The death of fades

I know it’s a bit old itself now, but I found this article recently, and read it with interest. If you can’t be bothered reading it in full right now, the gist is that songs that fade out peaked in the US chart in 1984, and have been disappearing ever since, hitting zero for two years running in 2011 and 2012, for the first time in over fifty years. If you’ll pardon the obvious pun, they seem to have literally faded away.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that in the 1990s, when fadeouts were everywhere, it always seemed a bit lazy to me, as though artists couldn’t really be bothered working out how to end their songs. I was wrong, of course – a fade is every bit as much of an artistic decision as a snare sound or guitar effect. Billboard wrote a lengthy, and interesting analysis of how fades work, as did NPR, and others seem to have concluded much the same – it’s very much part of the song (look for Survey 845 here). The AV Club go further, suggesting that abrupt endings are just plain wrong in pop music.

But they were pretty much omnipresent, and to have lost them is a tragedy indeed. So what happened, exactly? The Slate article above blames twitchy iPod fingers and millennial attention spans, which seems fair.

It’s perhaps slightly surprising that this hasn’t raised more attention – issues this big tend to hit all the major news channels, but apparently nobody cares about the loss of fadeouts. The fact that there are academic papers on the matter is a relief, though.

Songs that fade in, of course, are another matter entirely…

You can watch an interesting analysis of the problem via Vox below:

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Pocket guide to The Human League albums

The Human League have an enviable back catalogue of nine studio albums, but the release status of each is confusing. Having just seen an excellent reissue of Secrets, now is a good time to review the situation. In this article, we will explore the current release status of each and suggest some suitable next steps.

The Golden Hour of the Future (compilation)

Originally released in 2002 and reissued in 2008 and 2009, all versions of this seem to have become fairly rare again, so this exceptional collection of early rarities is definitely in need of another reissue.

Reproduction

The debut album was originally released in 1979, and finally saw a CD release ten years later, with an incredible eight bonus tracks shoved on the end. It’s a fairly comprehensive collection of tracks from the era, and is widely available thanks to a remastered 2003 reissue. The original LP is also widely available, having been reissued on 180g vinyl in 2016.

There seems to have just been one track that didn’t make it onto the CD, but nothing too world changing: The Path of Least Resistance (Original Album Version)

Travelogue

As with the first album, this excellent release from 1980 was reissued on CD in 1988 and then remastered in 2003, and the LP was reissued on 180g vinyl in 2016. This is exactly how The Human League‘s back catalogue should be treated.

Again, there are a handful of rarities that didn’t make it onto the CD: Marianne (Alternative Version); Only After Dark (Single Version); and Toyota City (Long Version).

Dare / Love and Dancing

The outstanding Dare (1981) seems to have presented a few challenges for people who were trying to revisit The Human League‘s back catalogue, as the reissues are a bit of a mess. My favourite is probably the 2002 remaster that packages it with Love and Dancing and comes in book packaging, but having both releases on a single CD is a slightly odd decision. The double-disc box set from 2012 adds a host of bonus tracks, but inexplicably skips Love and Dancing and goes with Fascination! instead.

For me, therefore, a definitive reissue should include the original album as the first disc, plus b-sides Hard Times and Non-Stop. The second disc would include Love and Dancing in its entirety, followed by some or all of: The Sound of the Crowd (7″ Mix, Instrumental 7″ Mix, 12″ Mix, and Instrumental 12″ Mix), Love Action (I Believe in Love) (7″ Mix), Hard Times/Love Action (I Believe in Love) (12″ Mixes and Instrumentals), Non-Stop/Open Your Heart (Instrumentals), Do or Die (Dub), Don’t You Want Me (Extended Dance Mix and Alternative Version). Of these, only The Sound of the Crowd (Instrumental 7″ Mix) and Do or Die (Dub) are missing from recent reissues, but the track orders were all a bit messed up.

Fascination!

