Elvis Costello says that CD is a medium that has seen its day

“It’s Armed Forces day now, it’s victory over CD”

Elvis Costello will issue a vinyl-only super deluxe edition box set of his 1979 album Armed Forces in next month and has defended the lack of a CD version, saying that the compact disc “really is demonstrably inferior to vinyl, as a sonic storage system”.

The box set – which is only available via Costello’s store and Universal Music channels – contains nine pieces of vinyl: three 12-inch albums, including a remastered Armed Forces, three 10-inch records, including highlights from the notorious Riot at The Regent concert at Dominion Theatre on 24 December 1978 and three seven-inch singles.

Costello says this release is “as much, if not more, than you’ll ever want to know about Armed Forces” and the box really highlights Barney Bubbles’ artwork and features seven custom notebooks containing updated liner notes from Costello and his handwritten lyrics from the era.

In an interview for Australia’s ABC Radio National, Costello, unprompted, addressed the issue of not putting out a CD version of this celebration of Armed Forces:

“I think that’s because, it seems to me, it’s been decided – for better or for worse – that that is a medium that’s seen its day and I can’t say I shed any tears about that. It was always an inferior compromise that involved not paying the artist properly, and really is demonstrably inferior to vinyl, as a sonic storage system, so it’s Armed Forces day now, it’s victory over CD. I a lot of people got rid of their record player – I told them not to do that. I think most people like the instantaneous access [offered by CD] but I know people like both, as well; they like the object to hold, the paraphernalia of records. Well, you don’t truthfully get that with a CD. All the artwork is cramped down into a horrible little booklet which gets ripped the second time you take it out of the plastic sleeve. This way, you can have either. You can have the instantaneous, portable version, that you carry with you [i.e. streaming/downloads] or you can have something beautiful… on vinyl, in cardboard.”

It’s worth noting that Costello is still issuing his latest album – the forthcoming Hey Clockface – on CD so fans are arguably being sent mixed messages and let’s not forget that while vinyl is undoubtedly in the ascendancy, and the popularity of the CD format is waining, in the UK last year 23.5m CDs were sold compared to 4.3m vinyl records (read this ‘format wars‘ article for more on that).

Of course, it’s unlikely that a CD box set of Armed Forces could retail for the £200+ being asked for the vinyl package, so there is that.

What are you thoughts on what Costello has to say? Leave a comment. The Armed Forces box set is released on 6 November 2020 and can be pre-order via The Sound of Vinyl, in coloured and black vinyl editions. It’s also available via the uDiscoverMusic store.

Armed Forces 12-inch vinyl LP

Side 1
1 Accidents Will Happen
2 Senior Service
3 Oliver’s Army
4 Big Boys
5 Green Shirt
6 Party Girl

Side 2
1 Goon Squad
2 Busy Bodies
3 Sunday’s Best
4 Moods For Moderns
5 Chemistry Class
6 Two Little Hitlers
7 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?

Christmas In The DominionLive 24th December ’78 10-inch vinyl

Side 1
1 (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
2 No Dancing

Side 2
1 I Stand Accused
2 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?

Europe ‘79 – Live At Pinkpop 12-inch vinyl LP

Side 1
1 Goon Squad
2 B-Movie
3 Green Shirt
4 (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
5 Opportunity
6 So Young
7 High Fidelity

Side 2
1 Lipstick Vogue
2 Watching The Detectives
3 Big Boys
4 Pump It Up
5 You Belong To Me
6 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?

Live at Hollywood High & Elsewhere 1978 12-inch vinyl LP

Side 1
1 Accidents Will Happen
2 Mystery Dance
3 Goon Squad
4 Party Girl
5 Stranger In The House

Side 2
1 Alison
2 Lipstick Vogue
3 Watching The Detectives
4 You Belong To Me
5 Chemistry Class (Live at The Warner Theatre, Washington D.C.)

Live In Sydney ’78 10-inch vinyl

Side 1
1 Oliver’s Army
2 Waiting For The End Of The World
3 Big Boys

Side 2
1 This Year’s Girl
2 You Belong To Me
3 Pump It Up

Sketches for Emotional Fascism 10-inch vinyl

Side 1
1 Clean Money
2 Talking In The Dark
3 Wednesday Week
4 Tiny Steps

Side 2
1 Crawling To The U.S.A.
2 Big Boys (Alternate Version)
3 Green Shirt (Demo Version)
4 My Funny Valentine Riot At The Regent –

“Accidents Will Happen” seven-inch

Side 1
1 Accidents Will Happen

Side 2
1 Busy Bodies (Alternate) Nick Lowe & His Sound

“American Squirm” seven-inch

Side 1
1 American Squirm

Side 2
2 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?

“Oliver’s Army” seven-inch

Side 1
1 Oliver’s Army

Side 2
2 Big Boys (Demo)


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Chris Fallon

cds “demonstrably inferior to vinyl, as a sonic storage system”? While I understand that some people prefer the sound of vinyl, it really is nonsense to suggest that the technology in producing sound via vinyl and a stylus is inferior to that produced by a cd. The amount of information that is able to be stored in a digital format is far greater than what can be stored on vinyl. This is not opinion it is fact! I think Elvis’ comment about the revenue generated by cds versus that generated by vinyl is really what is behind his comment!


I love EC and have followed his career for a long time. Ironically, my library is sadly lacking in EC content. I was hoping to wait for a “Deluxe Edition” run of releases to fill that gap. Sadly, I do not think I can afford the $200 price tag for Vinyl, especially when I plan to get all of the albums he decides to release under the “Deluxe” (because I am a hopeless completionist!) Nor do I want to spend the time ripping these to digital for portability, which would no-doubt compromise their integrity as my gear is not “clean room” quality.

Still, I can relate to his comments about the artwork. I miss LP-sized artwork and am not a fan of the miniaturized versions of original, LP-sized artwork and liner notes that is usually included with CD releases. However, as mentioned by several above, would it be so difficult to include LP-sized artwork in a “Box Set” that comprises CD media? I don’t think so. It would probably cost less to manufacture a CD+box set than an LP+box set since CDs are far more common to produce than LPs these days.

