February 20, 2007
Nary a month ago, I reported with mixed feelings that Sony BMG was reissuing three Dolly Parton albums from the 1970′s – Jolene, Coat of Many Colors and My Tennesee Mountain Home – with bonus tracks. The first two have been reissued on CD before, and while Mountain home hasn’t been issued domestically, it was paired with Jolene on a 2-for-1 CD in England. Even better, Coat was paired with Joshua, another Parton classic that hasn’t seen release stateside.
I have two issues with this that I’ll revisit again, if you don’t feel like clicking through to my original rant:
1. Dolly Parton’s albums are short enough to be able to fit two on one CD, so even with bonus tracks, a full-price CD that runs thirty minutes or so is a waste.
2. With so much of this legend’s catalog not currently available, it’s ridiculous to be doling out unreleased tracks before the ones that were actually released.
So what do I discover while working on the Coming Soon feature today?
The U.K. branch of BMG is releasing six(!) Dolly Parton albums on three CD’s on March 8, none of which have been reissued on CD to date:
That’s right. Six albums, three CD’s, one release date. Even taking into account that these are imports, Amazon’s charging $13.99 per CD. That works out to $7.00 per album, which is an awesome deal. Compare that to the $11.98 that the new set of Dolly reissues in the U.S. are going for, even though they have only one album per CD, and you can figure out why I’m so frustrated. Sure, they’re Dolly’s pop-era albums, but I’d rather buy her lesser albums that I don’t have than spend twelve bucks for a classic I already own to get one bonus track.
Let me be clear. When I’m a fan, I’m a fan. The artists that I like, I want to own everything of. For the artists that I grew up with, that’s pretty easy. Even though some of those albums have gone out of print, I bought them when they came out, and used CD’s from the nineties are easy to find. I even found a way to get Above & Beyond the Doll of Cutey transferred to CD – I’m willing to bet I have more music by Pam Tillis than she does.
But as for the legends before my time? You can’t even find the vinyl cheap anymore, and you shouldn’t have to. Digital distribution has removed barriers. The limitations of vinyl and cassette and compact disc and manufacturing are all gone. With country sales and record sales in general in the crapper, now is the time for labels to tend to their catalog in a meaningful way, rather than just selling us the same old thing with a bonus track or two.
There’s a great debate going on over at The 9513 regarding the uselesness of hits collections with new tracks, and I think it’s just as relevant when dealing with reissues. Music is too accessible now for consumers to settle for music they already own in a nice new package. Give me something worth my money, or I’m going to spend it somewhere else. That my Dolly dollars are going to London instead of Nashville shows just how much the U.S. labels are screwing up their own catalog management.