Although never properly released as an album in the UK, the 1983 Fascination! mini-album appeared on the tail end of the 2012 reissue of Dare alongside some bonus tracks. Logically, it should really be reordered and treated properly. The original album includes six tracks: (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Extended Version); Mirror ManHard TimesI Love You Too Much (Martin Rushent Version); You Remind Me of Gold; and (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Improvisation). Bonus tracks should include: Mirror Man (Extended Version); You Remind Me of Gold (Instrumental Remix); (Keep Feeling) Fascination (7″ Mix); Total Panic; and I Love You Too Much (Dub Version). All of which have been released somewhere already.

Hysteria

The 1984 follow-up to Dare saw a bizarrely rare remastered US CD reissue in 2005 with two b-sides and three extended versions which resurfaced in Japan in 2017, but otherwise vanished instantly without a trace, and hasn’t seen an LP release since 1984. All the foundations are there, and it’s definitely in need of a bit of love.

Several tracks did not make it onto this reissue: The Lebanon (Instrumental); Thirteen (7″ Version); The Sign (Extended Re-mix). The following have also appeared on other releases: The Lebanon (7″ Version); and Louise (DJ Edit). So nothing too major.

Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder

One of the best treated of all of The Human League‘s releases and side releases, Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder‘s 1985 side project saw a comprehensive 2003 remastered reissue with seven bonus tracks in the UK, and more recently, a limited US reissue in 2012 with three bonus tracks. Both are now relatively rare now, and could probably do with another outing at some point, ideally accompanied by an LP reissue as well.

Crash

As with Hysteria, the 1986 American album, while far from great, is also rather unloved. It was reissued in the US in 2005 with three extended versions, and then reissued again in Japan in 2017. While comprehensive enough, it omits a number of potential alternative versions, and could definitely do with a worldwide release and an LP reissue.

Several tracks did not make it onto this reissue: Human (Instrumental and Acapella); I Need Your Loving (Instrumental, Acapella, and Dub); Love is All That Matters (Instrumental and Acapella); and Are You Ever Coming Back? (Edit). The following have also appeared on other releases: Human (7″ Version); and I Need Your Loving (DJ Edit); and Love is All That Matters (7″ Version). So nothing too major here either.

Romantic?

Arguably The Human League‘s nadir, the original 1990 release of this album also suffers from appalling mastering, and hasn’t seen a reissue outside of Japan since. Tracks from the singles, including edits and William Orbit‘s remix of Heart Like a Wheel, have appeared on other releases in recent years, but there’s still plenty of scope for bonus tracks, including the dub mix of A Doorway and a suite of remixes of Soundtrack to a Generation. With a bit of curation, it would probably be a good single CD release (or even a passable double) with an accompanying LP.

Several tracks should be included on a future reissue: A Doorway (Dub); and Soundtrack to a Generation (Instrumental, William Orbit Mix, Pan Belgian Mix, Pan Belgian Dub, 808 Mix Instrumental, Dave Dodd’s Mix, and Acapella). The following have already appeared on other releases: Heart Like a Wheel (Extended Mix and William Orbit Mix); and Soundtrack to a Generation (Edit).

Octopus

Between 1993 and 1996 was probably The Human League‘s most prolific period, with a fantastic album in early 1995, plus six single releases, each containing huge numbers of remixes. I could live without the remixes of Don’t You Want Me, which were commissioned for a single to promote the reissued Greatest Hits album, but Stay with Me Tonight and the tracks from the rare YMO versus The Human League single definitely deserve to be packaged with the album somehow. It’s long overdue a double CD and LP reissue, not having seen any sort of release since 1995.