All that being said, my preference these days is for high-resolution Blu-ray box sets. Include 96k/24bit high-resolution or better transfers of the original and/or remasters with your set. I am not so sure about Vinyl having a superior sonic quality to high-res digital audio or even CDs for that matter but to each his own as far as taste goes. Speaking strictly to the archival quality, I would prefer high-res digital to Vinyl, barring an apocalyptic demise of humanity (in which case, analog sources would probably be a safer investment.) But, since I am not trying to preserve the vestiges of human culture for future generations against total catastrophe, I am not concerned about this. I just want lasting, high-quality, high-fidelity tracks to add to my library. It seems the most cost-efficient, obtainable-by-many way to provide them is via CD/Blu-ray. Vinyl/Tape for the underground bunkers; CD/Blu-ray for the masses is my opinion. :-)

Still, I love and respect this man’s art and his opinions. I am looking forward to filling that hole in my collection!


Best to buy the Edsel 2 CD editions that came out in 2002. They have the remasters and probably all the outtakes you could wish for and they are mostly obtainable at around 20 pounds.


On streaming sevices, “Busy Bodies (Alternate)” on the b-side of the “Accidents Will Happen” seven-inch is the demo version of “Big Boys” (as on the “Oliver’s Army” b-side). Is this the case in the physical edition?

[…] but in general, while not slagging off the format in quite the same way he had on the interview highlighted by SDE a few weeks back , his general vibe was the same. Incidentally, there will be an SDEtv unboxing video of The […]

Neil Jones

Jesus! It’s only a box set. So EC wants to put it out on vinyl and HE thinks CD’s are crap so what? It’s his opinion and everybody else has their opinion. He’s not telling everybody to stop buying CD’s is he? And for how much money he could make if he put it out on CD…that’s his business. Good old Elvis, still getting up peoples noses :)


I always find EC engaging and his recordings and concerts have given me a lot of pleasure over the years. He and/or his label have made a decisive move to target the deluxe vinyl buyer with this release. Fair enough. I imagine if you get a good pressing; all flat, clean and free from dust, scratches, static etc.. it will be a thing of beauty and sound great. £200-£250 is a lot to pay for a format that is inconsistent. I agree that at its best, vinyl is superior to CD but good CD mastering can be great too and by and large, more consistent. (JLs Gimme Some Truth is a lovely, great sounding CD package). It would have been possible to produce an Armed Forces CD deluxe edition with all the tracks on 3 CDs with a large glossy book in a 10-12 inch box and retail it for £50-£60. Clearly this would not have been as profitable but it would have probably shifted many thousands of copies compared to the vinyl. I suspect therefore, this is a marketing decision by the label, rather than ECs philosophy of preferred format. My membership of a well known streaming service will give me access to the music with an acceptable, if not stunning, crackle and pop free sound. In the meantime, this ageing lover of music on both formats will enjoy recent and forthcoming releases by JL, Elton, Tangerine Dream and Marillion in excellent CD deluxe editions, with booklets that I can read (if I can find my glasses), all for the cost of this Armed Forces Edition.


EC can do what ever he wants, but I only purchase CDs. If you want my money, it has to be on CD. I guess he doesn’t want my money. That’s okay – there are other things I can spend it on.

Chris S.

The Super Deluxe Box Colour Vinyl is currently discounted to USD181.99 on the Sound of Vinyl US Store, significantly less than the $323.99 price on the uDiscover Music US Store. Cheaper shipping also.

Dave Bain

‘Discounted to $181.99’. Just a few years back I bought ‘The complete Miles Davis on Columbia’ box set containing 71 CDs and a DVD for less than that. In fact if you add the price that I paid for the Bob Dylan Columbia box set (40 plus albums on CD) the total price is still way less than the undiscounted price of this pretty small vinyl collection. I have always classed myself as a real diehard Costello fan but I really can’t justify shelling out that kind of money for what is essentially a remastered album that I already own plus 2 live albums (some tracks of which I already have) plus 3 ten inch EPs and 3 seven inch singles. Value for money, I don’t think so.


Just to add to the general consensus.
Costello once had the idea of deleting his catalogue at the end of the last century.
I wish I could reference this , but it may have been from the original remaster’s liner notes.
Rudy Van Gelder, the recording engineer of many jazz records such as A Love Supreme thought that vinyl was never any good. Recording engineers don’t mix down from the multi track too vinyl. Well perhaps once upon a time for a young Elvis Presley for his Mum.
The last Costello compilation ‘Unfaithful Music’ sounded amazing. A brilliant example of how good a CD can be. The current trend for insisting on including vinyl, such as Lou Reed’s New York is almost bullying and exploitative. Shameful.

Dave Bain

I also remember reading that Jonathan, I believe it was in the liner notes to one of the 2 disc Rhino/Edsel editions that he released a few years back. I know Costello to be an extremely intelligent man. This makes comments such as ‘deleting my entire catalogue’ and ‘vinyl is demonstrably inferior to CD’ somewhat bizarre. However we often say things just to get a reaction, or maybe these comments are tongue in cheek and not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s my belief that Costello and/or Universal music are testing the water with this vastly over-priced vinyl only release. I honestly envisage the release of this set on CD and at a reasonable price in the not too distant future. Shifting a shed load on reasonably priced CDs is likely to generate a lot more income than shifting a handful of the same on vinyl at prohibitive price. This box set at £200-250 will only be purchased by the super rich super fan or by the certifiably insane. The rest of us will await the CD package. If it comes, great. If not, I for one won’t lose any sleep over it.



ken D

If one purchases the “super deluxe box set” does that include streaming/downloadable version of the music?

