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Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos.
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
In April 2006, R&B singer Beyonce released her second solo album, B'Day. Although it wasn't her best-selling album, it produced the No. 1 single "Irreplaceable." There used to be a time when a few singles from a release would run their course, and the album would be ... well, over — but not this one.
Beyonce and her record label, Columbia, reissued B'Day just months after its first release. They threw in a few new songs and a music video for every track on the album. The re-release generated a 903-percent jump in sales. The record industry saw dollar signs.
Keith Caulfield is the Senior Chart Manager at Billboard magazine. He says record labels are looking for anything to prop up album sales, which have already plunged 17 percent this year.
"Basically anything to motivate the consumer, to go out and repurchase an album, which is kind of what it comes down to," says Caulfield.
Labels are zeroing in on audiences who will buy just about anything from their favorite artist.
"Some fans and customers really want to pay a lot of money or extra money for extra content," says Caulfield. "There are some fans that just have insatiable appetites for this kind of product."
There used to be a time when the wait for a remastered or bonus-filled release took years, but now, reissues of popular albums have become so commonplace that they often happen just months after an album's first release.
Of the 10 best-selling albums last year, eight had official re-releases. They include those by Taylor Swift, Beyonce, The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, even Hannah Montana. Artists and record companies have found fans who will buy the same product, or at least similar products, twice.
With some fans, however, that sales tactic doesn't work so well. At Melody Records in Northwest Washington, D.C., Anreus Woods offered a challenge to record labels.
"What have you really done? You haven't really added any more content. You're showing me a DVD of stuff I've already seen on VH1, MTV. It's like, what's the point?" says Woods. "If your album is so great, put it out right the first time. Don't wait until the second time, oh BONUS, reissue! That's a bunch of garbage."
Or is it? Indie band Passion Pit recently re-released its debut album, Manners, but lead singer Michael Angelakos admits that the band didn't get it right the first time.
"I didn't actually end up submitting the correct lyrics, nor did I settle on artwork I was completely happy with," says Angelakos.
It seems Passion Pit was in a rush to meet a record label deadline. After the album came out, the musicians went back to the label and asked to reissue it, with proper lyrics, new artwork and some new songs, like a cover of the Cranberries' "Dreams."
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The musicians say sales didn't matter. They just wanted to get it right. And they've been pleased with the reception.
"It hasn't, like, spiked sales," says Angelakos. "They've basically stayed the same, they've been consistent. It's been great, it's been wonderful."
Angelakos has no reservations about reissuing the album. "Why the hell not?" he says. "Why would you not do that? And the fact that a label was willing to relabel the album and reprint it, just a year after releasing it, was fantastic."
Especially if it sells a few more records. Billboard's Caulfield says we shouldn't expect reissues to die anytime soon, and we probably shouldn't be surprised by such record label tactics.
"Now, when someone's album comes out, there may be the iTunes version, the Amazon version, the CD version, the one with the DVD, the one that comes bundled with the T-shirt, the one that's in the special velour box with a piece of someone's hair inside for $150. The one that has Mick Jagger's signature inside," says Caulfield.
So for those who care to buy their music at all, it seems like there will be at least two — if not multiple — opportunities for purchase.