American Music Awards
Listen Free: Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street
The classic Rolling Stones album "Exile On Main Street" has just been upgraded and reissued and you can listen to the new release of it right here for free on Billboard.com
While Beatles-level sales remain a one-off, the Stones' output is certainly a catalog ripe for reinvigoration, and the "Exile" reissue-which drops internationally May 17 and one day later in the United States on Rolling Stones Records/Universal-comes in a variety of physical and digital editions in a bid to boost sales in this increasingly non-CD-orientated era.
There's a standard remastered 18-track CD, a double-vinyl edition and two deluxe issues-a double-CD edition set to retail for around $17-$20 and a super deluxe boxed set containing two CDs, a DVD, two vinyl discs and a book, which will retail for $125-$150. In the United Kingdom, iTunes will release a digital version of the deluxe "Exile" package, featuring exclusive video content.
But the big selling point, in contrast to previous reissues of Stones albums, is the deluxe editions' addition of 10 previously unheard tracks, originally recorded during the era and unearthed specially for the rerelease. For Stones fans the new material-most of it has never even surfaced on unofficial bootlegs-is likely to be a strong enticement to revisit the album.
"For people who just dig the Stones and aren't fanatics, I hope they like listening to it," longtime Stones producer Don Was says. "And to the hardcore fans, I hope their eyes bug out when they hear these."
Was worked alongside the band in trawling its considerable archive for unreleased material and produced the 10 tracks with the Glimmer Twins from the original recordings made by Jimmy Miller. Of the new material, two tunes, "Loving Cup" and "Soul Survivor," are alternate takes of "Exile" originals, while several other songs are brand-new updates of previously unreleased studio recordings.
The slow-burning piano-led ballad "Following the River," for example, was an instrumental backing track languishing in the Stones' vault, but now features an entirely new lyric and vocal performance from Jagger. Richards has also added fresh guitar parts to the psychedelia-flavored "So Divine (Aladdin Story)," while several other tracks feature newly recorded inserts and vocal additions from the Stones frontman.
Even the band is surprised at some of the unearthed gems. "I hadn't really realized how much was left over until I started going into this project," Richards says. "I automatically assumed that anything good [and unused] that we'd done on 'Exile' would roll over to . . . what was the next one, 'Goat's Head Soup?' "
"I knew there was loads of stuff lying around," Jagger says. "But I didn't know what time period it came from. I wanted to be faithful to the time period-I didn't want to take things out of context, so [I've tried] to pick things that were recorded in that time frame. Some of them are of interest and fun, but some of them are really good, so I hope people like them."
The "Exile" global campaign kicked off April 16 with the world premiere of "Plundered My Soul" on U.K. AC station BBC Radio 2. Reminiscent of "Exile" original "All Down the Line," the soulful rock track-where Jagger passionately declares, "I thought you wanted my loving, but it's my heart that you stole"-"Plundered" was serviced to all formats, with triple A, modern rock and classic rock outlets quick to adopt the catchy rock track, according to Davis. A 7-inch single of "Plundered" was also one of the most popular sellers on Record Store Day (April 17).
There aren't any live plans for the band in 2010. But otherwise Universal is treating the album like a new release rather than a catalog reissue, with what Davis calls a "front-line release strategy that crosses radio, TV, online, mobile, retail and merch."
Key to the initiative will be a weeklong Stones celebration on NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" beginning May 10 that will feature a number of high-profile acts performing songs from "Exile," including Keith Urban (May 11), Sheryl Crow (May 12) and Phish (May 13). The week culminates with NBC's May 14 U.S. premiere of Stephen Kijak's documentary film "Stones in Exile," mixing "Exile"-era footage with current band member interviews. In the United Kingdom, "Stones in Exile" will premiere on BBC 2, although an exact airdate is to be announced.
Universal is also ensuring that the new tracks get as wide an audience as possible. "So Divine (Aladdin Story)" will make its global debut as a synch in the May 2 broadcast of CBS' "Cold Case" seventh-season finale, while hot on the heels of "Plundered," "Following the River" will be serviced to U.S. and international radio up to two weeks ahead of the album's bow. Its accompanying video-newly edited from archive footage-will premiere on the band's relaunched website (rollingstones.com) around the same time.
Orla Lee, London-based GM of Polydor U.K., says the campaign will feature a "two-tiered approach" aimed at attracting a "young, new audience" outside the existing fan base. This includes an increased online presence, with the Stones' recently launched Facebook page already attracting more than 813,000 fans.
Despite the absence of a tour, merchandising constitutes a major part of the "Exile" campaign, with Universal's merch arm Bravado producing more than 100 new product lines to coincide with the album's launch. These range from button badges to a variety of limited-edition boxed sets in addition to the standard deluxe issues. The top-priced set, which contains signed lithographs and exclusive limited-edition clothing, will retail at approximately $2,500.
Although the vast majority of merch will be sold direct to consumer via the Stones' website, Bloomingdale's will also host an "Exile" store-within-a-store in several U.S. outlets that will feature 16 lines, including T-shirts, hoodies and leather jackets.
"It's not often that merchandise companies really try to tie into [record] rereleases, but very few records have been this big or this meaningful, historically speaking," says Bravado CEO Tom Bennett, who, like others in the Universal camp, calls the "Exile" campaign a "long-term play."
Universal is in talks with the band about finalizing the next project, with the label keen on one or two major reissues per year. Universal's deal covers the catalog from "Sticky Fingers" onward, and Andrew Daw, marketing director of the Universal Strategic Marketing division of Universal Music Group International, cites next year's 30th anniversary of "Fingers" as one possible project with strong commercial potential. Meanwhile, this fall will bring the release of a remastered collector's boxed set of all 14 post-1971 studio albums on heavyweight vinyl, although future plans will ultimately be dictated by the success of "Exile."
"It's important for us to do really well with this," Daw says. "If this was to flop badly, then the incentive for the band to invest time into doing future ones isn't as attractive."
"There's a very strategic, mapped-out five-year plan to highlight all the incredible albums and time periods," Davis says. "Every arm and facet of Universal Music Group is working this project to ensure its success."
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield in Los Angeles and Paul Sexton in London.