A huge number of tracks could be considered for a future reissue. Following the logic of the Secrets reissue, the first disc should definitely include: Behind the Mask; Kimi Ni Mune Kyun; The Bus to Crookes; and Stay with Me Tonight. The second disc should include a selection of: Kimi Ni Mune Kyun (Extended Version), Tell Me When (7″ Edit, Utah Saints Mix 1, Mix 1 Edit, and Mix 2, Red Jerry Remix, Strictly Blind Dub, Overworld Mix and Edit); One Man in My Heart (T.O.E.C. Radio Edit, Extended, Unplugged, Nasty Sue Mix, and Nasty Sue Radio Edit); These Are the Days (Sonic Radiation Mix, Ba Ba Mix and Symphonic Mix, Overworld Mix, and Man with No Name Vocal and Instrumental); Filling Up with Heaven (Neil McLellan Vocal Mix and Club Mix, Hardfloor Remix and Vocal Remix, and ULA Remix); John Cleese; Is He Funny? (ULA Remix, Self Preservation Society House Mix, and Valentines Bonus Beats); Don’t You Want Me (Red Jerry 7″, 12″, and Dub Mix, and Snap! 7″ and 12″ Remix); and Stay with Me Tonight (Space Kittens Vocal Mix and Future Dub, and The Biff & Memphis Remix and Dub).

Secrets

The exceptional 2001 comeback saw an unexpected three-sided white vinyl release for Record Store Day 2018, which was followed by a brilliantly comprehensive double CD release which is still widely available. All that remains is to make the vinyl more widely available again.

I think there are just a couple of tracks that didn’t make it onto this release: All I Ever Wanted (Tobi Neumann Remix) and Love Me Madly? (Toy Mix and Zenn Eternal Countdown Edit).

Remixes 2003-2008

The decade between Secrets and Credo was far from quiet, with a whole suite of remixes released on The Very Best Of, followed by a large selection of reworkings of The Things That Dreams Are Made Of. Some of them are extremely good, so it would be nice to see them properly released at some point, but for now, this shouldn’t be a high priority.

Live at the Dome

I’m not quite clear why this 2005 CD exists, apart from just to repackage the 2004 DVD, which itself suffers in terms of sound quality in a couple of places. Not worth reissuing.

Credo

The most recent album is unlikely to see a reissue any time soon, but the original release from 2011 is still widely available on CD, with a rarer double vinyl release also floating around.

A future bonus disc would ideally include some of the many remixes that appeared on the singles: Night People (Single Version, Cerrone Club Remix, Mylo Remix, Emperor Machine Extended Vocal, Villa Remix); Never Let Me Go (Radio Edit, Italoconnection Remix Radio Edit and Remix, Aeroplane Remix Radio Edit, Remix Edit, and Remix, and DJ Pierre’s Afro Acid Mix); Sky (Fusty Delights Remix Edit and Remix, Plastic Plates Remix, The Hacker Remix, Martin Brodin Remix, and Marsheaux Remix Edit and Remix); and Egomaniac (Radio Edit and Instrumental). The single edits of Night People and Sky already appeared on the Anthology – A Very British Synthesizer Group collection.

Next Steps

It seems the most urgent thing to do is to release a double CD version of Octopus, followed by a remastered version of Romantic? with extra tracks. Then the existing reissues of Hysteria and Crash should see a wider release.

Sales Analysis – 2017

Every year, some time before we’re half way through the year, I try to take a quick look at the health of last year’s music industry. The wait is intentional, as some of the bigger-picture reports don’t start to arrive until April or May. So here’s a look back at 2017.

The music business is pretty healthy, actually

A total of 135.1 million albums (or “album-equivalents”) were sold in 2017, and although I can’t quite make that number add up, if it’s true, that would be the highest number for a decade. Album-equivalents are a bit of a makeshift way of measuring sales, but apparently overall music revenues totalled £1.2 billion, which I think is the highest since 2010, so as with last year, things are definitely on the up.

Globally, music revenues increased by 8.1% to $17.3 billion, thanks largely to a 41.1% rise in streaming revenues. Which isn’t much compared to the $25.2 billion that were earned at the sector’s peak in 1999, but it’s still the highest it’s been in a long time.

