Is The Music Business Dividing Us Into Tribes?

Awhile back, I triumphantly applauded the ingenuity of Trent Reznor when he offered varying priced options to his release ‘Ghosts I-IV’, anywhere from free to the ‘Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition’ which clocked in at about 300 clams. You can relive my brilliance HERE if you’re feeling nostalgic but my point then, and still is, is that bands are exploiting their diehard fanbase to earn back their revenue these days.

Exhibit A – Nuclearblast records, home of too many legendary metal bands to name. If one takes a glance at the new release section (which I must confess to drooling over often), an interesting trend unfolds. The enigma of the Mail-order edition.

What is that, you say? Imagine your favorite artist releases a new CD. No longer is there just a radio-friendly version and a Parental Advisory version (or PA version as I found out so very long ago). Now we have other options such as vinyl editions, digi-packs and numbered limited editions available only via. . . say it together, mail order. These uber-collectible editions are often $100 bucks or more but include goodies that a true fan would sell his liver to acquire; hand-signed booklets, figurines, posters, banners, laminas, necklaces – hell, it’s like the contents of a Hot Topic are being included in the latest boxed releases. And while this can be a fanboys wet dream, I’m seeing a secondary effect I’m wondering if anyone besides myself has considered.

A typical music enthusiast can’t possibly afford ‘limited’ releases of every band he enjoys, so he has to prioritize. So say there are maybe 5 bands he’ll spot-on buy whatever comes down the pike. So Joe the Metalhead wears his shiny new ultra rare, collectible [Insert Band Name Here] necklace to his next concert & guess what? Other guys who either bought that same package or at least considered it, recognize the necklace for what it is & seek out Joe as ‘one of them’. Ta-da – a gang is born. A modern techno-shaman has just found the first followers in his new cult.

Now this kind of segregation is hardly new – Manowar fans have beaten the shit out of ‘posers’ wearing the wrong t-shirt for years. But this new twist is corporate based segmentation. It’s an artificially stimulated polarization of the crowd-pool controlled by marketing departments, not a fresh swell of support for emerging talent direct from the underground.

Where will it all lead? I haven’t a clue. But since KISS is pandering everything from condoms to caskets these days, they truly could amass an ‘army’, even if the majority of their soldiers are old enough to need walkers. And how much good comes from large crowds that are so easily persuaded, hmm?

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2 Responses to “Is The Music Business Dividing Us Into Tribes?”

  1. […] massively successful Ghosts I-IV business model experiment was a good thing, but who is now worried about the eventual consequences of somehow segregating fans. The argument is that only a small group of true fans will buy these […]

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