Over the weekend I was thinking about the U.K.’s Official Chart Company and its ruling that Beck’s new CD won’t appear on the official British album charts because the stickers that come with his CD constitute an “unfair advantage.” Specifically, I was coming up with a list of reasons why this is complete idiocy on the OCC’s part. I originally had an extended-remix version of this post, but it was full of really annoyingly grad-student style bullshitting. (“In an information-based economy where the physical artifact is only a souvenir of a media event–which is why anyone ever bought the Nick Lachey solo record–celebrity divorce constitutes an unfair advantage.”) But that ran a little long and crazy-looking, so here are just the primary reasons why this policy is fully retarded:
1. The value of an album’s tie-in premium is dependent on the perceived value of the album itself. If Beck’s record was shit, the stickers wouldn’t matter. People aren’t going to buy a record that they don’t like just to get some stickers that they can put on their stuff to draw attention to the fact that they bought a shitty record.
2. Premiums included with CDs are probably going to become common to the point of ubiquity. Record companies still love selling physical copies of albums. Album and singles charts still get you bragging rights and a big “#1 album” sticker–at least until the download charts earn a little more respect among the old-timey record industry types. Oh, and: they make shitloads of money off of the physical CDs. And: they don’t have to share profits with a digital distributor like Apple or Napster, and they likewise don’t have anyone telling them how much they can charge for them. Before CDs go extinct they’re going to evolve into deluxe editions packaged with DVDs, stickers, commemorative hair scrunchies, coupons for a half-hour sensual massage and a Whopper, or whatever. When the only good reason for buying an actual compact disc is the surrounding bribery, every major album release will use it. And if the OCC wants to keep Justin Timberlake’s JTK09: Justin Timberlake Making Out in the Future off of its charts just because each copy contains a lock of vat-grown JT-clone hair, they’re going to look pretty stupid.