Streaming has got silly now

An incredible 68.1 billion songs were streamed in the UK last year, meaning that on average, each person streamed 1,036 songs. Which is actually mindblowing – on an average day, an average worker, pensioner, child, infant, basically everyone – listened to 2.8 songs via an audio streaming app or website.

Exactly how much longer this can go on for is an interesting one to think about. A normal person surely can’t stream more than about 50-100 songs in a day, and excluding the babies (who are probably streaming nursery rhymes in their cribs, but I like to think the parents have more sense) and the pensioners (who are hopefully still listening to Mantovani on the wireless), surely there isn’t room for streaming to grow much more?

Streaming now accounts for 38.4% of all global music revenue, although in addition to the sound quality being awful, IFPI makes some stern warnings about just how little revenue artists see from video streaming services such as YouTube (which apparently single-handedly accounts for 46% of all music streaming). Video services account for 55% of all music streams, but earn artists less than a sixth of the amount that audio services provide. Which is also pretty dire, by the way.

But nobody buys anything any more

Actually they do, just not very much. That same average person in the UK bought slightly less than 1 physical album last year. CD albums are selling about a quarter of what they sold at their peak in 2004. Global physical sales aren’t in complete freefall, having dropped by just 5.4% last year, but downloads slipped by 20.5%, which proves that downloading just isn’t a thing any more.

And nobody even talks about singles these days – I couldn’t find singles sales reported anywhere.

LPs are selling the most since the early 1990s

It’s really hard to measure because the BPI switched from talking about “deliveries” to “sales” in 2000, but from examining the numbers during the transition period prior to that, typically about half of releases that were delivered to record shops seem to have actually been sold. So with 4.1 million vinyl albums sold this year, I think you have to go back to 1991 or 1992, when 12.9 and 6.7 million records were delivered respectively, to find a total anywhere close to where we are right now.

Worldwide, vinyl now makes up 3.7% of all music revenues, having grown by 22.3% last year.

There’s not even really any sign of the vinyl revolution slowing – while we’re unlikely to ever see the levels of the late 1970s again (91.6 million LPs were delivered in 1976), I suspect we might still be a few years away from the second great vinyl event horizon.

Having said that, people are still buying 10 CD albums for every LP, so it’s still niche right now.

Long live the tape!

Talking of niche formats, as I reported earlier in the year, UK cassette sales in 2017 more than doubled from under 10,000 to around 20,000 (probably), while US sales continued to balloon from 74,000 in 2015 to 129,000 in 2016, and now 174,000 in 2017.

This is obviously great news for anyone who likes really ropey sound quality and wow and flutter.

If you enjoyed reading that, you can also see previous years here: 20162015201420132012. The last few all say pretty much the same thing, to be honest.

The Day the Music Died

If you scroll through the Industry label on this blog, you’ll see a series of musings / rants that I posted, mostly fairly early on in the life of the blog, beginning with my creatively named State of the Industry Address, back in 2012. For a long time, I’ve been meaning to put some kind of post together to summarise the findings.

That was just over five years ago, and as my annual sales analyses (also under the same label) have proved, the “industry” has changed fundamentally in that time. Back in the 1980s, as you may remember, record labels could pretty much throw anything out, and it would make the charts in one form or another. Then CDs came along, and they were able to go round reissuing everything, so silly suckers like you would buy them again. Then, about 15 years later, they discovered that the original CDs weren’t that well mastered in the first place so you had to buy them again, now as a remaster, which might come in a nice big boxed special edition, or it might just be the same as the original, only a lot louder.

But in the 1990s, the music industry started to limit itself in bizarre ways – they changed the chart rules so that the number and contents of formats were limited, and tried to kill the remix at a time when it had become one of the most creative elements in music. They tried throwing more formats at us, to see if they could change the way we listened to music, but we didn’t bite.

But by the end of the 1990s, the record labels were being edged out of their own game by technology, and that’s the trend that has dogged them for the last couple of decades. Initial attempts to stamp out illegal copying by adding copy protection to CDs backfired spectacularly.

