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I’ll Never Give You My Money

You may have heard: the Beatles’ albums are being re-released.

On the surface, it’s a Beatle fan’s wet dream: the new discs have awesome packaging, (apparently) superior sound, and best yet — there will be mono releases, just like fans have been wanting for years! It’s a dream come true!

Hardly.

Being the hardcore fan I am, I’ve been salivating over these new remasters…but also dreading them. Dreading them because I know Apple Corps and EMI would not waste such a glorious opportunity to stick it to fans with outrageous prices, and I’m glad (?) to see I was not wrong: the new CDs will retail at the same old, gouge-tastic $18.98 MSRP the old, circa 1987 Beatles CDs were priced at. Oddly, though, The Beatles (aka The White Album) gets $10 knocked off its MSRP, and is now $24.98 (also, Past Masters is now a single, two-disc set that also retails for $24.98). So, I guess $35 for two CDs is ridiculous to Apple Corps, but $20 for one CD isn’t. Gotcha.

There are also two box sets being released: one with all the stereo CDs, and one with the albums in mono (God forbid they actually put the stereo and mono albums together, like with the recent Capitol Albums box sets — the only albums you couldn’t do that for are The White Album and maybe Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). In true, Beatle-price-gouging fashion, the stereo box set — 16 discs in all — is barely worth it: at $260, it’s only $17 or so less to buy the box set than to get all the albums individually (though this is better than the first Beatles CD box set from the late 1980s, which actually cost more than if you bought all the CDs separately…which would seem to defeat the purpose of a box set in the first place).

As for that mono box set, filled with mono mixes fans have been anticipating? It’s the only place you can get those mono albums — no single discs will be available. Better yet (?), the mono box set is limited to a whopping 10,000 copies, meaning the majority of fans who wanted these mixes most likely won’t get them (not in a store, anyway — watch Apple Corps claim piracy is killing the music industry when fans start trading the mono tracks online because they can’t buy them in stores). Better still (?), the mono box set will retail for…$300! No, I’m joking — it actually retails for only $298.98. What a bargain! But wait — not every Beatles album was mixed into mono, so the mono box set will only have 12 CDs in it. So…a 16 disc stereo set retails for $260, but the 12 disc mono set is $40 more. That makes perfect sense! It is a limited edition, after all!

I was pretty angry when I first read about this, because I wanted the mono versions of the albums…but for $300, Yoko, Paul, Dhani and Ringo can keep them. I’m sure $300 is a drop in the bucket to the Beatles — billionaires all — but to those of us living in the real, recession-hammered world, it’s not such a light sum of money. Eventually my anger subsided, and now I just feel sad. Sad because I’ve forever read about how the Beatles — in the 1960s — were always conscious of giving their fans “excellent value for their money.” Sad because that obviously no longer holds true — today, the Beatles & Apple Corps are just as money-hungry and greedy as everybody else in the business. Who cares if one in ten people in the U.S. doesn’t have a job — this is the Beatles! Sell your car, jackass! Sell your kids! They’ll understand! This is THE BEATLES! No price is too much for the greatest music ever recorded!

I’d seriously love to meet Paul McCartney and ask him to his face if he really thinks, say, Yellow Submarine is really worth $20. $20 for four Beatles songs, essentially, because “Yellow Submarine” (the song) and “All You Need is Love” are on other albums, and no one really cares about the George Martin orchestrations on the second half of the album. Is that excellent value for my money, Sir Paul? Is Let It Be — an album you have ripped quite a bit over the years, and which the other Beatles have all said is lackluster — worth $20? Are your mono albums really worth $25 apiece, which is flat-out ridiculous, no matter how you look at it? Is Apple still being run like in the ’60s, with people walking out of your offices with supplies left and right, and this is the only way to stay in the black? Whose idea was it to make the mono albums a limited run? If Apple wants money so badly, you’d think they’d offer the mono albums as separate, non-box set entities, if only to get your devoted faithful to buy the same albums over and over and over again. But that might be pushing it, right?

And before anyone brings it up, yes, I know the stereo CDs all have QuickTime documentaries about the making of each album on the disc. And the album art will be faithfully reproduced…blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t matter. I’d rather have (reasonably priced) mono/stereo two-fers than a freaking QuickTime documentary. And CD packaging isn’t that expensive. I’ve read various interviews with people associated with the Beatles and Apple Corps, complaining that the Beatles are losing money in this age of digital music. Whose fault is that? Who are the ones reacting so slowly to changes in the music industry (the Beatles are still one of the few major acts to not be on iTunes, largely because Apple feels Beatle music is worth more than 99 cents a track), slavishly clinging to the old way of doing things? We’re no longer in the bubble economy, guys, and if you think the Beatles name is enough to get people to plunk down $600 on your CDs, no questions asked, I have a feeling you might be in for a bit of a surprise.

