Unheard Music?
March 11, 2006 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Not on CD/DVD? Why?

I just spent a couple of days ripping some vinyl to my HD. I broke down because I was tired of waiting, and need to clear out storage room.

While I know some stuff will never be on CD (Ramones promo single, Meatloaf promo concert), but I can't figure why some doesn't get released (Zevon's "Envoy" and live album.)

I know these aren't going to sell millions, but there is an audience. Who decides what music or movies get rereleased?

And what hasn't been released that should be?
posted by Marky to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Wim Wenders' great sci-fi movie Until the End of the World (1991) is STILL not on DVD in North America (or presumably even in an English DVD release). Perhaps this sheds some light:
"Anchor Bay Entertainment had once announced that it would be releasing the director's cut of Until the End of the World in North America, but has since switched hands and abandoned interest in Wenders' catalogue. Currently, there are no known plans to release the film on DVD in North America."
Apparently, except to viewers, films are pretty much just a commodity.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2006

The State should be released on DVD!

As for who decides, it's whomever controls the rights. It would differ in every situation.
posted by jahmoon at 9:07 PM on March 11, 2006

RE: The State - it should be, but I think that is a little different than Marky's question. The State has yet to be released, where as some of what he speaks about has been released, but simply never saw the format change. What makes the label decide what makes the jump to the next medium, and what is left behind?

Derail: The rumor I've heard in the case of The State (and I stress, rumor) is that there is a massive amount of red tape due to the amount of popular music they used in their skits. However, in this article Thomas Lennon says there is rumor (yes, more rumors) of releasing the skits via iTunes. It will be a glorious day when The State gets officially release in a proper fashion.
posted by bwilms at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2006

Seconding jahmoon -- Every piece of media (music or movies) has a different story behind it, and a different set of entities who control it. And yes, rolypolyman, sadly, both film and recorded music are mere commodities when large companies control them. While there may well be an audience for any given work, how can the label cost-effectively reach that audience amid all the media noise?

I'm not familiar with Warren Zevon's catalog to speculate why "Envoy" is not currently available. But, in the music realm, I think it's a better bet that any given album x will show up eventually on iTunes or other online service than being physically pressed. We're in the twilight of physical media. It's now a lot easier and far less risky to distribute online; one just has to do the accounting (which, in music, is much more complicated than for physical media).

Note too that there's a thriving BitTorrent scene for out-of-print albums. I am amazed at the stuff that, for example, Chocoreve posts, day after day.
posted by omnidrew at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2006

I have found some obscure music at Music Stack. Some of the vendors there will transfer vinyl to CD, when they have the original. These guys, for instance - they made me a compilation CD of two LPs by a '60s group that you've never heard of. Something more recent would probably be even easier to get. (The CD cost $25 and took about a month to arrive, but sounds reasonably good.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:16 AM on March 12, 2006

From the perspective of working at a label who re-issues a lot of stuff (we have a catalogue dating back to 1888), unfortunately a lot of the time it's lawyers and economics.

For each item sitting in our vaults that we'd want to reissue we have to:

- Get clearance/approval from the artist, or if the artist is deceased, their estate
- Get clearance from the songwriters, where applicable
- Locate the original/best copy
- If the material is in analog format, digitize it (a process which tends toward being expensive enough to not just say "ok lets do that with everything)
- manufacture it
- Get enough stores to stock it that it even makes sense to release it
- run through a similar process of press and marketing with it as there was with the original release, adding it on top of our already packed-to-the-gills current release schedule.

After all that, in order to recoup our costs (not even talking about profit here), we'd have to sell such a large number of units that it doesn't make a ton of sense at this point to release a lot of the stuff thats still sitting in there.

The digital age has at least made the manufacturing and some of the marketing less of a strain on our resources, but unfortunately it's still not as much of a "no brainer" as a lot of, say, Warren Zevon fans may imagine it is.

There are, however, a ton of people who work with me who are passionate about what we have and getting it out to people who want it. It's just not as easy as it should be. Which makes us just as sad as it makes everyone else.
posted by softlord at 5:07 AM on March 12, 2006

Softlord put it right: It's all about economics (and by close association, lawyers). Any fantastic -- nay, essential -- work can be shelved indefinitely in a backroom vault if the copyright owner doesn't feel they can cover their costs to (re)distribute it.

Unfortunately, marketability trumps artistic value in this equation. And so we wait, and wait...

Since you asked, one movie that really, really deserves to be on DVD in the US, but isn't: Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth.

There's always hope, however. Two other film favorites were finally released on Region 1 DVD after many years' conspicuous absence: Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies and, just last week, Bennett Miller's The Cruise -- no doubt thanks to his Oscar nominations for Capote, else it would probably have remained in out-of-print-VHS-land forever.
posted by skyboy at 9:12 AM on March 12, 2006

Sounds like softlord got it, but since you mention them, Jordan Zevon (Warren's son) has been working on getting both "The Envoy" and "Stand in The Fire" re-released. Apparently they are "... on the way ... Just jumping over legal hurdles"..
posted by gds at 9:43 AM on March 12, 2006

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