Generally speaking, when a musician puts in dozens of hours of work into writing, practicing, and then laying down the tracks on a new album, they want to do what they can to help push album sales — if they intend to make money as a musician, one good way is to make salable albums. If they promote their albums in their own way, it helps ensure their future as a professional full time musician.

Sometimes, however, the musician gets the feeling that their record label is going too far in reaching into the pockets of their fans, and when this happens, the musician hits a crossroad. Do they just go along with the label and pretend that they do not notice that their label is stabbing their fans in the back, hitting them where it hurts because they know that they will pay anything to get art associated with their favorite artists?

This is not the route that Elvis Costello chose to take. Even though it would seem to be in Costello’s best interest to recommend buying his new release, a box set including a book, he tells fans that buying the set would not be advisable.

Costello acknowledged that it was a “beautifully designed compendium.” However, writing on his website, he told fans: “There was a time when the release of a new title by your favourite record artist was a cause for excitement and rejoicing but sadly no more.

“Unfortunately, we at find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.”

Instead of buying the release as is, he suggests they wait awhile and buy the components of the set when they go on sale separately. That way it is more affordable to the average fan.

There are two ways to look at this. From the perspective of the label, it would seem that this is quite a betrayal from Costello. On the other hand, the label surely realizes that there are plenty of fans that are enthusiastic enough about the music of Elvis Costello that even telling them not to buy it will not make a difference. This is especially the case since only one thousand five hundred copies of this special box set were produced.

From the perspective of the average fan, on the other hand, it would seem like Costello is standing up for their rights as fans not to get ripped off to get access to his music. Of course, as a musician that is signed to the label, the real question is whether Costello has the right to tell his fans to do something that would be actively defying the label that, in a way, employs him?


  1. I find this confusing, Gordon. I think Elvis has to be in on it. I’m reminded of Abbie Hoffman’s — “Steal This Book” PR stunt — and this has that certain, same, smell of something not quite being right.

    If Elvis didn’t want this compilation to come out — he could’ve easily stopped it. Complaining about it gets him off a moral hook — or so he thinks…

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