Box sets explosion

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slofstra
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Box sets explosion

Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:32 am

Would anyone care to speculate as to why so many fine, inexpensive box sets are available on the market at the moment?

Does it really make economic sense to the music companies? For example, the Stravinsky on Stravinsky set has been marked down from $300 (approx) to $50. Will they sell that many more sets at the much lower profit figure (1/6th the price, but probably 1/20th the profit) to justify that kind of a price decrease?

Or is it just mid-level managers trying to plump their quarterly sales for a nice bonus? Having just finished the Lebrecht book I suspect the latter. (And the big multi-nationals do stupid things like this. Smaller independents tend to make better long-term business decisions).

In any case, that is all idle speculation on my part. I'm usually not driven by bargain mentality; a standard sales tactic is to give you a good reason to buy now, usually a superficial one. But I think Lance is correct in suggesting that one can't let some of these opportunities slip by. I sense that when some of these go out of print they won't be replaced (anyone know why that is? Is there a high setup cost on CD print run?)

Lots of questions.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:27 am

Most of the box sets contain performances for which there are no royalties owing to the musicians. Most come out of the vault and get a second commercial life by being repackaged, either as budget single releases or as box sets. The profit margin is high for the label.
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Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:45 am

An alternative strategy is to maintain an historically important release such as 'Stravinsky on Stravinsky' in the back catalogue. For this recording there will always be some market at almost any price. The profit per unit will be much higher. The number of units sold would be less, of course. Selling many units at a very low price now effectively robs future potential sales though.

And these releases typically aren't past copyright. Are you saying that the Fricsay set, for example, pays no royalties, not even to his estate?

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Post by Ken » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:52 am

Being a monetarily-challenged grad student, I'm not complaining about the prices of these wonderful box sets. I'm still giddy about the Böhm Schubert Symphony cycle from DG that I practically stole from ArkivMusic.

Maybe if I didn't spend all my money on music, I wouldn't have so many financial woes. :oops:
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Post by Haydnseek » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:59 am

I think that Stravinsky has been around a while. They may be clearing out the stock before bringing out re-mastered versions using the latest technology. They do seem to get better and better at this.
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Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:20 pm

Haydnseek wrote:I think that Stravinsky has been around a while. They may be clearing out the stock before bringing out re-mastered versions using the latest technology. They do seem to get better and better at this.
Most of these aren't clear-outs. They are either new bundles of "vault material" as Ralph indicates, or re-packages of formerly more expensive sets. (Often the repackages are in sleeves in a small cardboard box, which is a much better format anyway.)

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Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:25 pm

keninottawa wrote:Being a monetarily-challenged grad student, I'm not complaining about the prices of these wonderful box sets. I'm still giddy about the Böhm Schubert Symphony cycle from DG that I practically stole from ArkivMusic.

Maybe if I didn't spend all my money on music, I wouldn't have so many financial woes. :oops:
Yeah, I almost sound like I'm complaining, don't I. I have the Bohm Schubert Symphony cycle as well. Did I catch between the lines in one of your posts that you might leave Ottawa?

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Post by RebLem » Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:38 pm

Well, as O.J. Simpson once reportedly said, "Let me take a stab at it."

There are three kinds of big boxes: reissues, original releases, and hybrids. I have a harder time figuring out the last than the others, but here goes.

First, reissues. If its in a big box, a reissue needs to have a cheap unit price. Why? Because a large part of the market is going to consist of people who already have a substantial number of the performances in previous incarnations. Therefore, to still be attractive, they have to have a fairly low unit price.

New issues are a little different. Take the Brilliant sets of a capella and minimally accompanied choral music by a number of different composers led by Nicol Matt, as an example. I think we have just reached the point where there are so many fine musicians out there that they need to work cheap in order to make any kind of living at all.

