The Competitive Lifestyle of a Film Score Soundtrack Collector in 2010

More than two weeks ago, film score collectors who frequent websites like FSM, Filmtracks, and JWfan were thrown a bone that Alan Silvestri’s classic score to the 1987 action film Predator would get a re-release by Intrada Records. It was originally released by Varese Sarabande in 2003 at a limited run of 3000 copies.

So as predicted, Intrada did re-release it, but I suspected that it probably wouldn’t last very long, due to its cult-like status commanding ridiculous prices up to $500 on the secondary market. There was no way greedy online speculators were going to let their precious investment from the Varese Club release become devalued by this pesky little bugger, so it didn’t take much foresight to know they’d gobble up every last copy from every vendor just so they could still own the market on this charming little title. There really ought to be a film score version of Monopoly.

I was wise to order it as quickly as I did because all 3000 new copies completely sold out in 21 hours! Surely, a world record and great for the label, but a bitter disappointment to collectors and enthusiasts who might have missed out the first time and said “stick around” to its inflated eBay price tags. Some may call this robbery, others may call that free-market capitalism; the latter I’m a firm believer in, but the so-called Predator situation has given the film score community a wake-up call to re-assess itself and to be on alert for new releases.

I know it’s bloody irritating to have missed out on something like this, but some of the excuses I’ve read online go like Jake pleading to the “Mystery Woman” in The Blues Brothers – “I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.”

Rather than complain to the labels that they should have been more discriminate to who they sold their items to, people need to practice vigilance and work around the quirky market conditions of film score collecting. I don’t like this any more than you as a collector would, and I know there’s no way we can make a 36-hour day, but instead of  complaining that you don’t communicate with others on message boards, you’re just going to have to get involved and read what others have concluded from the labels’ sometimes frustratingly vague pre-announcements on what their next title is (the websites I listed above, and the Intrada forum are all great places to start). Unfortunately, that’s how narrow and cliquey the market has become, and I’m afraid you’ll just have to adapt to it for now since that’s the only way you’ll be able to set the required money aside for a score that you want. Some self-managed budgeting won’t hurt at all.

In the 1990’s, before the internet was as common as it is now, film score collectors were more likely to be able to find what they wanted in CD stores with a selection as wide as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In 2010, it’s different – it’s now become an online dog-eat-dog world where it’s every man, woman and nerd for themselves to beat the clock just to make sure you’ll manage to get a copy of a new release at all. It’s become something akin to a lifestyle choice to park yourself in front of your computer in the hope that you don’t miss out on a long sought after “holy grail” that you probably heard in an old favourite film from way back. You have your credit or debit card on stand-by because you need to own it for a reasonable price by the retailer before a swath of speculators snatch it up and hold it to ransom on eBay.

Some commentators have held Intrada responsible for what happened with Predator, but it’s absolutely pointless suggesting to them to limit orders to one item per customer because it makes no logical business sense to them as sellers to make that move because keeping the stock apparently is very costly and it makes them happy if a title sells out in a day, regardless if speculators bought up 20 copies each to flog on eBay for a fortune, because they’ve actually saved money on stock space.

To readers unfamiliar with score CD releases these days, a pressing limited to 3000 copies may seem like an unfairly arbitrary number since many mainstream music CDs might get a pressing of 50,000 to 100,000 to 1,000,000. However, it’s to do with contractual deals with the studios and often a relic of union musicians’ sky-high re-use fees. With some soundtracks it depends on the projected popularity of a score, so it may have a pressing of 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, and starting with Intrada’s 2008 release of The Boys from Brazil (1978), some scores have been given a bit extra with 5000 copies,  with recent deluxe releases such as Independence Day (1996), Star Trek (2009), Batman (1989) The Goonies (1985), and Spartacus (1960), plus FSM’s release of Black Sunday at 10,000 copies. Some limited scores like Back to the Future (1985) don’t even have their number of units revealed, just a text on the cover saying “This volume is a Special Limited Edition”. I hope this trend continues because they seem to last a bit longer at 5000, so people will have extra time to buy one later if they’re short on funds.

On the other hand, most limited soundtracks don’t normally sell out in a single day like Predator did. Even the label itself underestimated its high demand because it already had a previous release. The only other times I remember this happening were with Intrada’s Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985) and Inchon (1981), but with the amount of releases that go on every other week, these are exceptions to the rule, but that doesn’t discount my assertion that collectors need to be more vigilant and take more responsibility for themselves when beating the speculators. I’ve missed out on so many great limited scores too but I’ve learned not to complain about it, and simply move onto other scores that are still available and I know I need to get. If Predator is any indication, many other sold out scores will get another pressing somewhere down the line.

Finally, to those of you who did miss out on Predator, don’t despair! The popularity and demand for this score is very high and I’m certain that it will get a third pressing some time in the future. It’s just like I said, you can’t make the labels change their sales policy because it works for them, so you’ll all have to beat the speculators yourselves.

I know you all have lives and it’s frustrating to see how hyper-competitive film score collecting has become, but I’ll be eagerly waiting for a re-release of The ‘Burbs, Inchon, Baby, The Fury, The Great Escape and The Blue Max… oh wait, wasn’t that already re-released about six times already? Meh, I’ll find it somewhere.

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