Then, when sales started to slump, and pretty much every high street record shop had closed, computer games suddenly went mainstream, and VHS finally gave way to DVD, and the few remaining shops started selling them instead.

Nowadays, you’re most likely to stream your music rather than buy it outright, and nobody seems to care about the UK charts since they moved to Fridays, not even Radio 1. And if you’re a total completist, there’s also a good chance that you might be trying to build up a completely lossless music library too. Physical releases still sell, and record companies continue to come up with ingenious ways to sell us the same thing again and again, such as the recent trend of releasing anthologies.

There are positives – many of the most creative record companies are actually still going strong, the music industry is finally bouncing back with increasing revenues, and the cost of buying and listening to music continues to decline (in fact, nowadays there’s a good chance you pay nothing at all). But it’s also fair to say that today’s music business is very different to what it was ten or twenty years ago.

All of the links above will take you to more in-depth pieces that I wrote about those subjects. Happy reading!

Sales Analysis – 2016

At some point a few months into each year, I try to go through and look at the headlines of the previous year’s music sales. This is, of course, becoming increasingly inaccurate, as the music business shifts away from an ownership-orientated model to one of streaming, so this piece might need a new name in years to come, but let’s go with it anyway for now…

Industry officially alive again

The recovery period is definitely over – music is officially doing well again. Page 11 of IFPI’s global report shows a global increase in revenues from $14.8 to $15.7 billion. The low point was 2014, when it dipped to $14.3 billion. Which is still a significant drop from 1999’s $23.8 billion, but there are finally some green shoots.

The same table shows that whereas all of 1999’s revenue was from physical sales, just 34% of last year’s came from the same source, with 50% from digital sales (including streaming), and the rest from performances in public spaces and advertising.

In the US, revenues overall climbed by 11%, and globally they climbed by 3.2%. The UK’s growth was more modest, at just 1.5%, apparently more due to the 53rd week in the year than the state of British politics.

Interestingly the biggest growth, for seven years running, has been in Latin America – Mexico saw a 23.6% growth in music revenues.

Albums are dead

When I looked at the 2014 sales figures two years ago, I noticed that albums were in decline, but I had pretty much forgotten about it since then. Now it’s really happening.

The US sold the lowest number of albums ever last year, with just a touch over a hundred million copies sold. Hardly a disaster overall, as more than 208 billion tracks were heard on streaming services, but it’s a bit of a shame for the future shape of music generally.

In the UK, streaming accounts for 36% of all music consumption, and one week in December actually clocked over a billion streams. And that’s not even including YouTube, for some reason (although I’m still dubious about the sound quality, but everyone else seems to love it). Meanwhile, digital album sales dropped by 29.6%, and physical sales fell by 9.3%.

But CD sales aren’t entirely unhealthy – Brits still bought 47.3 million albums on CD last year.

From my searching around, nobody even seems to bother reporting singles sales any more.

Yes, vinyl

Back in 2012, I shared a table of LP sales for the preceding decade or so. It might be worth revisiting that – at the time I wasn’t convinced that they were actually going up significantly. I was wrong.

Year Vinyl Albums Sold
2010 236,988
2011 337,000
2012 389,000
2013 781,000
2014 1,289,000
2015 2,115,000
2016 3,200,000

Yes, that’s definitely what a mathematician might call a trend. Apparently that’s the most LPs sold in a year since 1991. Honestly, though, the list of best selling albums (on the same article) shows that most of them were at least two decades old, so it still seems that vinyl is largely sold as collectors’ pieces rather than a means of listening to music.

Of course, there’s an interesting conflict between rising sales of vinyl albums and the fact that most music is consumed through streaming platforms now. There’s more analysis on that here.

Cassettes are the new vinyl. Sort of.