And, of course, some of them, like various ensembles from university faculties, are put out as part of an effort to advance public awareness of the university's music department. GMG, for example, has a regular poster who is a member of the music faculty at Carnegie-Mellon Univ in Pittsburgh, who was one of the musicians in several NAXOS releases of music by Leonardo Balada, a composer who is also on the C-M faculty. He says he was simply ordered to participate by his department head and that the musicians weren't paid at all, even though they played until as late as 11 P.M. on some sessions. NAXOS didn't even feed them, though the composer did send out for pizza for everybody.
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:32 pm

This is not a direct response to the question, but frankly, I can only consider mega-box sets a blessing, though some here would disagree with my reasons for it. I would only ever own a number of composers taken for granted, say all the orchestral music of R. Strauss, if I could get them this way (his operas are another story of course). It is a sort of dutiful getting things out of the way for the sake of having the music on my shelf when I need it. I'm still waiting for that complete Vivaldi and Telemann that I can put on a multi-CD player and have perpetual background music for the rest of my life (and my children's lives, if I had any, then grandchildren....).

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Post by Ken » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:41 pm

slofstra wrote:Did I catch between the lines in one of your posts that you might leave Ottawa?
Ah, a keen eye! Yes, I'm off to Halifax to pursue grad studies. Looks like I'll get to know Symphony Nova Scotia.
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Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:43 pm

First, reissues. If its in a big box, a reissue needs to have a cheap unit price. Why? Because a large part of the market is going to consist of people who already have a substantial number of the performances in previous incarnations. Therefore, to still be attractive, they have to have a fairly low unit price.
But not doing that is still a valid strategy. The Beatles catalogue, for example, has always listed at full price. Even the white album was $30 last time I purchased it. So, it keeps sellling even though a high percentage of the potential market owns it. We keep dying, new buyers are born. So one can keep it in the back catalogue at a higher price.

(Incidentally, from the buyer's perspective this is a great time - and especially for me as I've recently focussed on collecting more than in the past).

I also wonder if the companies see a movement to on-line pending for classical music; pop is already there. The day is coming when I'll be able to play ANYTHING on demand, for a monthly subscription fee.

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Post by Lance » Sat Aug 11, 2007 3:03 am

keninottawa wrote:Being a monetarily-challenged grad student, I'm not complaining about the prices of these wonderful box sets. I'm still giddy about the Böhm Schubert Symphony cycle from DG that I practically stole from ArkivMusic.

Maybe if I didn't spend all my money on music, I wouldn't have so many financial woes. :oops:
Ken:

Congrats on your new location! Halifax is a place I've long wanted to visit and haven't yet made it there. Insofar as being broke for music, at least you can have that for an entire lifetime. Be glad you don't spend it on alcohol or drugs! :) The financial woes will gradually fall away once you land that big-time job but you'll still have your music! Keep the faith.
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Post by Yi-Peng » Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:09 pm

slofstra wrote:(Often the repackages are in sleeves in a small cardboard box, which is a much better format anyway.)
I like this format, as it's neater and cheaper. I only wish they wouldn't sacrifice on the quality of the liner notes. I wish this format were adopted for DG's boxed sets of Beethoven with Gardiner, that they can combine his cycles of the piano concertos and symphonies into one compact 9-CD box (including the piano quartet re-arrangements). In the case of some of the labels, a reissue allows for better-quality CDs because they would have a fully-printed label, and that protects the disc.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:36 am

Yi-Peng wrote:
slofstra wrote:(Often the repackages are in sleeves in a small cardboard box, which is a much better format anyway.)
I like this format, as it's neater and cheaper.
I loved the Columbia Masterworks series of a few years back. The gate-fold packaging with the original liner notes and the miniaturized colored label and advertising. Classy.
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Post by Ken » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:25 am

Are there any affordable Beethoven Sonata box sets out there amongst the recent reissues? My collection of these works are by many different artists and I wouldn't mind hearing a singular interpretation throughout the series.
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Post by premont » Sun Sep 30, 2007 7:38 am

keninottawa wrote:Are there any affordable Beethoven Sonata box sets out there amongst the recent reissues? My collection of these works are by many different artists and I wouldn't mind hearing a singular interpretation throughout the series.
You might investigate

the Brilliant Classics box edition of Friedrich Gulda´s 1968 integral

or

the French EMI release of Eric Heidsieck´s integral.