When Led Zep did their super deluxe boxes it was LPs, CDS, and downloads…

I can’t believe I have to ask…but i dont see it noted ANYWHERE in any of the descriptions…

If he wants vinyl people only…well, this is an awfully high price to be just one segment of the market

Wayne Dickson

That was ill-advised, especially from someone who so actively took advantage of the CD format for so many years. His comments and decision to deny his fans a CD version of this deluxe edition is undeniably a slap in the face to many of the people who have supported his music over the past 30-odd years.


I agree, Wayne. An ill-advised slap in the face. Even if EC is right about CDs (and I think he’s totally wrong, as wrong as the people who threw away record players despite his warnings), how about letting the fans who supported his career for four decades make their own choice?


I like vinyl SDEs but the prices have increased so they are now beyond my means; I haven’t bought one in well over a year (the last was Blancmange’s Blanc Tapes on vinyl). I also buy mixed media SDEs and CD only SDEs, and have purchased a number of those in the past year or two, but the prices of some of those are becoming ludicrous (Prince SotT). I think I will be sticking with CD sets that are less than NZ$100 (or roughly £50) from now on, like the HoJo and Marillion releases.


Seeing the news about Dolly Parton 8 track release, reminded me that 30 odd years ago, Elvis personally compiled the Girls Girls Girls collection in four formats, including Dat, with different track listings for each format. Also I’m sure he knows what wow and flutter are, as he wrote a song called Flutter and Wow. He has even used the word shellac in several songs, so goodness knows what is coming next.


I have decided not to but EC’s Armed Forces box, not because it’s vinyl only, but because the price tag is too high for the few new songs/versions on this release. If EC chooses not to release on cd, that is his choice, i use both vinyl and cds daily.
I won’t buy the new U2 All That You Can’t … Box set either, only 4 new mixes.
It’s clear that vinyl is a cash cow at the moment, but with these prices it will be over soon, i guess.
CD format is not ideal, vinyl is not ideal, Compact Cassette isn’t ideal, 8 track neither, who cares if there’s nothing interesting released?
I think EC is wrong concerning the staying sound quality of vinyl, but he can do with his music what he wants.
That said, i hope my EC Japanese Hey Clockface cd (with bonus track) will arrive soon from Japan (release next friday)!


I like Elvis Costello, but don’t agree with him about CDs being inferior. On the few occasions (not recently) I’ve heard a specialist audiofile vinyl record on a high-quality system, the sound has indeed been very impressive. However, I spent the 1970s and early 1980s collecting hundreds of LPs, and when they were produced en masse at their height, the average quality was not very good. The first thing I had to do when I got the LP home was to listen to it on headphones listening out for all the crackles and pops and weighing up whether it was bad enough to return to the store. Some LPs were also warped, so the tone arm had to negotiate a sort of switchback, which combined with wow and flutter (remember that folks?) didn’t exactly help the sound quality. When I bought my first CD player, I was very slightly disappointed with the cold, clinical sound, compared with a warmer sound I was used to from vinyl, but at least you could just concentrate on the music and forget about all the imperfections of the sound carrier. The sound quality of CDs has generally improved over the years (although some CDs are overly compressed), and the benefits over vinyl – in addition to sound quality – mean, for me at least, there is no comparison. Costello may complain that CDs are too small, but that was always the point, surely. If you’ve got 1,000s of CDs, you can store them along the walls of a single room. Try doing that with vinyl! You can also rip the tracks to listen on another device, although perhaps that’s what he doesn’t like – he thinks you should buy his albums 3, 4, even 5 times. I think it’s great that vinyl is still being produced for those who want it, but for me the clean, precise sound of CDs, compared with the ability to rip the tracks and their – well, compact – size, means that CDs are far superior overall to vinyl.


CD is sonically superior to vinyl – in paper. In reality, it is not. Who says so? Those who drew up the specifications for CD and were thwarted in their ambitions for producing them at higher resolutions. As many modern engineers have said, 16/44 produces flat, dull, shut in sounding recordings – and always has. Since the early days of CD the tech was available for higher bit recording, but wasn’t used in the rush to get it to the market. The argument that CD has ‘massively improved over time’ is also incorrect. Noise shaping, filtering and conversion has improved, but the medium has remained 16/44 and thus stuck in a late 70’s timewarp. A 16/44 recording is a 16/44 recording, now matter how much you tinker with it. ‘Some CD’s are over compressed’? Was that a serious comment? I stopped buying CD’s years ago because virtually every one I bought WAS compressed. Unless you buy Jazz and Classical exclusively, virtually everything in the mainstream is compressed. CD is finished because the younger generations, due to economic and ergonomic reasons prefer streaming. As do many of the ’40 something’ generation. On the other hand, vinyl offers uncompressed sound, at very high quality, and using modern phono stages, TT’s and Carts offers sound with very little to no interference. Hence the vinyl revival. Unfortunately you’ve fallen into a common trap in the CD over everything else argument – discussing the replay of one medium in the 1970’s, over them both today. I too hated (and still do) noisy vinyl replay. I can’t stand warped records. But of a collection that has run into the thousands over the years, I’m not going to burst into tears at a handful (literally) of warped/damaged albums I’ve bought.

CD is a sad case of greed triumphing over caution. Why? Because as above engineers said from day one it should be higher bit and a higher frequency. Early ADC’s were, to quote one engineer, ‘dire’. Early CD players were marketed before the tech was ready so they had inadequate filtering and thus that hideous bright sound. Early CD’s were often ripped from inferior sources to cash in, including damaged tapes, metal parts, even from vinyl rips. Many were recorded on ‘banks’ which led the the hilarious switched channel issue of the led zep CD’s. Yet CD nuts argue that early pressings are the best! Which is precisely why I seriously doubt their objectivity.

There is no future in physical media. CD is doomed because, as Costello admits, the margins for artists have always been lower than vinyl. Vinyl is doomed, as are hires discs, because younger people simply don’t want them, and the cost of making them and running pressing plants means they are simply not making enough profit compared to streaming.

