear of bad publicity, but the more obvious legal entanglements.

The question we pose for you today, in light of Van Morrison’s opinions, is this: will his – or anyone’s – opinion of this apparently “unauthorised” catalogue activity stop you from opening your wallets? Have a vote in our poll and let us know what you think!

Written by Mike Duquette

July 23, 2013 at 13:13

Waxing on Universal’s New Vinyl Project Initiative

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Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 11.24.54 AMOnly in 2013 – a year where vinyl is expected to sell 5.5 million units this year, the largest number since the early ’90s – would Universal Music Group’s new “Vinyl Project” score so much digital ink.

The premise is simple: UMG now wants to take crowd-funded opinions into what titles get pressed anew and stocked through online retailers and local record stores. The goal, according to the new site, is to utilize the label’s “extensive catalogue to offer sought-after deleted recorded to be re-pressed in this great format.” Those who fund will have access to limited edition goods, like digital downloads and personalized art prints.

More details are unlocked for those who take a brief survey through The Vinyl Project’s site. You’re asked your favorite qualities of buying new vinyl (package quality, audio quality, etc.) and which titles, from a list, you’d be most interested in purchasing. (The actually pretty-neat incentive for your opinion? A 20% discount off a purchase from UMG’s vinyl store.)

It’s always nice to see any of the majors – particularly Universal, which has been relatively quiet despite one great, long-awaited box set and a whole bunch of new repertoire at their disposal – get up on that unpredictable stallion we call catalogue music. But, as is too frustratingly often the case, there are a few head scratchers in the mix.

Among the “rare and deleted titles” suggested by Universal include titles by Cat Stevens, Sting, Michael Jackson’s early Motown LPs and Sonic Youth – great records all, but easily purchasable in their current form: out-of-print, but in respectable quality and quantity that these secondhand copies are cheap. (I could be wrong, but as a nascent vinyl collector of a year or two, I thought that was the draw of collecting LPs in the 21st century: getting good finds for cheap with the occasional Record Store Day finds – among the only new vinyl I think I’ve bought – in the mix.) Would you really pay $20 and up for a 180-gram pressing of something you can buy in reasonable enough quality for $5 or less? (Before you answer, consider that another one of the titles on the list is Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, which just came out on vinyl again last year.)

What I’d rather see is either: a) crowdfunded titles that no record company would ever think of (like a physical, vinyl answer to Legacy Recordings’ Vault initiative), or b) keep spotlighting the most famous artists, but put rarities out on vinyl instead – and outside the typical RSD twice-a-year cycle. Putting a rare B-side or dance mix (or several) on an LP and including a digital download of good enough quality would be lots of fun – perhaps an easier way to get stray tracks out into the open than waiting for an anniversary edition of a record to string ’em all together.

As always, the voices that matter most are yours. So what do you think of The Vinyl Project? Sound off in the comments section!

Written by Mike Duquette

July 16, 2013 at 14:04

Posted in News, Open Forum, Reissues, Vinyl

Kickstart Our Hearts? Thoughts on Crowd-Funding Catalogue Music

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In a move guaranteed to enter the history books in entertainment for 2013, Rob Thomas, creator of the cult-classic television show Veronica Mars, surprised fans with an idea for a cinematic continuation of the long-cancelled series. What made it worth noticing, regardless of one’s opinion for the show, was the method in which it was funded: with a script in hand and a cast ready to block out time for a theoretical production, Thomas got Warner Bros.’ blessing to approach fans to fund the project via crowd-funding site Kickstarter; the goal of $2 million was shattered in under 12 hours, giving the team another 29 days to rake in additional cash from the series’ loyal fans.

Discussing the genesis of the idea on the project’s page, Thomas cited the successful deluxe reissue of Cotton Mather’s underrated power-pop gem Kontiki as one of his influences to fund the film through fan efforts. This, of course, brings up the question: can this model work in the world of catalogue music?

A common and worthy criticism of putting the Kickstarter model on a pedestal for musicians is simple: these models are facilitated with the help of the entertainment business’ traditional label/studio establishment. Indie musician Amanda Palmer has frequently championed Kickstarter as the future of music distribution, but it’s hard to believe she wouldn’t have so much success with the site had she not been signed to a major label for several years. Even watershed moments like Radiohead’s “it’s up to you” pricing model for 2007’s In Rainbows were only possible because the band had built up a savvy fan base while signed to Parlophone/EMI during the decade prior.