Both rather cheap.
I am sure Lance will agree with both.

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Post by RebLem » Sun Sep 30, 2007 7:43 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Yi-Peng wrote:
slofstra wrote:(Often the repackages are in sleeves in a small cardboard box, which is a much better format anyway.)
I like this format, as it's neater and cheaper.
I loved the Columbia Masterworks series of a few years back. The gate-fold packaging with the original liner notes and the miniaturized colored label and advertising. Classy.
I love the small box format myself. I think it makes NO sense for the least espensive set of the Shostakovich symphonies (Barshai on Brilliant) to be in the biggest slipcase with a whole bunch of inidividual jewel boxes, while a number of much more expensive sets are in small cardboard boxes. The Barshai box is especially egregious since the liner notes for them are minimal.

Yes, I agree that the Masterworks boxes with the original liner notes are wonderful, especially since the Columbia of the late 40's, the 50's, and 60's had some of the best liner notes on the LPs ever, and some of them were continued on inserts, especially in the cases of choral works. And many of the multiple LP sets, like the Fleisher/Szell box of the Beethoven piano concerti, had nice booklets with extensive liner notes in them. I am actually getting to the point where the west wall of my living room, the longest wall, has so many CDs on it, that I am going to have to embark on a fairly radical reorganization to accommodate even the ones I already have but that have not been listened to yet and are stored elsewhere rather haphazardly. This is going to involve my either selling or packing up most of my LPs in carboard boxes, putting a lot of DVDs and VHS tapes where the LPs are now, then moving my four shelves of non-classical CDs to the shelves where the tapes and DVDs are stored now, so that I will have a living room walll devoted solely to classical with four more yard long shelves available. But even that will only be a temporary solution. It would help if record companies would avoid unnecessarily wasted space.

And, if record companies want to sell hard copies of CDs instead of downloads, one of the ways of doing this is to pay lots more attention to liner notes. There is this excellent reissue label in Australia called Eloquence, for example. Excellent as far as the CDs are concerned, not so good on liner notes, which are minimal. Another thing. When I get my, say 30th recording of the Beethoven Ninth (actually, I have a few more than that), I don't need yet another recital about Beethoven's ouvre, and about how it came to be composed, and how the composer, who conducted at the premiere, was so deaf he had to be turned around to see the applause of the audience because he couldn't hear it. What I want is some information about the performers, particularly if they are new to me, as they sometimes are. Some of these Eloquence records, like one of the Missa Solemnis conducted by Mackerras featuring the Sydney Symphony and local Australian soloists, involve people I have never heard of; yet, the liner notes contain not a word about them, except a list of their names. They will have to do better than that in the future if they want to sell more than downloads.
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Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 30, 2007 7:58 am