Everybody knows they sound awful, and hardly anyone has anything to play them on any more, but in the US in 2016, cassette sales grew a whopping 74%, although admittedly to only 129,000. The numbers for the UK don’t appear to be available, although sales of “other formats” (including cassettes, MiniDiscs, and DVD Audio) fell from 84,000 to 59,000.

A UK newspaper which I won’t name here because it’s full of Conservative drivel thinks that cassettes are “a hipster trend too far”. Let’s show them who’s boss.

Now everybody loves Drake

I’ve still no idea who he is, and I’m not sure I need to either. Of the top ten global recording artists (see page 8 of this report), two passed away in 2016.

Also, a lot of people still love Adele too, just like they did last year.

By the way, I noticed that for some reason the official Scottish chart still doesn’t include streaming, and for that reason alone, it is great. There’s some interesting discussion on why the UK singles chart has become so universally hated here.

You can read this article’s predecessors here: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.

The Virgin America Safety Dance

I may or may not have mentioned before that I’m lucky enough to live in glamorous Los Angeles. Every once in a while, I have to fly somewhere else for a work trip (believe it or not, this blog is not my day job), and a fair proportion of the time that ends up being with Virgin America. I have no particular allegiances; they just happen to go to the places where I want to go and charge sensible prices.

There is, though, one thing that genuinely fills me with a sense of dread as I head to LAX to fly out, and it’s not the traffic. At some point on my way, I suddenly remember that Virgin America are the ones with that dreadful, awful, appalling safety video.

Introduced four years ago, and praised by people who work in advertising for having been watched by nearly six million non-travellers within the first few weeks (it’s up to two times that number now), it is directed by a director called Jon M. Chu (no, me neither!) and it includes a few Olympians, some people from a TV show called So You Think You Can Dance, and a finalist from American Idol.

The thing is, it’s really, really bad.

I don’t just mean that it’s annoying – it actually isn’t particularly. If you saw it in the middle of the commercials for the Superbowl, you would probably be quite impressed. You didn’t. You were about to take off on a transcontinental flight.

It does have a lot of in-jokes, such as a set of robot dancers and a child with a very deep voice. I’m sure the writers were laughing like crazy, but as passengers we have to watch these people sitting on implausibly comfortable looking seats, with the sort of legroom that even a regular first class flier would dream of. It’s easy to start getting annoyed pretty quickly.

Picture the scene: you have just settled yourself down in the seat where you’ll be spending the next five or six hours, and the aircraft is taxiing to the runway. The child in the seat behind you has just kicked the back of your seat for the sixth time, and on any normal flight, this is the time when the crew would start telling you what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing.

There are rules about what they have to tell you and demonstrate, and the basic principle is that yes, you might have seen it all before, but by reminding you, it’s at the front of your mind if something does happen, and hopefully you’re not stupid enough to try to carry your baggage out during an emergency, or to wear high heels on the chute.

What worries me is that none of that stuff actually comes across in Virgin America‘s video. Sure, it’s flashy and colourful, but having sat and tried to watch the whole thing, I can tell you that you have an exactly zero percent chance of digesting and remembering any of the information in it. It is, bluntly, dangerous.

I think that’s what annoys me. Virgin America has allowed itself to become the victim of a stunt by an advertising agency, and it’s a case where the brand has become bigger than the product.

Or is it hilarious and innovative? Make your mind up from the video and comment below, if you like.

As a footnote, am I the only one who finds themselves reminded of United Airlines at 2:43?

Anthology Season

Logically, I should probably own a few anthologies – I’m the kind of person who would. But, despite having listened to New Order‘s Retro a few times, I remain decidedly underwhelmed by the concept. So this year’s influx of anthologies in our line of music comes as something of a shock to the system, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider what’s actually in them.

Marc Almond – Trials of Eyeliner – The Anthology 1979-2016

Marc Almond announced his first, and it finally enters the shops on 4th November. Here are some quick statistics:

  • Number of discs: 10
  • Number of tracks: 189
  • Retail price: £120

Discs 1-4 are History, a collection of Marc’s favourite album tracks over his impressively long career.

