In a move that no doubt has the Hip-O Record label (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group) in an uproar, Elvis Costello has advised his fans in an official blog post not to buy his forthcoming box set, “The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook,” due December 6. Instead, he recommended that they purchase a less-expensive alternative: the “Ambassador of Jazz” box set featuring remastered albums by Louis Armstrong.
Writing under the pseudonym “the Right Reverend Jimmy Quickly” but in unmistakably Costello language, the singer discouraged fans from buying the 1500-copy limited edition collectors set (which comprises of one CD, one DVD, and one 10″ vinyl EP, in addition to a hardcover book and a Costello-autographed commemoration card) writing that the price, at £212.66 ($202.66) appears to be “either a misprint or a satire.”
He called the Armstrong set “vastly superior.”
In addition to recommending “Ambassador of Jazz,” Costello placated fans who might have been upset by the discouragement by promising that component parts of “Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook” will be released individually in 2012. “Assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means,” they added in a sidelong nod to the title of the post, “Steal This Record.”
Costello — who has sold over 3.8 million records since 1991 alone (the year Nielsen SoundScan’s records begin) — isn’t the first artist to advocate illegal downloads of his music. Artists like System of a Down and Kid Rock have publicly encouraged piracy of their music over settling for pricey distribution routes, but Costello’s move has surfaced as an unexpected and deliberate snub to his label. Many have said, though, that the move has become a sort of reverse-psychology promotion for the set in spite of the singer’s dismissal.