There is though, a certain irony in people who ditched vinyl ‘because they sounded bad in the 70’s and 80’s’, and many of whom sneered at those who still played vinyl, now moaning that CD is being phased out.

On a final note, had the engineers had their way, had CD been produced at 18/48 or 20/48 as they suggested, while it would have taken two more years (at least) to get them to market, the medium would smashed all its rivals (as DVD did) overnight, and established it well into the mid noughties. As it is…


That’s weird. Vinyl is doomed because young people don’t want them? Where is that research coming from? I’ve been selling more records to high school and younger lately than the above-60 crowd…

Tim K

I would have bought this reissue had it been done on CD as well. Strange that Elvis should decide to take a stand with “Armed Forces”. But mixed messages seems correct – in the extract from the interview, he seems to say you can get releases either via streaming or vinyl. Does this mean that there will be a download version of the box set ? I’d settle for that if there is one. As for the packaging, he could also put that on a pdf file with the download versions. I also wonder whether he might relent and issue this box set later on CD, and, that way, he can maximise the vinyl sales now. Elvis’ views about CD do remind me of the opening lines of “King Of America” though.

J Hancock

I was comparing this box with the forthcoming Motorhead Ace of Spades box, which is still available for £120 from a number of outlets. This gets you a half speed remaster of the original album, 2 double albums of what appear to be complete live shows, a double album of alternative versions , a 10″ of instrumentals, a DVD with tv performances and a 5.1 mix, 40 page book, tour programme, Commando comic and, err, set of dice to use playing a game on the box lid.

Comparing this content with the Costello box, Elvis appears to be valuing the notebooks at about £100. As others have said, it’s up to him what he puts out and what he charges for it. And it’s up to people whatever or not they buy it. Still, it’s an illuminating comparison.

Nass Khan

Funny Elvis Costello slating CD considering his back catolog has been reissued quite a few times.

My Aim is True sounds great on cd & Brutal Youth is awesome.

My Radar lp copy of Armed Forces sounds fine.


Fantastic news for those that want the vinyl in a box set but tough on those that collect CD’s and that have followed him through all of his career. I realise that vinyl is very cool and sounds different to cd with its warmer sound which some prefer but personally I would like all of the frequency range on the CD not the cut off top end and bottom end which is removed for vinyl.
Some of us have been with the CD since its launch and enjoyed its ease of use and with advances in technology the latest CD players are capable of fine sounds. As to the CD having its day if my children are any guide they are not interested in any physical format at all certainly not vinyl at inflated prices as they only stream music on their phones.

Chris Squires

That’s the nub of it Robert. My two 23 / 24 year old daughters love music, Rap and anything remotely “grimy” for one and musicals / Pop for the other and they have never so much as spent a penny on any of it. They do not aspire to own music in any shape or form (at). Having got to slightly know their circle of friends and current co-habitees over the last decade none of the 20 or so of them do either. Plus, and here is the real kick in the teeth, none of our adult friends or family give (what was it someone said the other day?) a “Fat Rat’s Clacker!” about physical music either. It doesn’t matter how many people we might have round for whatever reason, the most, and I do mean the absolute most, I have had is “Oh, the Human League, I like them.” But no-one wants to investigate or actually listen to anything. Feedback from the ‘Shires is that the only box sets Growed ups are bothered about are on Netflix / BritBox and not at the local record shop.

So the physical music industry is absolutely and relentlessly under attack. We are The Great Wall holding back the irrepressible tide.

Tim Barton

I can’t see myself buying this box, unless I win a lottery or something. CDs still have one thin over vinyl, and that is how durable they are. I got back into vinyl recently, and love a good pressing, but for my usual buying, CDs do the trick. I will just enjoy some vinyl here and there (half-speed mastering and LPs split across two 45 rpm discs are the best things to happen in the vinyl revival, I do admit), but I still choose CD over vinyl most of the time.

To each his own.

Simon Long

‘… saying that the compact disc “really is demonstrably inferior to vinyl, as a sonic storage system”.’

Some strange new usage of the word “demonstrably” there. I think he meant to say “not” rather than “demonstrably” – as in every single measurable (and audible) respect, CD is a far more accurate representation of the sound intended by the studio engineer than vinyl.

People may prefer the sound of vinyl to that of CD, but vinyl is unquestionably the less faithful to the original sound of the two.


It’s interesting that about 12 years ago vinyl was “dead” and I was buying LPs because they were cheaper than CDs, FOPP had stacks of vinyl for £3.
Now vinyl is at silly prices, I am buying CDs, new and old. In fact , so many pristine CDs have been dumped at our local charity stores they sell them 10 for £1.
I could get 2,000 CDs for the cost of the Armed Forces reissue. More if I include postage. Still shouldn’t grumble I picked up a near mint copy of Armed Forces from our local charity shop for £2 a few years ago…

Barry Gutman

I love and respect EC but he’s dead wrong about CD being inferior to vinyl. When remastered properly, they ALWAYS sound better to my ears, and the packaging for box sets does not have to be small. In fact, without CDs there would BE no box sets, unreleased archival tracks, and liner notes would never have made a comeback! Plus, vinyl is ridiculously overpriced. With CDs you get better sound, packaging and portability all wrapped up in one. Like Neil Young, Elvis must accept that it is not his place to tell me what format I must listen to his music on!


Paul any chance you can get these messages to EC – the response is overwhelming and I think it might sway him to rethink


Hi, Mark. You might want to take a look at my previous comment, where I shared a link to the “contact us” page on Elvis’ management’s website and suggested other motivated fans join me in sending respectful, concise requests for a CD set. If it’s too hard to find my original post, just Google “Elvis Costello management” and their website will be the first thing that pops up. They make it very easy to send them a note.

Mad Earwig

These comments show that we all want different things from our music carriers, surely live and let live?
I love CD for its sound and convenience and less space they take up when compared to records.
I have worked in the audio industry for years and I admit that Stevie Ray Vaughan albums sound better on record than my remastered CD’s but only on a good turntable/cartridge system, but I dont want it anymore. I have moved on from a 12″ disc that I had in the 1980’s.

