Even with the surprising, okay, VERY surprising news that Taylor Swift's latest album sold a whopping 1.2 million copies in its first week, almost everyone can agree that the music biz is in a heap of trouble. Labels and artists alike are scrambling to make a buck any way they can. Sometimes this could be to the benefit of fans and collectors of limited edition items, or quite the contrary. In the case of Rhianna, it's the latter rather than the former.
For those of you who don't know, Rhianna's upcoming album, Unapologetic, will be available in multiple formats, which has been the norm for releases these days. There's the standard CD ($9.99 via Amazon) or if you're feeling ambitious, plunk down a few more bucks for the deluxe CD/DVD version. Or if you're a diehard fan who collects all things Rhianna (you know who you are), you can spend $250 for the Diamonds Executive Platinum Box.
Hearing the name of the box, you wouldn't be wrong to think that you'd be receiving a diamond encrusted CD. Unfortunately, that's not the case. For your money, you'll receive the following items: a T-shirt, seven art-print lithographs, and a vinyl record containing remixes of latest single “Diamonds.” Also included are an Unapologetic-branded 2GB flash memory drive, various stickers, and a “handwritten personal note,” plus a 40-page booklet of lyrics and notes. There's also a white-and-silver ViewMaster (remember those?) stocked with previously unreleased 3D Rihanna images.
Is that worth $250? Put it this way, you could have a new iPod or if you're eligible for a rebate/upgrade, an iPhone for that type of money. The only thing that's original and cool from that hodgepodge of items is the handwritten note. That could be nice to have as a memento, after all, when will you have the chance to meet the Barbadian pop star in person? But otherwise, it doesn't seem worth the money, especially since her fans are younger and aren't likely to be able to afford to buy that special package.
As appalling as that price is based on the age demographic of Rihanna's fans, it pales in comparison to aging rock bands. Though they're perhaps one of the most capitalistic bands ever (not too far behind KISS) who will brand anything, the Rolling Stones are offering the outrageously priced Brussels Affair box set (ranging from $750-$1500) at least it's signed by Mick Jagger and includes tickets to one of the band's upcoming shows in Newark amongst other goodies that are too numerous to name. There weren't that many of these sets available, but at least the Stones know that their fan base (read: aging boomers who grew up in a time when bootleg albums were cool) would be willing to pay this much for rare boxed sets than others.
If you're going to give away a deluxe or superduper deluxe edition of your album, the point is to know your role and make it worth your fans money. Times are still tight these days and though fans will always support their favorite stars, that doesn't mean they should be taken advantage of.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.