Beethoven: Complete Masterpieces (RCA/Sony/Arte Nova - 60 CD Box Set)
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Last week, Amazon was selling this box new for $26, less than 4 bits a disc for quality performances.
  • CD 1-5: Die 9 Sinfonien - Tonhalle Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 6-7: Ouvertüren - Tonhalle Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 8: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus op.43 (Ballettmusik) - Litauische Kammerphilharmonie/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
    CD 9: Orchester-,Klavier-, Flöten und Violinwerke
    CD 10-12: 5 Klavierkonzerte - Yefim Bronfman/Tonhalle Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 13: Violinkonzert op.61 + Die 2 Violinromanzen op.40+50 - Christian Tetzlaff/Tonhalleorchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 14: Tripelkonzert op.56; Septett op.20 - Yefim Bronfman/Tonhalle Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 15-18: Die 10 Violinsonaten - Pinchas Zukerman/George Neikrug
    CD 19-20: Die 5 Cellosonaten + Variationen - Anner Bylsma/Jos van Immerseel
    CD 21-25: Die 12 Klaviertrios - Seraphin Trio
    CD 26: Die Streichtrios op.3 und op.8 - L'Archibudelli
    CD 27: Die Streichtrios op.9,1-3 - Kandinsky String Trio
    CD 28: Klavierquartett op.16 (Streicherfassung); Klavierquintett op.16 (Bläserfassung) - Emanuel Ax/Isaac Stern/ Jaime Lardo/YoYo Ma/Ensemble Wien-Berlin
    CD 29: Kammermusik für Streicher und Holzbläser - L'Archibudelli
    CD 30: Oktett op.103 / Klarinettensextett op.71 / Märsche für Bäser, u.a. - Mozzafiato
    CD 31-39: Die 16 Streichquartette - Alexander String Quartet
    CD 40-50: Die 32 Klaviersonaten - Yukio Yokoyama, Charles Rosen, Vladimir Horowitz, Justus Frantz, Gerhard Oppitz, Robert Casadesus
    CD 51: Die Bagatellen für Klavier Solo - Yukio Yokoyama
    CD 52: Die Variationen für Klavier Solo - Yukio Yokoyama
    CD 53: Diabelli-Variationen + 4 Klavierstücke WoO - Olli Mustonen
    CD 54: Lieder von den Britischen Inseln - Elaine Woods/Carolyn Watkinson/Richard Salter/Helmut Deutsch
    CD 55: Christus am Ölberge op.85 - Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
    CD 56: Messe op.86 - Tokyo Oratorio Society/Ensemble of Tokyo/Wolfdieter Maurer
    CD 57: Missa Solemnis op.123 - Tonhalle Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
    CD 58: Chorwerke - Regine Crespin/New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Schippers,Ambrosian Opera Chorus/London Symphony Orchestra/Tilson Thomas Martina Arroyo/Justine Diaz/Camerata Singers
    CD 59-60: Fidelio op.72 - Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Kurt Masur

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Post by CharmNewton » Sun Sep 30, 2007 9:34 am

premont wrote:
keninottawa wrote:Are there any affordable Beethoven Sonata box sets out there amongst the recent reissues? My collection of these works are by many different artists and I wouldn't mind hearing a singular interpretation throughout the series.
You might investigate

the Brilliant Classics box edition of Friedrich Gulda´s 1968 integral

or

the French EMI release of Eric Heidsieck´s integral.

Both rather cheap.
I am sure Lance will agree with both.
The Heidsieck set, which is my first choice, is also included in a collection (50 CDs) issued by French EMI of Beethoven masterpieces (which also includes Ferras/Barbizet in the Violin Sonatas, Tortelier/Heidsieck in the Cello Sonatas, Hungarian Quartet (stereo) in the String Quartets, Cluytens/BPO in the symphonies and overtures, Giulini conducting the Missa Solemnis and Mass in C major, and Karajan conducting Fidelio among others). This set lists for $80 U.S. but can be had for less in the Amazon.com marketplace. Heidsieck's recordings are impassioned, his instrument is exceptionally beautiful sounding and the recordings themselves (1967-74) are excellent

Another excellent and inexpensive set is Yukio Yokoyama's for Sony (12 CDs), available from Berkshire Record Outlet for about $24, with Beethoven's other works for solo piano. It was recorded over a period of nine months in the mid-1990s and reflects a young man's look at Beethoven (Heidsieck's does as well, the recordings are just spaced out over a much longer period).

John

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Post by slofstra » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:46 pm

So that big Brilliant set does have the piano sonatas,
CD 40-50: Die 32 Klaviersonaten - Yukio Yokoyama, Charles Rosen, Vladimir Horowitz, Justus Frantz, Gerhard Oppitz, Robert Casadesus
but all by different players.

There's also the DG set with some Kempff (see knotslip's Beethoven thread). But to directly answer your question, ken, there is the Anda set mentioned above, and also the Schnabel set can be had for $18. There's also a Gilels almost complete set for $28.

Image

That's one I've never seen before - $19.

