In the age of digital music, it takes a little something “extra” to entice consumers to spend their hard-earned cash on physical media. The enormous convenience and portability of high-bitrate MP3 and lossless FLAC libraries have removed the necessity for dedicating walls (or in some cases, entire rooms) to house and proudly display our favorite albums.
But the beauty of a masterfully-designed and packaged album is one characteristic with which digital audio cannot compete. The same can be said for the experiential element of removing a vinyl LP from its sleeve, placing it upon one’s turntable, and carefully dropping the needle into the groove.
Record labels are fully aware of this key advantage, and in recent years have funneled an incredible amount of energy, time and resources into developing “super-deluxe” limited editions of albums both old and new to win customers over to buying the real thing.
Compilations, deluxe and limited editions have been an explosive trend in the last 10 years, and albums previously only available as bootlegs are resurfacing as official special releases, all in an effort to earn collector’s patronage. Official multi-volume Bootleg Series editions are now available featuring live material by Dylan, Miles Davis, and perhaps the kings of the bootleg market - The Grateful Dead, as the classic 36-volumes of Dick’s Picks are being sequentially reissued for the first time on vinyl.
Of course, the concept of deluxe and special editions is nothing new to the media industry. Deutsche Grammophon produced an impressive 16-volume library of hardbound 5LP sets celebrating Beethoven’s Bicentennial back in 1963. The complete collection of 80 records and a handsome oversize hardcover book made a perfect gift item for the classical fan in your life… though the set also burdens the recipient with the task of dedicating considerable floor space to accommodate the collection, and is a nightmare should they ever need to move.
Thankfully, the CD era granted increased portability with its more compact format. DG wasted no time and followed up the Bicentennial Collection with a 111 Year Retrospective of the label’s finest recordings. The two volumes released in 2009 and 2010 comprised a monumental 111 CDs marketed to completists and obsessive collectors of the finest classical music.
Still, even with all the conveniences of the CD, some deluxe sets take collectability a little too far. Perhaps the best example is the absurdly over complete 500-disc World’s Greatest Jazz Collection - a compilation of apparently every jazz track that wasn’t nailed down.
These and countless other deluxe releases demonstrate how the market for physical music media has evolved to adapt to the convenience of digital audio. Listeners have become cultural curators, carefully selecting which recordings they will purchase in physical form to best-fit their personal collections and to tell their own stories. The act of investing in an LP or CD is now a significant and deliberate decision which serves to contribute to one’s autobiographical library.
In 2014, marketing guru Gene Simmons fully-understood this consumer desire, and produced what is one of the finest implementations of a music product designed for the collector’s market.
This is Kissteria - “The Ultimate Vinyl Road Case.” Thirty-four LPs, featuring nineteen studio albums, five Alive releases and their four solo albums pressed onto audiophile 180g vinyl.
To further appeal to discerning audiophiles, each of the recordings has been newly remastered in ultra-high definition DSD. And as an added bonus, the set includes twelve archival posters, a KISS vinyl cleaning cloth, turntable mat, dominoes set, lithographs, and a certificate of authenticity - all of which is housed in an Anvil case weighing in at nearly 50 pounds.
The set was limited to 1000 copies - clearly an exclusive for KISS’ biggest mega-fans. The set symbolizes the perfect execution of a music product for the digital age. Listen up record labels - if you want to compete with the convenience of digital audio… this is how its done.