Then Discs 5-7 are Singles, a complete collection of the Soft Cell, Marc and the Mambas, solo, and collaborative hits.

Discs 8-10 are Gems, a set of fanclub releases, collaborations, tracks from soundtracks, demos, and previously unreleased recordings.

You also get a 64-page hardcover book full of photos and images from Marc Almond‘s personal collection.

More details here.

The verdict, for me: you probably need to be a bigger fan than I am.

Erasure – From Moscow to Mars – An Erasure Anthology

Erasure are currently still busy celebrating their thirtieth birthday with some lovely vinyl editions, and also this, released on 21st October:

  • Number of discs: 13
  • Number of tracks: 200
  • Retail price: £80

Discs 1-3 are Erasure – The Singles, another collection of all the Erasure singles. Since we only got Total Pop! in 2009 and another collection just last year, this seems a bit unnecessary.

Discs 4-5 are Erasure by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, with one disc compiled by each. There are some interesting inclusions, and it would definitely be worth hearing, but probably not one that even the most devoted fan would pick up too often.

Discs 6-7 are Erasure – The B-Sides, an incomplete selection of Erasure‘s b-sides. There are a lot of gems on here actually, and it’s good to see so many of them in the same place at once. Probably worth a listen.

Discs 8-9 are just called Remixes, and are yet another selection of new and old Erasure remixes. There are some interesting looking new ones, such as Little Boots taking on Blue Savannah, but I think you would need to be a completist for this.

Disc 10 has been done before as well – Erasure – Live! is another edited selection of live highlights throughout the years.

Disc 11 is Rarities, some of which haven’t actually been released before, so might be worth the odd listen now and then.

Disc 12 is a nice inclusion, an audio documentary called A Little Respect – 30 Years of Erasure, presented by Mark Goodier from off of the olden days, and with contributions from various contemporaries.

Finally Disc 13 is a DVD release of The Wild! Tour, previously only released on VHS, so probably a nice addition for completists.

Pre-orders also get six unreleased bonus downloads, although it’s difficult to believe there’s anything to write home about among them.

More details here.

The verdict: despite the bargain price, I can’t see a strong reason to buy this one except for the b-sides collection. Hopefully that will come out separately one day.

The Human League – A Very British Synthesizer Group 1977-2016

The smallest of all the anthologies, and probably the one with the oddest artwork (see link below). Released on 18th November, the vital statistics look like this:

  • Number of discs: 4
  • Number of tracks: 92
  • Retail price: £80

There are just four discs on this one, although you do get a 58-page book too. Discs 1 and 2 are the complete collected singles from 1978 to the present, collected for the first time without any omissions.

The rest of the tracks are really just bonus material on a glorified best of. Disc 3 contains early versions of a lot of tracks, although many of them aren’t singles, so this is probably one for fans only.

Disc 4 is a DVD, containing every single one of their promotional videos and a collection of their BBC appearances.

There’s also a triple LP and double CD version containing just the singles, and they’re also touring the whole thing this Autumn.

More details here and here.

The verdict: very tempting, if the price decides to drop to something much more reasonable.

The best of the rest

Also coming out this Autumn are:

Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI, an enormous 19-disc box set from Dead or Alive, including all the albums as two or three-disc sets, some of which have never actually been released in the UK before, as well as some DVDs and impressive packaging, all for just £118. Definitely one for bigger fans than me, but worth investigating if you’re into that kind of thing.

The Early Years 1965-1972, an astonishing 27-disc set from Pink Floyd, collecting albums, singles, unreleased tracks, singles, videos, and memorabilia from their early years, costing several months’ salary but possibly worth it if you’re an über-fan. More details here.

Depeche Mode take advantage of one of their many years off with a complete collection of videos, Video Singles Collection. This is a three-disc set containing the videos from 1981-2013, including a whole load of material that has never been released on DVD before, plus commentaries. Details here.