NEW YORK (Billboard) - Have boxed sets lost their
commercial luster, or can the configuration still shine when
Only a handful of enticing boxed sets are due out at year's
end. Among them are Rhino's long-in-the-works four-disc Jesus
and Mary Chain collection, "The Power of Negative Thinking:
B-Sides & Rarities"; the label's multidisc Jane's Addiction
box, which is being supervised by drummer Stephen Perkins; and
anthologies from Rob Zombie, Nina Simone, Roy Orbison, Dolly
Parton and Hall & Oates.
One of the most in-demand items is Neil Young's eternally
delayed "Archives Vol. 1," which will come out only on Blu-ray
and not on standard CDs, but it remains unclear if it will
finally see the light of day by year's end.
"Boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff; they went from
something to nothing," says Bryan Everitt, director of music
purchasing at Hastings Entertainment. "This Christmas we will
have a limited selection of boxed sets, the slimmest we have
Everitt adds labels need to cut the prices of boxed sets.
"Unless the majors seriously look at reducing the price of
the boxed set -- they still think they should cost $39.98 or
$49.98 -- sales will continue to slide."
Mike Davis, executive VP/GM of Universal Music Enterprises,
says that in response to those very concerns, the reissue
specialist has launched a new series, Playlist Plus.
It offers three discs at an affordable price, packaged in a
Digipak inside a slipsleeve without any booklets. Retail
sources say the series carries a list price of $29.99 and a
boxlot of $19.58. Acts appearing in the series include the
Temptations, Rod Stewart, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, the Allman
Brothers Band, the Moody Blues, Kiss and the Velvet
Not everyone thinks boxed-set sales are off that
dramatically. An executive with one of the majors who is not
authorized to speak for his company says they're down just like
CD sales are. "Everything is relative," he says. "In this
environment, you move with the marketplace. So you change your
expectations and watch cost much more closely."
The last big boxed-set hit was 2004's four-disc Nirvana
collection "With the Lights Out," which has sold 504,000 units,
according to Nielsen SoundScan. (Overall boxed-set sales can't
be measured; SoundScan doesn't collect data by that
"Boxed sets are alive and well as long as you're realistic
about your expectations and who the ultimate consumer is," a
sales executive who works in catalog for one of the majors
says. "There are some artists where you can sell 50,000 units
but there are others where you might reach the 15,000-20,000
range, so you have to plan your P&L (profit and loss)
While pricing is a concern, there are still certain
circumstances when premium prices can still be charged. Newbury
Comics head of purchasing Carl Mello cites the limited-edition
box for Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts I-IV," which sold 2,500 copies
at $300 a pop, as an example of a project done right. Likewise,
the major-label catalog sales executive points out that the
high-end version of U2's "The Joshua Tree" reissue at $59.98
sold 37,000 units, while the regular, limited-edition version
at $29.98 scanned 123,000.