2011-01-26 15:21:22 UTC
When the Grateful Dead announced the release of "Europe '72: The
Complete Recordings," it was like a dream come true. It contains every
note of every show of the band’s legendary 1972 European tour, a holy
grail for Grateful Dead fans. It will be elaborately packaged and cost
$450. And the limited pressing of 7,200 box sets sold out in less than
That's where the trouble begins and success turns to possible failure.
The Dead came up with a compromise. Those who missed out can buy the
music only – sans the elaborate box (of which they'd bragged "wait
until you see the case in which the music is housed, the hard-bound
coffee-table book, plus all of the other cool surprises we've been
But as MSN Entertainment Senior Producer/resident Deadhead Dave McCoy
points out, the cost is still $450 – a price-point penalty to those
fans who didn’t jump on board from the get-go.
The box itself, which doesn’t even come out till Labor Day, is already
fetching four-figures on eBay.
Look, gauging demand for a product is a very hard science. Prince did
up a slick, thick coffee-table book of his 21-night stand in London a
few years ago, including a disc of live music from those stands,
including a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Much as I
wanted that disc, I wasn’t going to pay $50 for a vanity project. But
I happily scooped it up at Border’s the other day, as dozens of copies
sat, sealed, in the $4.99 bargain bin (and the live disc is damn
But the Dead is known for its elaborate boxes, including “The Golden
Road” and “Beyond Description,” seen below.
Given the size and sheer endurance of the Deadheads – and the fact
that many of those people are baby-boomers, who still buy more music
each year than any other demographic – maybe 7,200 copies of the new
box was shooting a bit low, yes?
So, to wrap it up: Deadheads who shelled out the money early thinking
it was the only way to (legitimately) get the music now find out
anyone can get the music. The upside: They get the nice packaging that
Fans who didn’t get the music in time now find they still have to pay
full price to (legitimately) get a much lesser product. Upside: They
still get the music, and 60-plus discs at $450 comes out to about $7
per disc, and each disc averages more than an hour of music.
The Dead is stuck in the middle – if it dropped the music-only option
price, the original buyers of the full box would howl. It kept the
$450 original price, and the rest of the buyers are howling. Plus at
the moment it's available only online (which means brick-and-mortar
record stores that have supported the band for years are cut out) and
only in the U.S. (so if you live in Europe and actually attended these
shows, you can't buy it).
But in a community that has been used to “trading” for decades, be it
cassettes, mp3s or CDRs, the Dead have created a ripe situation for
fans to feel ill-treated and justify illegal downloads of the music,
which I guarantee you will be available in lossless formats on a
million bittorrent sites within hours of the official release, if not