I was happy to move away from vinyl as I got fed up with 20 minute playing sides, dedication to cleanliness ( carbon fibre brushes, anti static sleeves etc) and a good CD sounds good to my ears on my set up.
Listen to any recent Tom Petty release/reissue/box set to hear how good CD can sound.

I like Flac over mp3 but can only play mp3 in my car, dont like the Spotify interface so dont use it and so on…
My point is, each to your own, buy what you like and do not buy what you dont like!

I do not give a toss what Elvis Costello is doing but as the artist, it is up to him what he does.


I agree with you Mad Earwig,I had thousands of vinyl singles,12″and albums,I haven’t got the room for them now, cd’s are more practical, it’s a shame that certain bands don’t release music on cd anyone, there’s always room for both, everyone should have the choice.


Personally, I’d be fine with vinyl albums that are always gatefolds with a CD included in the other side, plus a download code, liner notes, maybe some stickers, etc. Then people are buying the package and can play vinyl on occasion and CD in the car, or whatever. It shouldn’t have to be an either-or type situation.


Good point also about the download code. I wonder why CDs do not have download codes when most PCs do not have CD drives anymore.

David Bly


Regarding the lack of CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives in PCs, this is basically the computer industry being in cahoots with the record/film companies. Once streaming became popular, the content providers realised they don’t have to physically make anything anymore if they don’t want to, but they can actually charge people money for things that don’t exist, AND that they don’t own.
You can listen to streaming music all you want, but at the end of the day, it ISN’T YOURS!
And forgive me if I am part wrong on this next part, but I believe that legally (depending on the country) you don;t own the downloads on your computers or stupidphones either.

Also, I would say that one reason they don’t include download codes with CDs is they assume if you bought a CD you have a way to play it. But I can think of at least two US indie labels that include download codes not only with their LPs, but also with their CDs.
But then the (now only) 3 majors for the most part don’t have download codes even with their LPs at all.

A semi-solution to some of this are artists and labels (all indie) that sell stuff through Bandcamp. There, you can order LPs, CDs, sometimes cassettes, and purchase downloads. If you order the physical media, you then have access to all sorts of downloads*, and if you sign up with Bandcamp, you can have a ‘collection’ of all your purchases where you can always go and re-download things again.

Meanwhile, EC is wrong about CDs, but I’ll get to that elsewhere.

*Bandcamp downloads are available in MP3 V0, MP3 320, FLAC, AAC, Ogg Vorbis,

Big Rin

Aaagh….another conspiracy theorist. The record and film companies are not in ‘cahoots’ with the record industry. Streaming is popular because a it is simple and cheap for most people to use – people who don’t care if they own the music or not but want access to everything cheaply (the irony being they then listen to the same things all of the time).

An ever diminishing amount of people consume music on a physical basis but there is still a lot of product being released and bought. As I’ve said before, some people at the majors would like scrap physical releases but they know they can’t – it is still profitable and it’s what we hardcore fans want.


Can agree with that, cd or digital file essential for the car as my commute is an hour each way.

O(+> Peter B

New vinyl is so expensive. I have much more respect for CDs after seeing the video on this showing what goes into making them: https://tonedeaf.thebrag.com/learn-cds-made-hilarious-michael-jackson/


“It was always an inferior compromise that involved not paying the artist properly”
He should be addressing the issue of getting a just return on his recordings from the record company .. the CD format .. had nothing to do with it
“Former FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky said at the time that consumers had been overcharged by $480 million since 1997 and that CD prices would soon drop by as much as $5 a CD as a result.”

States settle CD price-fixing case


CD says that Elvis Costello is a medium that has seen its day


Having recently read Elvis’ autobiography I must have missed the chapter where he warns his fans in 1982 about the evils of buying a CD player and abandoning the church of vinyl.


Sounds to me like Mr. Costello is living in a bubble. Not everyone can afford vinyl or an expensive system that is necessary to really enjoy how superior they are its as simple as that. $300 vinyl reissues that usually contains a fraction of the artists work is not ideal for all collectors. CD’s really fill in this gap by providing an affordable and efficient way to still collect physical media. There are also a ton of albums not on streaming sites and i’ve been able to find the CD on Amazon for a few bucks. There are only two forms of physical media in existence (no cassettes don’t count yet) and we keep seeing artists, labels and music sites trying to kill off the more affordable one. It’s ridiculous and i’m frankly a little tired of it. So Mr. Costello I won’t be buying your expensive vinyl package. I also don’t believe vinyl sound is superior in all cases they also arrive damaged much more often then CD’s do. Stop hurting lower income people that want to own music.

Steve Hurley

Some really great points made there auteur55 that i completely agree with. I bought a lot of vinyl all thro’ the 80s & into the 90s and in part made the leap to mainly CDs from about ’89 onwards because record companies started to gradually phase out releasing certain titles on vinyl. I worked in record shops during this time period & there also at times seemed to be quite a problem with faulty batches of vinyl with customers often returning records. I’ve grown to love both CDs & vinyl and in truth if i had loads of disposable ££’s and storage space i would be all over the vinyl revival. But it’s just not affordable for me and i’m quite content to collect the more accessible format CD. Strange also to think that CD used to often offer bonus tracks not always included on the vinyl record and yet now frustratingly many vinyl titles are (RSD or 7” and 12” singles) released without a CD equivalent.


Let me get this straight. Costello’s new album is about to be released: ON CD.

But CD isn’t good enough for a reissue.

Got it. Utter and complete nonsense, but got it.

John Mason

Current fashion ability of vinyl fetches more $, plain and simple…oh and, how many times has his catalog been reissued on CD!?!?!


I was at an industry exhibition once many years ago and had a conversation with a customer. After we finished talking I was asked by a colleague who he was. ‘He’s a fucking wanker’ was my reply. The customer then appeared from the other side of the panel from where I had made my declaration. Funnily enough I didn’t sell much to that company and I learnt not to shit on my own doorstep.