Of course, most of what reissue fans would want to see unearthed is in the hands of the majors, so it’s not really about sticking it to the man. What it is about is getting labels to mull the possibilities of crowd-funding and use it to their advantage. To that end, there’s a few things I’d think would be most important:

  • Understand the audience. A catalogue-savvy audience is not necessarily a new-media savvy audience. The Second Disc’s web traffic has always been higher than our Facebook or Twitter traffic (though not for lack of trying!); what that likely means is that not all catalogue music fans are social media users. That means, were you to fund a reissue or box set through Kickstarter, you have to try  maybe a little harder to reach the fans you want to reach.
  • Understand the processLast year’s deluxe B.B. King box set had its own PledgeMusic page. Was it cool? Absolutely. Was it clear why the project had anything to do with crowd-funding? Err…less certain. The incentives didn’t stretch further beyond a bonus Blu-Ray that was available separately before the box was made public. Something tells me the B.B. King set (either the four-disc version or maybe even the 10-disc deluxe variant) would have come out regardless of PledgeMusic’s involvement; however, the same could not be said about, say, Squeeze. Picking artists to Kickstart or Pledge to with small but savvy fan bases would actually be fun and gratifying – projects thought impossible might have a better shot at existing.
  • Make it fun! With the right people on the job and projects in the works, seeing a catalogue label make the move toward crowd-funded projects could actually be a blast. Think of the incentives (credit in a box set booklet, special memorabilia) – or, more importantly, the chance to feel closer to a title by helping it come to fruition.

It may take some time to figure out if true grassroots works of art can rise up and be counted like “mainstream” projects with the help of sites like Kickstarter. But there’s no harm in thinking about mainstream projects branching out even more with the help of crowd-funding, wouldn’t you say?

What do you think? Would the Kickstarter model work for reissues and box sets? What sort of catalogue titles would you like to see on sites like those? Sound off in the comments below!

Written by Mike Duquette

March 14, 2013 at 13:40

Amoeba Records Becomes Digital Archivist

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AmoebaPerhaps you’ve heard this story by now, but it’s awesome even if you have: West Coast record chain Amoeba Music is digitizing their rarest and out-of-print stock to sell online. From Variety:

Many of the LPs have been getting remastering upgrades from the original vinyl and shellac sources. Currently, there are only about 1,000 titles for sale, but Amoeba is adding 10 or 15 more every day.

Some Vinyl Vaults artists are readily familiar, and in some cases Amoeba’s source material emanates from its owners’ own collections. Some of Prinz’s rare Louis Armstrong 78s were digitized and are being sold as downloads, while [Amoeba co-owner Marc] Weinstein’s prized collection of 144 Sun Ra albums has also been ripped.

Best of all, for those concerned about royalties going in the right place, the digital sale rights have been cleared wherever possible – and for those artists so obscure that no proper catalogue ownership can be determined, profits from the sale of those records will go into an escrow account, where any claimants can properly earn what’s theirs.

Now, certainly The Second Disc’s coverage isn’t usually focused on artists you’ve never heard of – or, if you haven’t, they’re at least catalogues that are owned by a major label. But I for one certainly applaud Amoeba’s efforts.

It’s easy to dispute the claim that the ease of Internet distribution (whether legal or not) has made it easy to find everything you want to add to your music library. How many single-only remixes or hard-to-find edits can you think of that still haven’t made it past your old vinyl, or at the very least, out-of-print maxi-CD singles? I can think of plenty – and if it’s going to take outside interests like a major record store to loose those chains around the songs we want to hear, have at it!

And what of you, dear reader? What great tracks do you wish your local indies would digitize for your consumption? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Mike Duquette

January 31, 2013 at 11:32

There He Goes Again: Marshall Crenshaw Launches New EP Subscription Service

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Marshall Crenshaw EPMarshall Crenshaw has marched to the beat of his own drum (metaphorically speaking!) since making a splash with his self-titled 1982 major label debut.  Though he hasn’t exactly been away, the power pop hero has returned this week with the official release of I Don’t See You Laughing Now, a new 3-track vinyl EP that also happens to mark Crenshaw’s launch of a new music subscription series.  With shifts in the music landscape occurring on what seems like a day-to-day basis, Crenshaw’s new model just might be worthy of your attention.

