Mike Duquette asked, 'Do Artists' Opinions on Their Catalogue Titles Influence Your Purchases?' Below is most of his interesting post discussing that question and making reference to the new Moondance release in October, 2013 followed by some reader opinions.
Not long after Joe had posted about Rhino’s upcoming expansion of Van Morrison’s Moondance, I vocalised my pleasant surprise at the news. Morrison’s history with reissues has been spotty at best. A late-2000s reissue campaign was quickly halted. The next day, however, Morrison issued a statement denouncing the project, taking particular issue with the wording of the press release suggesting he was involved. “It is important that people realise that this is factually incorrect,” the statement read in part. I did not endorse this, it is unauthorised and it has happened behind my back.
This is hardly the first time an artist has openly criticised their own catalogue works. Prince, who was allegedly paid to stay out of the compilation and release of The Hits/The B-Sides in 1993, insisted on a bevy of changes to 2006′s Ultimate Prince and then planned a new album to curtail its release. Elvis Costello, whose catalogue has been released three times as expanded CDs on three different labels, suggested that current rights owners Hip-O/UMe had “gotten off on the wrong foot” with a series of live reissues, “doing too many records from the same time period and the same repertoire.” And Morrissey, even as he has gotten involved in radically revisiting his own catalogue, has had choice words for previous box set efforts.Generally, though, such instances are rare. When it comes to the major labels, most will not (and in some cases cannot) embark on a vault project for a beloved artist without the consent (if not participation) of the artist in question. This isn’t for fear of bad publicity, but the more obvious legal entanglements.
Joe F. - While an artist’s okay is a blessing, it doesn’t always mean that a project’s a curse if they are not involved– especially if they seem unwilling to ever revisit some of their work when both they-and frankly, most of their most dedicated fans are getting old. Take this Moondance re-issue. If the record company is sincere and attempts to remaster, or remix the album from the best available sources, and utilising the services of talented engineers, while spending time on packaging and notes and then prices the finished product accordingly, why not? Now, I realise that some re-issues are slap dash, or overpriced, or even come out sounding worse than the original album, and that could happen with or without an artist’s involvement.
John - I agree with the sentiment in this post. As someone who was previously in the music industry with a little hand-dipping into catalogue A&R, I can say that labels aren’t all money-grabbers as many perceive. Most catalogue departments are staffed by music enthusiasts who want to “Do the right thing” in terms of a reissue. Van may be annoyed that he is not contractually be required to participate, but I hardly believe this reissue was done to tarnish his legacy; quite the opposite. (Personally, I am not a fan of him).
Joe F. - Does money have anything to do with it? I mean would Van receive the same royalty rate on a multi-disc reissue that he would on the same single disc Moondance that has been on shelves for decades? In other words, is there a financial incentive for him to get involved?
Brian from Canada - The labels, to me, are often the ones doing the right thing when it comes to these bigger reissues. Many artists don’t perceive the past work the same way fans do, and they often focus instead on the present or future. But don’t deny the fans material just because you don’t want to look back. Where the labels err is in the continuous reissue of the same material. David Bowie pretty much ground to a halt right before the interesting stuff (Berlin trilogy, pop trilogy). We haven’t gotten many classic Billy Joel concerts, and the 90s stuff was all recorded DAT. And the list goes on and on and on.
Mike - Like Lou Reed, Morrison is a miserable a##hole and always has been. I’m sure he’ll get paid for this reissue, so he should really just cash the checks and not worry about it. He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, but his complaining is all too predictable.
Chief Brody - This is a VERY, VERY complicated issue with a lot of different facets to it, IMO. As for Van, the guy is a curmudgeon of legendary proportions, so I’m not surprised he’s disowned this Moondance reissue. Personally, I think his catalogue (especially that album, in particular) deserves the royal treatment, and it looks like WB is gonna treat this this title with the respect it’s deserved for so long. I hope I’m right. It’s a shame that the only decent digital mastering of it was on a long-OOP Japanese import that’s now commanding big money on the used market.
I’m not always sure that an artist is necessarily the best judge of his or her work, but ultimately it’s their creation, and if they have the legal right to do so, they can do with their work whatever the hell they want to do with it. Doesn’t mean we as consumers have to like it or buy it, though. I tend to view these things on a case-by-case basis.