Elvis Costello inadvertently seems to have had a similar impact on some of his loyal customers who will have bought plenty of his cds over the years.

Paul Foster

It’s well worth noting that the pre-order price for 16/44.1 kHz files for the Armed Forces SDE is currently under $40.

There are many pertinent issues in the CD’s downfall that aren’t being emphasised here. The cheapening of the protective jewel box, the inability of American labels to adapt the rice paper-style inner sleeves common to Japanese issues (when resorting to cardboard sleeves), digipaks that at once hold the disc with a death grip yet let allow the CD to spin freely during shipment, causing circular scratches—all frustrations that have led many consumers to question whether or not it’s worth it to bother with CDs any longer. Worse still is the way designers have been devalued in the process, especially outside the majors. Bypassing the design phase has led to some embarrassingly poor-looking reissues with no sense of layout or style or authenticity. These products look like pirated CDs or someone’s 1990s CD tree, not something of value. Such cheapening defeats the entire argument of “music to hold in your hands.” A well-crafted $260 bespoke box set may not be ideal or suitable to one’s budget, but Costello is *far* from the only artist to be featured on SDE to have released vinyl-only or vinyl-heavy sets at a similar price point.

Paul Alfred

@Paul Foster – I completely agree with you. I collect both vinyl and CDs and I think each has its pros and cons, but it’s refreshing to read some actual valid arguments in a post without the hateful moaning some SDE readers are posting here… Just because they feel offended in their personal belief that CDs are far superior. I thought this website was read by people who love music in whatever physical format it comes and who would show a bit more restraint when an artist expresses his/her view on a particular subject, that doesn’t necessary match theirs.
This is not the comment section of the Daily Mail on Brexit! I don’t think EC intended to insult anyone when he says that, in his opinion and for this Armed Forces re-issue, vinyl is a better option.
Jeez guys, relax a bit, breathe, turn the stereo on and enjoy the music that brings you here in the first place.


I’d rather discuss “McCartney III” which will be released in December in 33 different audio, video, vinyl & download formats. Followed by a Deluxe version in January with 3 extra tracks. And a Superdeluxe Edition in July with an extra disc of home demos.

Let the moaning begin.



You forgot to mention the 3 coffee table books that will come with the SDE, bringing it pricewise up to 333,33 £$€, while the content of the standard vinyl edition will be pressed onto 3 vinyl discs to guarantee even better sonic quality than vinyl naturally comes with. The only argument against it will be that they play at 45RPM (no offence to Matt Johnson intended).

Big Rin

Well, that certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons! An ill-judged comment from an artist who has been happy to package and repackage the same early/mid-period material on numerous occasions through Demon/Rhino and Universal on CD. It has raised a few interesting points here though.

Firstly, the ‘I’m so insulted -I’m a lifelong fan who won’t be buying any more’ poster. Really? How about you ignore the release, express your indignation and move on. If the new material is good, then buy-it.

Secondly, the multitude of conflicting format quality comments. It’s just preference – I happen to buy and play CD and vinyl and stream, depending upon the circumstances and mood. The ‘I have a 76 TB hard-drive in my rocket’ or ‘you can only listen to vinyl if you’ve got thousands of pounds of equipment’ comments from amateur sound-sleuths leave me cold. Nothing worse than equipment bores.

Thirdly, the comments about the ‘man’ wanting to kill-off the physical format are pretty ill-informed. I work with one of the bigger players in the SDE market and yes, there are some people at the majors who’d like to see the back of CD and vinyl (and cassette!) – they can then drop some expensive resource and just sit back and count the streaming revenue, which is huge if you own a big catalogue. However, there is a lot of resource being thrown at the SDE market – look at the amount of releases – and it’s not a cheap or quick process. These things can easily take 6-12 months and often a lot longer securing the audio parts, clearances, photos, notes, interviews, etc, let alone producing a ton of expensive packaging materials. If you get it wrong, all profit can disappear on excess stock (stand up the Guns N Roses £1,000 box) or dealing with faulty discs or wrong audio being used (stand up Demon with Dead Or Alive, Suede and Heaven 17). People at these companies love what they do and are generally consumers and buyers – and probably on this site.

Lastly, many artists do have an input into the retail pricing – Neil Hannon most certainly had a hand in everything on the Divine Comedy box that sets the gold-standard in terms of material, packaging and price. Costello certainly does – he owns his own catalogue and nothing happens without his say-so. In this case I think he’s made a misjudgement. Yes, they will be guided by the label or licensee but anyone with any wit will be engaging with, or at least noting the response from its fan-base.


I might have missed a similar comment due to the thread length but EC will come from the vinyl generation and is entitled to feel that way about CD / digital. As all of us, he has his opinion coloured by his generation experience of formats. It does seem daft that he may be missing out on sales, but that may be more likely the record company decision – which is concerning for CD purchasers certainly.


I’ve said enough on twitter about it to you Paul (@bigeyedfisher), so here I’ll just say I’m glad I’m not an Elvis Costello fan. I’ll stick with my apparently outdated way of listening to music, the great CD! And by the way Elvis, a little booklet is better than no booklet at all. that big booklet you get with a vinyl rips/gets worn just the same as the small one. It’s even more fragile because it’s 12×12 or so, and usually thin.


Elvis is free to do whatever he chooses with his releases and everybody else is free to ignore them.
I have one edition of “Armed Forces” and that is enough for me and I find the appeal of bonus material often overrated. I have an early CD reissue that includes a few bonus tracks, but most of the time I only listened to the original album tracks anyway.

There’s one thing I noticed though: I have several of the CDs from the first reissue series and I think that most of them sound rather thin and hollow, while I also have an original vinyl version of “Blood And Chocolate” and that sounds a lot better (warmer, more crisp and defined) than its CD counterpart from the first reissue campaign.
I think it always comes down to mixing and mastering and a lot of 1980s/early 90s CD releases were just mixed or mastered poorly.