I Don’t See You Laughing Now is the first of six scheduled 10-inch 45 RPM vinyl EPs which Crenshaw plans to release over a two-year period.  Each EP contains one new composition, one cover version and one reinterpretation of a Crenshaw favorite.  As an added extra, a download card is also included with the purchase of each EP.  The EP series was originally developed by the artist through Kickstarter, and the first EP was previewed at Record Store Day’s Black Friday event. Fans pledged over $33,000.00 to the Kickstarter campaign, exceeding the artist’s original goal.  A subscription to the series is available now at Crenshaw’s website.  $26.00 nets the purchaser the first year’s worth of EPs (three in all), with the second scheduled for release in April and the third in summer or fall.

What will you find on the new EP?  Hit the jump for that, and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 24, 2013 at 14:12

Bob Dylan’s (Copyright) Blues: “Freewheelin'” Outtakes and More Get a Limited, Pricey Release

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Bob Dylan - 50th CollectionJanuary 2013 is barely one week old, but a candidate for strangest catalogue music story of the year has already broken.  A 4-CD set of outtakes from the early career of Bob Dylan has recently been released, but don’t look for it in your local record shop, or even online.  The 50th Anniversary Collection contains 86 Dylan songs, all recorded in 1962.  But despite the interest that fans worldwide might have in this material (some of which has never circulated, even in collectors’ circles), the set was only released in an as a 100-unit limited edition in Europe.  The set was designed as a preventative measure to keep this material out of the public domain and in the hands of its legal owners, Sony Music Entertainment.

Those readers who travel internationally or peruse the import CD bins have no doubt noticed the number of landmark recordings that have already fallen into the European public domain.  Inexpensive and frequently subpar reissues of Frank Sinatra’s entire Capitol catalogue, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and the earliest Motown Records albums are all legally available in Europe in a variety of editions via labels other than those from which those titles originated.  Many anticipated the public domain laws being changed to prevent The Beatles’ classic recordings from becoming public property, and indeed, the term of European copyright was recently extended from 50 years to 70 years.  As a Sony Music source told Rolling Stone, “This [Dylan release] isn’t a scheme to make money.  The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. [Emphasis mine – JM] With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.’”

There are numerous arguments for and against copyright extension, but the release of this Dylan collection is just the latest high-profile example of a label having to take action to protect its valuable assets.  The Elvis Presley Estate’s Follow That Dream label, for instance, releases a treasure trove of rare Presley material on a regular basis.  Some of that early material, in turn, has become fodder for a number of unauthorized European labels.

Dylan’s 1962 debut album entered the European public domain on January 1, and has already been reissued by multiple labels in a variety of versions.  The Sony source continued, “The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future.  But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”  100 copies of The 50th Anniversary Collection were released to record stores in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden, reportedly 25 copies to each of four stores.  The set is plainly packaged and pressed on what appear to be CD-Rs. Unsurprisingly, copies have already made their way to eBay for four-figure amounts.

After the jump: what will you find on these four discs?  Hit the jump for more, including a complete track listing with source information! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 8, 2013 at 13:18

The Year in Reissues: The 2012 Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Gold CDWow!  Was it just over a year ago when a rather dubious report began circulating (that, shockingly, was picked up by many otherwise-reputable publications) that proclaimed the death of the CD was secretly scheduled by the major labels for 2012?  Well, 2012 has come and (almost) gone, and it might have been the most super-sized year in recent memory for reissues, deluxe and otherwise, from labels new and old.  Here at the Second Disc, we consider our annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards a companion piece to Mike’s own round-up over at Popdose, and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year’s most amazing reissues as possible – over 80 worthy, unique titles.  We also hope to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2012. As we’re literally deluged with news around these parts, these ladies and gentlemen prove, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world.  We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to them, and to you, the readers.  After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past alive and well.