Image

$34

Image

$33.50

Image

$31.00

Image

$47

Image

$65

Finally, jserraglio, you are dating yourself when you say '4 bits'. No-one says '2 bits' or '4 bits', anymore. (Well, I do, but my kids go, huh?). No doubt, in your youth they still had 'pieces of eight'? :)

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Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:17 pm

slofstra wrote:Finally, jserraglio, you are dating yourself when you say '4 bits'. No-one says '2 bits' or '4 bits', anymore. (Well, I do, but my kids go, huh?). No doubt, in your youth they still had 'pieces of eight'? :)
Henry,

I wish that were that the only time my kids went "huh?" So, death to all metaphor--amend my bits to bytes.

BTW . . . I like Claude Frank's LvB piano sonata cycle on M & A. And the 60-CD box comes from RCA/Sony/Arte Nova, not Brilliant. I ordered it from Amazon Canada today--painless way to sample Zinman's Beethoven Ive always wanted to hear.

regards,
jjS

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Post by premont » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:48 pm

slofstra wrote:So that big Brilliant set does have the piano sonatas,
CD 40-50: Die 32 Klaviersonaten - Yukio Yokoyama, Charles Rosen, Vladimir Horowitz, Justus Frantz, Gerhard Oppitz, Robert Casadesus
but all by different players.

There's also the DG set with some Kempff (see knotslip's Beethoven thread). But to directly answer your question, ken, there is the Anda set mentioned above, and also the Schnabel set can be had for $18. There's also a Gilels almost complete set for $28.
Probably you mean the Gulda set and not the Anda set, since Anda only recorded three LvB sonatas in all. Very good, released by Testament.

IMO the Roberts set and the Lill set (rather bad recorded sound) contain some nice details, but they are not generally recommendable in the same way as the Gulda set, the Kempff set or the Heidsieck set. The Yokoyama set is reliable but a bit pale in expression compared to the others.

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Post by premont » Sun Sep 30, 2007 1:55 pm

And Anne Øland, even if I ought to support her, since she is Danish as I, - don´t purchase her set, it is the worst I ever heard (I have heard about 45 cycles). It defies description. She lacks the necessary technical and artistic power.

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Post by Wallingford » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:09 pm

jserraglio wrote:
slofstra wrote:Finally, jserraglio, you are dating yourself when you say '4 bits'. No-one says '2 bits' or '4 bits', anymore. (Well, I do, but my kids go, huh?). No doubt, in your youth they still had 'pieces of eight'? :)
Henry,

I wish that were that the only time my kids went "huh?" So, death to all metaphor--amend my bits to bytes.
PLEASE--you're making me feel old. It's only recently I had the phrases figured out (i.e., 2 bits equals only one quarter, etc......it took that old familiar school-team cheer to finally get me straight on the figure). So it's now part of my vocabulary.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Post by Ken » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:34 pm

Thanks, folks, for your recommendations; an especial thanks to you, Henry, for the visual accompaniment. ;) Schnabel for $18? From what Soviet-era underground label can I find this set?
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Post by slofstra » Sun Sep 30, 2007 6:52 pm

This is the exact set I purchased for $18 new.

Schnabel schet

However, I see they are fresh out, but you can still obtain it on the Amazon marketplace.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:24 am

slofstra wrote:
keninottawa wrote:Being a monetarily-challenged grad student, I'm not complaining about the prices of these wonderful box sets. I'm still giddy about the Böhm Schubert Symphony cycle from DG that I practically stole from ArkivMusic.

Maybe if I didn't spend all my money on music, I wouldn't have so many financial woes. :oops:
Yeah, I almost sound like I'm complaining, don't I. I have the Bohm Schubert Symphony cycle as well. Did I catch between the lines in one of your posts that you might leave Ottawa?
Except for Bruckner, I find Böhn a bit too tame for my taste (even Mozart). I'm completely satisfied with the Muti/Vienna Phil on Brilliant-Classics' complete Schubert cycle. A plus: Muti takes ALL the repeats! :D

Jack
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