Personally I don’t care about live material from shows that I haven’t attended anyway, as most of the time the sound is shoddy and the singing and playing rarely surpasses the studio takes. I know that’s a jaded perspective, but after so many years of consuming products of the music industry I’m not getting easily excited anymore. And the presumed magical energy or atmosphere of specific live gigs often involves romanticized autosuggestion.

His Discogs pages show that Elvis has always been very busy at repackaging and expanding his recordings. His first label had that strategy of release gimmicks (alternative cover here, bonus track there) and Elvis basically sticked to that formula. This new set is definitely overpriced but if he finds a small, exclusive audience willing to pay for it, I’m happy for him.


It’s a very inconsistent story he is telling here:

1. Not only do my kids only stream music, they have no clue who Elvis Costello is. My point is, his fans are the older generation who still buy cd and vinyl. So from a commercial perspective, not releasing this on cd makes no sense. Costello has a grudge against the cd because he felt screwed when it was first released. Message for Costello: that’s the record company that screwed you, not the cd itself. Apparently Costello is independently rich so he can “get back at the cd” by ignoring it now but what he really is doing is screw his fans as statistically most of them don’t do vinyl.

2. “CD is a medium that has seen its day”. Inconsistent because so is vinyl. If he is consistent then he would only release it as streaming. My kids only know streaming and shake their heads when crazy dad gets another box set in the mail. So if “has seen its day” was the norm, he shouldn’t release it on vinyl either.

3. Let’s not act as if vinyl is taking over from the cd. Vinyl is a nice product, beautiful really, with that large cover but people buy it for nostalgic reasons, for the better look, because it is the latest kraze and sometimes as an artifact-only with no intention to play it. The sound however is mostly worse, it is much more expensive and super impractical because you have to get up every 3 songs or so to flip the record. That’s not the future.

4. Inconsistent because he said in the Billboard interview that his catalog was in disarray. Well, congrats, it’s now in even worse disarray, reissuing something only on vinyl. Not only do people want the cd, many simply cannot afford a £200 box set. Mr Costello lives in an alternative universe.


I visited Discogs and looked at the history of Armed Forces releases.
In the US alone, AF was released by Columbia/CBS (1979), Rykodisc (1993), Rhino/Warner Bros. (2002), and Hip-O/Universal (2007). If one of EC’s beefs is “not paying the artist properly” for CD releases, he’s had multiple instances over decades to correct this problem when hammering out new contracts. Seems that Elvis and his management teem are shit negotiators.



Padraig Collins

Not a huge Elvis Costello fan, but hard to resist at this price.



Lol. That comment made my day.

Chris Squires

I made my main point further down the page but there is one other thing to bear in mind that doesn’t even touch on the vinyl vs. CD debate.
It’s just not a very good set.
It is very light on desirable additional content and the format chosen is (to use a deplorable Americanism) a hot mess (forgive me).
3 x 12″, 3 x 10″ and 3 x 7″ seems such a strange way of doing things. The seven inch singles in particular. They don’t seem to be trying to achieve anything, other than bulking out the package. They don’t seem to be trying to replicate the original in any way and don’t seem to add anything to the party.
The three 10″ records also seem to be neither fish nor flesh.
I am not the foremost Elvis C. aficionado so I might be missing the point. But isn’t the point to get the point?
Overall it seems to be more of a fashion statement that a serious proposal. An experiment in being able to say there are 9 discs in the set, 9 pieces of vinyl. Rather like the upcoming U2 release stretching meagre pickings as far as they will go with one track per side for 5 “LPs”.
I bought Oliver’s Army back in 1979, from local chemist that stocked 7″ records. I am not sure who would want to buy this. It’s the equivalent of 5 x 12″ records for £200 or £250.
That’s up in McCartney territory, but I think this is a worse deal.

What? Costello? Worry?

A point I made near the bottom of the thread Chris, I was excited by this release and saw the content and meh, it’s live material spread thinly across 8 different platters, and not even complete live shows either. And to top it all it’s just a fancy bookend for 200 sobs that eats up space. I’ll stick with the collection I have, and stream or buy a download when it become available of this new set.


Chris, I agree entirely. Aside from the format bickering, it’s not that good of a set, for the reasons you’ve listed.

I wonder how many EC fans already have all of those 7″ singles. One of the many reasons I was irked by this box is I didn’t want to shell out for those again; I am happy to have umpteen versions of an album, but I don’t need multiple copies of 7″ singles.

But the most baffling part to me is all the 10″ records. What an irritant.

And I can’t wait to see some pictures of the actual box, as opposed to the label’s mock-ups. I want to see what the heck these “seven notebooks” look like. If Costello believes CD booklets fall apart as soon as you touch them, I wonder what he thinks of “seven notebooks” versus the nice hardback books that so many artists put in their respectable boxes.

Ben Add

The only unreleased recordings in this overpriced collection are some of the live tracks. The Hollywood High concert has already been released in 2 previous AF releases and on its own.
I downloaded a lossless FM source of the Pinkpop concert years ago on a free and legal live music torrent site. There are at least 30 to 40 high quality (FM or soundboard) EC live recordings from 1978-79 available for free online.

Lossless files are easier to deal with than CDs and are the same audio quality but they’re both much better than vinyl. Get a decent A2D converter.

Paul Wren

Vinyl will still be playable in 100 years time whereas CD’s won’t because they deteriorate/”rot” over time and become unplayable.

Stan Butler

The condition of my CDs in 100 years time strangely isn’t my most pressing concern. I may not be around to play them.
Certainly the CDs I first bought 30 years ago are still very playable and are all backed up as Flac files anyway.
In contrast, the LPs I bought in the 80s, always had annoying pops and crackles, almost from the off.
God only knows what they’re going to sound like in 2085!


You still planning playing those records in a hundred years my friend, and I guarantee your kids won’t want them either, so kind of a redundant point methinks
And yes records do wear considerably overtime too

Happy Man

Good point. I’ll be 165 then.

