Nov 24, 2011

Soundtracks: Limiting the profit on limited edition albums.

I'm trying to figure out if movie soundtrack labels have perfected their market, or are simply extraordinarily lucky to not be out of business.

In this age of digital music commerce and easier than ever piracy how can limited edition releases honestly help the industry?

That's right, soundtrack specialist labels still engage in the pre 2000's strategy of releasing rare soundtracks in a mere 3000 disc runs. Back in the day I can see this vaguely making sense. Albums were harder to produce and distribute. It was easier to simple limit the release and make interested parties come to you. This system also helped create the collectors mentality that many soundtrack enthusiasts older than myself tend to have. So it built in loyal costumers.

The thing is the times they have changed. I'm really confused as to how this practise has not.

While I understand that increasing the physical production of albums will hurt this collector niche market, releasing the musical in digital form for sale can't be anything but good for business.

My reasoning, classic collectors covet the physical product. They want the case, the cover art, and nice shiny compact disc. It goes well in their shelves full of other such albums. So long as the album you sold them is only one of 2999 other such items they are happy knowing they possess their one share.

However the rest of us don't really care about the collectibility. If you're like me, you don't care about the case or collectibility of the CD. Hell, I don't care about the CD. I just want the music, and I'm willing to pay. If I was given a venue to purchase the music I'd do so in a heartbeat. As that is not currently the case the industry is limiting itself severely by only allowing 3000 transactions on a particular album.

The thing is they are REALLY losing out, by not offering a digital option for non-collectors. The biggest lose is in the resale of these albums on secondary markets of the modern internet age. Many of the hottest limited release albums are bought in bulk by online traders, who once an album has sold out resell them on Ebay and the like for immensely inflated prices. Meaning not only is the label not making money on these further album sales, but a totally non-related party is profiting more so on their scarcity. This form of commerce parasitism is further evidence that the labels are still living in the 90's. Ebay is not new, and clearly the labels must have noticed some of their limited edition discs going for literally $100's after their out of stock.

This increase in price, and just the difficulty in acquiring the disc in the first place has lead to piracy being one of the only venues to get this music. While still technically illegal, I suspect the label will have a much harder job prosecuting the illegal distribution on a product they themselves no longer distribute themselves. The biggest form of legal action is the lose of revenue, and if your not still selling it we're not hurting your business.

The only pro limited edition argument I've seen presented by collectors (not the labels directly) is that digital releases would lead to the risk of counterfeit albums. How is this not a danger in this age anyways? Seriously if I can find this for download, so could a counterfeiter. If you're really concerned about the legitimacy of an album just make sure you buy one of those 3000 directly from the label.

Digital versions of the music won't devalue the collector's market, as it is the physical object that is collectible in this information era not the content. Like it or not through piracy the genie is out of the bottle one way or the other. Everyone should just accept it, and instead of fighting reality adapt to it make more money off people like me, and thus help the legitimate sale and production of soundtrack music albums by giving the companies more income to acquire more rights and thus increase their sales again!

The 90's are way behind us. Time to catch up soundtrack people!

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