Don't buy my new £210 box set - Elvis Costello

Brutal truth from the Brutal Youth

Elvis Costello wants fans to shun a limited edition box-set of his music priced at over £200 when it goes on sale next month.

“Unfortunately, we at www.elviscostello.com find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire,” wrote Costello on the aforementioned website.

“All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless but rather than detain you with tedious arguments about morality, panache and book-keeping - when there are really bigger fish to filet these days - we are taking the following unusual step.”

The 3-CD live box set is priced at £212.99 on Amazon. Instead, anyone with $150 (or the equivalent) to spare should buy the Louis Armstrong box set instead. That’s impeccable advice.

The plan being followed by his record company, an imprint of Universal Music, is to price a collector’s edition expensively, then release the songs in cheaper editions or digitally once the demand for that has been met.

That’s a well-travelled route, and a canny one: when Nine Inch Nails released digital copies for free they were accompanied by physical vinyl editions ranging from $10 to $300 – even more than the Costello box set. That’s simply realising what the market has to offer: well-heeled completists and traders will fork out, knowing the items will be even more expensive in the secondary market.

And as a publicity stunt, Costello’s posting has worked wonders - when was the last time he made front pages of the newspapers? And obviously, too, such ploys are a luxury that only well-established acts can indulge in. A sinking record business hurts the poor and ‘middle class’ artists far more, the most persuasive case against piracy comes from small labels.

As the saying goes: in a depression, the rich get thin, but the poor go hungry. ®

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