What’s That Square In Your Stocking?

AAccording to the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), stockings this Christmas will be filled with up to 20 million CDs.

Special Editions Win Prizes

It’s significant that the prediction relates to physical sales (unless stockings have gone digital), especially when bearing in mind last month’s big news about record-breaking digital album sales in 2011.

So what is keeping the cumbersome physical CD from being consigned to last year’s Christmas stocking? What keeps it relevant?

The answer, according to the BPI, is to be found in Deluxe and Special Edition CDs, which now account for one in ten physical album sales.

Is the answer to the CD’s continued relevance truly found in its packaging?

Special editions, for the most part, are pricier and heavier than their standard release equivalents; surely the contemporary consumer, so prone to illegal downloading and carrying hundreds of kilograms worth of CDs on an iPod, is more tech savvy than to actually buy a special edition album.

But it can’t even be the bonus tracks that tempt the consumer into splashing out on a special edition CD. Okay, okay, maybe just a bit; but we all know that it’s easier just to pay a nominal fee for them on iTunes or Amazon. It would seem that we’re developing peculiar habits – hoarding silver, shiny toys, and special edition CDs.

That’s not to mock special editions – one of my prized possessions is a special edition of AFI’s Sing the Sorrow, almost ubiquitously known as Clandestine – which are the best way for fans to get value for money in buying an album. After all, does anybody really want to spend hard-earned money on a CD with packaging limited to a cardboard sleeve?

If you read too much into the BPI’s recent press releases you’ll be excused for thinking that the phenomenon of special edition CDs is a recent one.

Fortunately for music, the idea was pushed at the Grammy’s as early as 1995, with a Grammy being given for the best special edition album every year.

BPI Chief Executive, Geoff Taylor, commenting on music as a gift, said, “Music is a thoughtful and personal gift to give or receive.

“CDs gift-wrapped and delivered to your door by the retailer make an ideal gift for Christmas whilst Deluxe and Special Editions of albums make a perfect present for die-hard music fans who want to get their hands on superbly packaged albums with bonus audio and video content and a wealth of memorabilia.”

According to the BPI, in the 12 months ending September 2011, one in ten CD sales of the Top 200 best-selling artist album titles have been deluxe and special Editions.

Long may an upward trend continue.

Samuel Agini is the Editor of Andrew Apanov’s Dotted Music.