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The Ethics of Re-Issue

I wrote, about the new album releases: "24 carrots and Modern Times are a bit yes and no - rearranging bonus tracks to force the fans to buy albums all over again. Not exactly ethical, but the latest suicidal fad of record companies who know they've lost the battle against downloads, and are determined to squeeze the last cent out of loyal fans before it's too late!"

The promotors felt I was a little unfair.

Here's their response

Dearg Doom <email address>
to <me!>
date 03-May-2007 08:34 (uk time)
subject 2007 Al Stewart Reissues

Andrew,

Sorry you feel like the Collectors' Choice reissues fell into the "Let's scam the fan" territory. All of the albums Collectors' Choice released were out of print in America, and while longtime fans may have had them, new fans couldn't acquire them all without paying import prices or hoping eBay wouldn't be too steep. You probably don't know that they were originally scheduled to have come out as originally issued --sans any bonus tracks, as is the policy of Warner Music Group, which currently controls the rights for North America-- but I was able to persuade Al and WMG to permit bonus tracks to be included. Most of the bonus tracks have never been on anything other than fan club releases and are being made available to the general public for the first time ever. If that's a "scam," so be it. No one's putting a gun to your head to buy them. But I, the people at Collectors' Choice, the folks at Warner Music Group, Al's management, and Al himself thought that, as long as the albums were going to be reissued, we really ought to include something by way of bonus material. I guess we all got it wrong. Maybe we should have just left the albums out of print.

Best Regards,
Thane Tierney
Reissue Producer

My Reply

Andrew Heenan <my email address>
to Dearg Doom <their email address>
date 03-May-2007 09:01 (uk time)
subject Re: 2007 Al Stewart Reissues

Or you could have simply re-issued them, and issued 'new' albums with the so-called bonus stuff. Or any number of other things.

You may truly believe this is a clever and generous deal that you cooked up; but there are two simple objections.

1. the vast majority of fans will already have most (if not all) of the original albums. They are therefore forced - yes, forced, if they are true fans, to buy the same album again for three tracks that - in many cases - have zero connection with the original recording sessions, even the year. And in one case, a different decade.

2. by some vast coincidence, many record companies are doing similar things with many artists these days. You may be right that Warner has resisted getting sucked in to this marketing wheeze. They tend to stand out as a company with integrity.

There are many things you "COULD HAVE" done; most a darn site better than what you did do. And that's what I commented on.

The tragedy is that record companies forever moan about piracy and then - effectively - sell three tracks for the price of an album. The music industry seems intent on suicide.

You are entitled to your views - and as you rightly point out, I'm entitled to mine.

I wonder who's closest to what the 'average' potential customer thinks. Of course the die-hards and the obsessives will buy the new albums. I hope that's enough for you, because the feedback I'm getting suggests that many have been totally put off by your choices.

In fact, the ONLY negative criticism I've received is from you, the purveyor of the new discs.

Good Luck,

Andrew

  

They wrote again:

Dearg Doom <their email address>
to Andrew Heenan <my email address>
date 03-May-2007 18:01
subject Re: 2007 Al Stewart Reissues

Apart from putting out a rarities disc, which neither Collectors' Choice nor
Rhino was intending to do, the bonus tracks would have stayed in the vault,
or just been traded among the hardcores. For many of the albums, there were
simply no contemporary bonus tracks to be had, so Al and I picked the songs
we felt fit best thematically. Given those alternatives, I'm curious what
"many things" you would have done instead.

Obviously, you've never worked at a record company where you had to answer
complaints as to why no bonus material was included on reissues when they
come out as originally issued (as came in to Rhino with the YOTC and Time
Passages reissues). Damned if you do, damned if you don't. But it's always
easier to criticize than create.

Hey, I don't work at any record company (though I did work at Rhino and
Warner, once upon a time). I just thought, as a fan and friend of Al's, that
putting more, rather than less, on the reissues was a good idea. Sorry you
disagree.

Cheers,
Thane

Ah well ...

I shall not reply; I see no point in continuing this correspondence when he is determined not to even acknowledge my point, let alone respond to it.

I hold to my view that the reissue DOES fall into the "Let's scam the fan" category; there are many things they could have done - most simply, persuading the record company to produce an album of 'lost tracks' - with so many studio quality tracks available, this should not have been difficult. Or, of course, they could have simply released SLAGIATT, always claimed to be an 'official' album, now suddenly a source of 'previously unreleased tracks'. Why do marketing folk so often assume their customers are stupid with short memories?

Even the 'live album' bonuses could simply have been released as free-standing single discs, just like Time Passage Live; still available at a fair price.

In one or two cases, the 'bonus tracks' are appropriate and that's fine; but in most they are simply there as a Marketing Wheeze; an insult to the intelligent, adult fan base that Al Stewart has earned over the years.

In one case, previous 'bonus tracks' have been REMOVED - how "generous" is that?

Most of the albums ARE already available, featuring online at half the price of the 'new' albums, so even that 'generosity' is simply untrue.

Bad faith, compounded by disingenuous denial - and poor marketing, which will hurt Al Stewart, not help him. In fact, typical marketing department short-term thinking.

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