With that in mind, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2012? Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2012′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles Offer Rock-Themed Digital LP

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Although albums like Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (1976), Love Songs (1977) and Reel Music (1982) have all yet to be released in any CD or digital format, Apple and EMI are reviving the spirit of those LP compilations with a new release available exclusively as an “iTunes LP.”  Tomorrow Never Knows, subtitled File Under “Rock,” collects fourteen of The Beatles’ heaviest tracks including the psychedelic title track from 1966’s Revolver.

Somewhat surprisingly, some harder-edged hits have been eschewed; while there’s no “Come Together” or “Get Back,” you’ll hear “Savoy Truffle” and “It’s All Too Much.”  The earliest track dates back to 1964 with “You Can’t Do That,” first released as the B-side to “Can’t Buy Me Love” and also included on the U.K. Hard Day’s Night album.  From 1965 comes the B-side to “Help!” (another rocking song itself, it must be said), the frenetic “I’m Down.”  But the majority of the songs on Tomorrow Never Knows hail from 1966 and beyond, with three songs apiece from Revolver and The Beatles (1968).  Revolver, of course, emphasized a more electric rock sound after the folk-influenced Rubber Soul, and it was also the last album that the American Capitol label would alter from its original U.K. form.  (The American edition of Rubber Soul had even more of a folk-rock flavor than its British counterpart thanks to Capitol’s inclusion of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” and the removal of four songs including “Nowhere Man” and “Drive My Car.”)

After the jump, we have more info including the complete track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 25, 2012 at 09:38

R.I.P. America’s Oldest Teenager, Dick Clark (1929-2012)

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It’s with a heavy heart that we pass on the news of the death earlier today of Dick Clark, 82, the legendary entertainment impresario, one-time disk jockey and eternal host of American Bandstand whose place in the annals of music history can’t be denied.  The report was initially published by TMZ but later confirmed by sources including ABC News.  Our memories of the great man’s appearances on game shows like The $10,000 Pyramid and programs like New Year’s Rockin’ Eve are too many to recount, but we’d like to take a moment now to remember the great spirit and tenacity of America’s Oldest Teenager.  Rest in peace, Dick Clark.  Let’s go hoppin’ today, to where things are poppin’, the Philadelphia way.  Let’s drop in on the Bandstand…American Bandstand.  Feel free to share your memories of Dick Clark below!

Written by Joe Marchese

April 18, 2012 at 15:58

Posted in News, Open Forum

More Ways to Connect with The Second Disc!

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Do you enjoy the news, reviews and features you find here at The Second Disc? We’re thrilled to let you know about a few new ways to stay even more connected with us! Since our launch in January 2010, we have endeavored, in the words of founder Mike Duquette’s initial post, to be “an all-purpose stop for those who are interested in the back catalogue offerings of the day.”  We’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know many of you through your thoughtful and incisive comments on a variety of those offerings, and we’re proud of the sense of community that you have all fostered here at TSD.

Mike and I love to hear from you almost as much as we love to hear music! So we hope you visit our official The Second Disc Twitter feed, @TheSecondDisc!  There, you’ll find instant access to each and every posting you find here, plus bite-size trivia, up-to-the-minute news and other surprises! In addition to checking out @TheSecondDisc, you can find your two catalogue correspondents on Twitter!  Please follow us at @MikeDuquette and @ItsJoeMarchese!

Our Second Disc circle has also been expanding at Facebook. Please visit our Official FB page, where we’ll often post favorite video links, dig through our archives to rediscover past features, and keep you updated on the biggest stories of the day.

Finally, we’d like to remind you about the pages over to the right! We’ve just added links for easy access to our ongoing features: Back Tracks, Reissue Theory, Friday Feature and Greater Hits! You’ll also find our comprehensive and newly-updated Review Archive as well as The Suggestion Box. Please click here to post your ideas for albums, artists, bands, genres, film and stage scores and anything – or anybody – else you’d like to see us cover here. We’re here for you, so don’t be shy: please chime in! We promise to read each and every suggestion!

We hope to see you on Twitter, Facebook and of course, right here. Stay tuned for more fun to come as we move forward in our third year!

Written by Joe Marchese

April 14, 2012 at 01:27

Posted in News, Open Forum