CD Boxed Sets Headed for Extinction?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 2:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-boxedset.jpgWhile current releases by notable artists can still move some units, the CD boxed set may turn out to be a kind of global warming polar bear, feeling the pain of slipping physical music sales before the rest of the world. Reuters reports that fewer and fewer collections are being released, and quotes a music purchaser as saying "boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff." While SoundScan doesn't have data specific to boxed sets, the last collection to be a hit was Nirvana's With the Lights Out, which sold 504,000 copies. While a record exec quoted in the article downplays the sales slide with a Zen-like "everything is relative," I can actually see a couple possible reasons for the downturn right there in paragraph two:

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Only a handful of enticing boxed sets are due out at year's end. Among them are Rhino's long-in-the-works four-disc Jesus and Mary Chain collection, "The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities"; … and anthologies from Rob Zombie, Nina Simone, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Hall & Oates.

Ahem! Sure, hooray Jesus and Mary Chain, but I can safely say that's a niche product: I'm probably in the top 10% in terms of dedicated J&MC fans, and I can't imagine plunking down $50 for that thing. Otherwise, holy moley, record labels: you're telling me the Hall & Oates boxed set might be a commercial disappointment? This points out a generally-overlooked factor in the whole argument about the reasons for the decline in music sales: people want to buy good music that they actually like. Has anybody done any studies correlating the sales downturn with the appearance of Ashlee Simpson? Well I'll get right on that.