or an album that is barely a year old, it’s somewhat astonishing that Beyoncé’s Lemonade is already getting the box set reissue treatment.
A more traditional catalogue reissue comes in the shape of OKNOTOK, the 20th anniversary box set repackaging of Radiohead’s OK Computer.
Here we have two albums that symbolise two different strands of the catalogue marketing business — one traditionally tied to a big anniversary that follows an increasingly familiar path and another that has, wonderfully, dispensed with convention and set its own course. But that’s only the tip of the catalogue iceberg as, with downloads and streaming adding new format types, the very notion of catalogue is changing and the market for such big-ticket reissues is very different from what it was even five years ago.
Most of these box sets tend to be anniversary retrospectives, but more and more they are just expanded editions of albums. They target people with disposable income who want to own an object, who don’t find that streaming music has any cachet.
I confess that I’ve bought a lot of box sets, especially of classical music. These sets can be as cheap as $1 / £1 per disc, and allow me to build up my collection, adding music that I’ve never heard. But now that streaming has become mature, I’m less likely to buy any of these sets. It’s not that the music in them is definitely available to stream, but I can find at least one version of most classical works to stream if I’m curious about a composer’s oeuvre. The only exception is artist-specific box sets, such as those recently released covering the recording carriers of Alfred Brendel on The Emerson String Quartet.
On the other hand, I’ve bought Dylan and Grateful Dead box sets, and will continue to do so. They contain music that you can’t stream, and there’s something cool about having a new Dead or Dylan set every year or so, with some excellent recordings from the past.