Thursday, October 09, 2003

WE'VE HAD LOTS OF LETTERS: There's been quite a response to our question about the morality of downloading the tracks from the 'new' Placebo album, having already bought it before it sprouted the extra CD:

Tony B was first out the blocks:

Not 100% sure about the rights & wrongs of Kazaa-ing the extra tracks from the Placebo album. You could always buy the new version and offset the cost by selling the old version, but I agree that the company is taking the piss as they know full well that a real fan won't wait a year for the "enhanced" version to come out, but that's "marketing" for you...

Mind you, I have some other issues with the downloading debate (such as it is.) Like if I already own a record on vinyl, why shouldn't I be allowed to download it? After all, as the industry is always trying to tell us, it's the intellectual property that we're buying, not the media... and for that matter, why has there never been an upgrade path for music? Why haven't I ever been able to take my vinyl copy of (say) "Abbey Road" into a record shop (or mail it somewhere) and upgrade it to CD for £3 (or whatever.) The music business has thrived for years on selling us all the same music 4 or 5 times on different formats telling us it was the media that counted, and now all they can do is pout when the public takes charge... "chickens coming home to roost" or something like that.

Yes, I'm a sad old wanker with a vinyl collection, but you see my point...

And let's not forget that the Record Labels were muttering darkly about Amazon's second-hand record business a while ago, so they'd presumably not be that thrilled if I attempted to offset my loss by selling the original SWG. What also makes it unfair is that the value of the first, non-double version of the album has now plumetted - so I'm not going to make anything to cover the loss as it is. Your point about upgrades is a good one - as is the intellectual property point (surely, there'd be nothing wrong with you downloading tracks from an album you own on vinyl and burning it to CD?) - but, somehow, the record companies seemed to not realise that.

Next up, Alan C:

My hunch tells me that a band/label cannot make any moral case for artificially creating scarcity, simultaneously exploiting our fond feelings towards the concept of The Album, and trying and trick us into paying UKP15 for nine songs and another UKP15, ESPECIALLY for a further one or two, but also for anything where new material is shackled to old. (I've bought those '2 Great Albums In One' reissues even when I've already got one, and given the one I have to a friend. By record company logic, I should have sold it them.)

My hunch goes on to add that if you're loyal to the band, and have bought at least a couple of singles here and there (i.e. playing a fairer game) solely for the b-sides, then you've given all you can be expected to give. Out-of-print b-sides are CERTAINLY fair game. (I waited years for a copy of the Pogues' "Muirshin Dirkin", bought everything I could and it never appeared. That mp3 I cry no tears over.) In those cases, there's no way of rewarding the band. In the cases you mention, you could give the band some money, but EVERYONE involved knows FULL WELL you're paying for something you don't want in order to get the stuff you do.

If the White Stripes released all their outtakes, but you had to buy an actual elephant to get them, I'd download/rip them in a trice -- and I don't see that the Placebo case differs from that ONE JOT.

Seriously, they've abused the age-old understanding between artist and hungry dumb fan. So stuff 'em.

In any case, if the band/label/marketing people had an ounce of nous, they'd package up any new product inventively, such that there would be less incentive to go behind their backs. Maybe Marketing should start using that as their benchmark of whether a rerelease is likely to drive fans to Kazaa: would I feel like a complete sap if I paid for this?

The thing is, had Placebo released the 'extra' CD as a standalone title at, say, a tenner, they'd have sold loads more than doing it as a strap-on to SWG - it would have seemed like a gift rather than a con and everyone would have been happy. Instead, the marketing guys have come up with a route that just leaves everyone feeling a little bit dirty, a little bit used, and not in a wake-up-and-brian-molko-has-stained-your-mother's-nightie way.

Darren Hodgson steps up to the plate:

An argument was made in The Guardian for why not to see Star Wars Episode Whatever - because it's bound to be rereleased as a "Special Director's Cut" somewhere down the line with 0:59 of "previously unseen" footage - so why pay now to watch the admittedly inferior version?!

If there WAS any justice in the world, you ought to be able to get a refund on your original purchase because logically, you can say the record company has KNOWINGLY SOLD YOU SUBSTANDARD GOODS.

Being a Bob Dylan fan with 26 of his albums on CD - bought after having several of them on vinyl too - this is something that really pisses me off, now Sony has just rereleased the whole lot as this "SACD" gimmick - well give me my money back for the shoddy product you already sold me then!

Failing the refund, how about a one-for-one trade-in then?

(Pipe dreams, pipe dreams....!)

Sorry for the rant, but this is one thing that really pisses me off - in short, you've got the MORAL right to download all the new tracks, and if I had my way, you'd have the legal right too.

(Ahhhh, I feel better now!)

It does make you wonder why they haven't thought of the trade-in route... obviously, they could save some face by charging a token couple of quid; they could even do it through a specific chain so that people would be got into record shops... it could work out quite well for them...

And finally, for now: Pierre:

Some very nice bands make the bonus tracs available to download on their website. Most don't though. And that's a shame.

Personnally I've never bought again a record I already owned. But I did a few times bought a record when it was reissued. So it's an effective marketing tool. I wouldn't have the slightest hesitation to download the extra tracks though. The problem really arises when it's a bonus DVD which is offered, as those are fastidious to download.

But those marketing guys are even more devilish than that, because for the last 2 years there have been an increased number of "limited edition" CD issued, alongside the standard album, at the time of release with some bonus (a DVD, a second CD...), then when time comes for the re-release, there will probably be another bonus. I don't have any examples right now, but I'm sure it'll become standard practice.


There was, of course, that terrible limited edition of Blur's 13 which came out at the same time as the standard release - we were hoping it would contain slightly more listenable versions of the songs, but it didn't. What the labels have also been doing is merely slapping a "special edition" sticker on the new releases; Read My Lips from Sophie Ellis Bextor; Wonderland by The Charlatans, for example - and no matter how we looked, we couldn't see anything special about them - also sharp practice, you'd have to say.

Thanks for all the responses so far - we're still waiting for someone to tell us that it's wrong, dammit (we like that sort of thing, it makes us feel like we're living in Oliver Letwin's shed). If you want to join the debate, drop us an email

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