It used to be about the music, guys.

PS – I really feel sorry for whatever schlub decides he (or she) wants to buy both CD box sets and The Beatles: Rock Band on release day (9/9/09!). All You Need Is…$850 or so. Unless you want to get the replica John and George Rock Band guitars too, in which case add another $200. Or you could take that $1100 and put a down payment on a car to enjoy your old Beatles CDs in while driving (or not, because you probably couldn’t get financing to buy the car).

3 thoughts on “I’ll Never Give You My Money

  1. Congrats on being the last person to post something on the old site design. 🙂

    But seriously, fleece-o-rama. I can’t believe the mono boxed set works out to $25 per disc, and a limited run? Who are they kidding? Although to be honest, I won’t be surprised if, once they sell every last copy of the limited run, they then start cranking out a “mass market” second issue that’s maybe a few cents cheaper (if that). It’s probably in their plan already!

    I truly don’t understand why the Beatles’ catalog isn’t on iTunes. Especially now that Apple has enabled variable pricing, with tracks that can cost up to $1.29 each. And if that’s really true about Apple Corps’ opinion being that the Beatles’ music is “worth more than 99 cents,” then that’s pretty sad. I mean, these recordings are timeless classics — but classics that should be experienced by everyone of every generation. They’re art, but not like the fine art that hangs in the Guggenheim and which you would need to cough up megabucks to own. I doubt John Lennon would be thinking of extracting maximum profit over all else, although of course no one can know how the last 30 years might have affected him had he not been killed.

    Anyway, it’s pretty clear that Apple/EMI is banking on the compulsive collecting of the Beatles’ biggest fans to line their pockets, and they’ve priced this stuff about as high as they reasonably can. I’m good with my existing CDs, thanks — about the only thing I’m jonesing for here is The Beatles: Rock Band. (And I think I’ll stick with Paul’s bass, at that…)

  2. Haha, yeah…I went back to edit something in my post, and when I saved it was suddenly, “Whoa!” Nice design, by the way. 🙂

    It’s very possible that there will be a second run on the mono discs, because one of the descriptions of the mono box set I’ve seen is that all the CDs come in LP-replica sleeves. So a second pressing could just put them in regular sleeves (I think the stereo discs are getting digipaks). It’s still crummy, though.

    I guess it could be worse, though — the Japanese editions of the box sets are both $100 more expensive. But that’s to be expected, since Japanese CDs are always high-priced (and why I don’t think it’s hypocritical of me to buy $30 J-pop CDs, then rail against $18 domestic CDs — ALL J-pop CDs are that expensive, while Beatles CDs are among the highest priced CDs in the U.S.).

    I think it was a quote from Dhani Harrison where I read about 99 cents being not enough for Beatles songs. I guess he’s the one who is really pushing Apple and the other Beatles into the digital music world, which is good…but I can’t agree with his views on iTunes being too inexpensive. It’s funny, though, you’d think that quote would have come from some stuffy old dude with no understanding of digital distribution…

    It really seems to me that the Beatles/Apple Corps are really trying to make up for the merchandise dollars lost in the 1960s — the Beatles had some horrible merchandising deals back then, and lost a ton of money. I guess the only way to make up for that is to charge maximum prices for merchandise now…

  3. Re: the design — thanks! The previous look wore out its welcome with me pretty quickly. The fact that I didn’t design it from the ground up (I just tweaked a canned theme) was really gnawing at me.

    Odd that Dhani would be pushing for digital distribution and yet have a seemingly archaic view of price points. I suppose they could sell only contiguous albums (and not individual tracks) on iTunes to mitigate the “cheapness” factor, although I doubt many people would appreciate a move like that either.

    I think the problem is in the belief that people who want your product, and can’t find it on iTunes, will buy the printed CD instead — so if digital distribution is too cheap, don’t offer it and everyone will just pick up the CD. There’s a whole contingent of customers who won’t buy it at all if they can’t get it cheaply and easily on a service like iTunes. Digital distribution models are also great for impulse purchases.

    Yeah, maybe they’re just trying to make up for the group’s financial missteps in the ’60s. In which case, we can expect a whole lot of profiteering to come.

    Edit: By the way, I got your email…I forced myself to finish this site before I looked at the attachment. Knowing how that usually goes, as soon as I read it I’m gonna get sucked into that universe. Now that Oddball V9 is out the door, time to go back and check out the NEW adventures of Seller Vacuums…

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