Jarmo Keranen

I bought my first cd’s in 1987 and they still play very well. I’m 61 now i think i’m dead before they deteriote/”rot” and that’s enough for me!

Christian Harald Fex

Vinyl is – like glass – amorph, so it will develop deformations.
And, yes, it will be playable, but there will be no listening pleasure at all.


Funny this. One disc I’ve had since college (1989, its release) is “Spike” by…Elvis Costello. It hasn’t oxidized but will no longer play in any CD player I own. Other discs from that time are fine.

Roland K.

Rubbish! I’m owning more than 8000 cds and this happened me just once. This by a factory failure.

Vinyl however is mostly not playable after a decade without cracks and popds because of the fans who can’t handle vinyl and being always gentle with it.

Prince Fan

The lifespan of vinyl is irrelevant really unless you except to live to be 150+. CD rot is an overstated issue. I ripped hundreds of 25 -30 year old CDs earlier this year and didn’t have a single problem and detected no signs of deterioration. You can’t wear out CD either!


If CDs do indeed rot over time (and I have only experienced this with a literal handful of VERY EARLY CDs out of the 1000s I have bought) then I guess I won’t be able to play them when I am 152 years old. Oh wait….. :-D

Edward Fitzgerald

Disappointed Elvis didn’t make a corresponding 78 RPM Records box set. Armed Forces is a good album, songs still get airplay on college stations but vinyl only no thanks.


Ironically its often cheaper to buy A CD to get the download than paying for a download itself. I often wonder how much input modern artists have in the pricing of SDE’s. The price of this Armed Forces quite patently has not gone well and ultimately its not good for heritage acts to alienate their fan base in the way some of these comments suggest. EC is one of my favorite acts who is offering me one 40 year old album reissue for £200. The Divine Comedy is also one of my favourites who is offering the majority of his lifetimes work in music for £125.

Leon McC

I don’t like Costello but I agree with his sentiment. Vinyl is more expensive but way more satisfying as a product, in my opinion. I switched from vinyl to CD in 1995, bought thousands of CDs, then switched back to vinyl 2-3 years ago. I have traded in some nice CD items for vinyl since then and will continue to do so but will probably keep my nicest CD items. I haven’t bought a CD for about 3 years.

I love the packaging, the heavyweight product, the ritual of playing a side, the fat sound.

BTW – Paul, what a great site that covers both formats with real knowledge and passion. I’m so glad I stumbled across the site a year or so ago.


To cd or not to cd, this remains a gorgeous box set aimed at collectors at a premium price (which will probably come down after a while anyway). The people this box set is aimed at, will certainly buy it without hesitation, simply because they collect everything EC related, regardless of the format. Those who don’t jump on it, simply aren’t *that* interested, so not buying it won’t result in any great loss.

Sure, there’s a fair chance the casual fan could/would buy it, should it also be available on cd. Then again, SDE is not a blog directed at the mere casual fan (for most of the time). This leaves us with those collector’s who would have preferred to own it on cd and feel the need to ventilate this on this website. Of course they have the right to do so. The irony is they will nevertheless buy the vinyl box (save for the odd exception), because that is what they do: *collect*. Even the fact that it does not exist as a cd package adds to the collectability of the item. It has a ring of exclusivity to it, which it should have being a “Super Deluxe Edition”.

The point is, not releasing it on cd, is a very thinly veiled marketing ploy, that will actually work. The collectors *will* buy it, the casual listeners won’t. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least that this set *will* eventually be released on cd after all, and lo and behold: I guarantee the collectors will buy it for a second time (with some of them going on a rant all over again).

What it comes down to is this: you either buy it or you don’t. If you decide to buy it, you shouldn’t rant. If you don’t decide to buy it, you’ve made your point by not doing so and you shouldn’t rant. If your opinion differs from mister Costello’s, that means you would have liked to see it out on cd. Sure, you can write that and let the world know. The fact is, it won’t be out on cd, and what everyone does with that *still* remains his or her choice.

In the end the market, governed by the simple principle of supply and demand, will, as always, dictate the proceedings. No rant will ever change that.

On a personal side note, how any music collector taking himself seriously can be without a record player, is beyond me.

Now let me take the piss! ;-)


I can’t understand how any “music collector taking himself seriously” can be so closed minded. I grew up in the 70’s, and know full well about Vinyl. I know it’s high’s, and I know its lows. It’s amazing people don’t want to admit there are drawbacks.

Regardless – it’s a lie to say Vinyl sounds better. That said, Vinyl v. a badly mastered CD, Vinyl wins. Just as a bad master will render Vinyl poor. It’s not the medium – it’s the mastering.

Regardless – if they don’t want to do Redbook because of quality issues – do SACD or Blu-Ray audio. Problem solved. Bottom line – the medium you prefer doesn’t mark you as a “music collector”.

Why does this stuff need explaining in 2020?!?


Here, here!
This view that only vinyl buyers are ‘real’ music fans is really silly, but sadly commonly encountered!
As much as I’m not a streaming fan, in the end it’s the music not the medium, hence I’m perfectly happy buying a scuffed up secondhand cd for £2 if I discover some great music.

Wayne K

Exactly @dean. Perfectly said.


I will not buy old fashioned vinyl for an exorbitant price but wait for a CD release. It’s a easy as this!

Neil Hendry

I am an avid collector – but I collect CDs…I am not going to start streaming and downloading or going back to vinyl. All it will do is push me away from buying music. This is already happening with vinyl or download only releases from other artists and it is a trend that I only see continuing unfortunately. In this case, I would happily pay about £100 for a decent Armed Forces deluxe box set on CD – that is revenue I would have thought that is not to be sniffed at. Keep it as a limited edition of 2,000 globally and you make £200,000 in revenue with a production cost well below that of the vinyl equivalents and probably yielding a higher gross margin as a result. I just don’t see the logic of forcing people to make choices of this kind when the industry is struggling overall.