SDEtv: UK v Japanese CD packaging, featuring Trevor Horn’s new album

Is the demise of the CD a self-fulfilling prophecy? Record labels are sometimes guilty of either not issuing new releases on the format (see volume two of Sony’s Bruce Springsteen‘s album collection box set and yesterday’s Marvin Gaye announcement from Universal) or putting out a CD so lacklustre in terms of packaging and presentation, that even the most diehard physical music fan might start questioning their commitment to the format.

Since Trevor Horn‘s new Reimagines the Eighties album isn’t even available on vinyl – and with all that money spent on recording the album and promoting it – BMG aren’t going to let us down on packaging and presentation are they? SDE compares and contrasts what the UK label delivered to fans compared with their Japanese counterparts…

Trevor Horn Reimagines the Eighties is out now. Signed CDs are no longer available but you can order the 2CD from CDJapan.

Compare prices and pre-order

Trevor Horn

Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties (feat. The Sarm Orchestra)


CD 1

1. Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Robbie Williams
2. Dancing In The Dark – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Gabrielle Aplin
3. Ashes To Ashes – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Seal
4. The Power Of Love – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Matt Cardle
5. It’s Different For Girls – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Steve Hogarth
6. Slave To The Rhythm – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Rumer
7. Brothers In Arms – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Simple Minds
8. Girls On Film – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and All Saints
9. What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Tony Hadley
10. Owner Of A Lonely Heart – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra
11. Take On Me – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra
12. Blue Monday – Trevor Horn Featuring The Sarm Orchestra and Rev Jimmy Wood

CD 2 




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Having received my Japanese copy, the following is worth mentioning: Note that in true ZTT style, a) there is not an instrumental for every track, b) that the running order for the instrumentals is not the same as disc 1, and c) some of the instrumentals are different versions – most notably Brothers In Arms and Dancing In The Dark. Also, the pre-release tracks were edits (so the album versions are longer).

Ross Baker

I don’t think the industry is intentionally trying to kill off CDs, but I think they’re resigned to the fact that sales are decreasing and have given up fighting it. I think HMV being saved has added a few years onto the CD’s lifespan alone, and they outsold vinyl sales 8:1 in the UK last year (vinyl’s increase slowed, too), so I don’t think they’re going anywhere yet. But as time goes on, people buying CDs are more and more likely to be people who are sticking with the format regardless, so I suppose there’s less incentive to put the effort in. Certainly the days of having a 32 page booklet in your standard CD release are generally gone now.

I love the Japanese mini LP sleeves too. The Manics 4 Real series is a great example of how to re-issue an album: the Lifeblood set comes with 20 bonus tracks, the CD booklet, a CD-sized replica of the vinyl booklet, an additional information booklet in Japanese, plus a replica of the inner sleeve.

Robert Lett

Enjoyed this. CD is the only physical format I am interested in, come what may. I have been to Tokyo several times (going back in May) and it’s a beautiful thing to while away the hours in Tower or other stores where CD is still the thing. Side note, I am curious why the comments are disabled on these videos.


Great post – CD is the only physical format I am interested in as well. I hate buying box sets (see the Zeppelin Deluxe editions boxes) where you’re being forced into buying vinyl you don’t want when you want everything else in the box. Music sales have been steadily decline for years, but the CD is still the best selling physical format sold. I hate that the record companies are trying to kill them off. The dynamic range on a CD is far wider than an LP’s. Sure they’re only 16 bit, but at least the high’s & lows don’t have to be cut/restricted like on vinyl because the vinyl just can’t reproduce them like a CD can. It seems like many of the people here feel the same way. I have read that in the UK CD sales are still strong, at least stronger than here in the USA.

Kevin Wollenweber

Well, I’ve said it on these forums before, but I’d never go back to vinyl for reasons that are clearly outlined already on this conversation, and I’ll add that I’ve read instances in reviews where the so-called “original” replication of the vinyl cover is sloopy, as if they just photographed an image of a vinyl cover and used that as opposed to reprinting the original sources! When folks go after vinyl, they go in wild goose searches for an original pressing in reasonably good shape, not a third generation master, cranked up and c ompressed with possibly third generation cover replication! I only understand the vinyl in the sense that one can read their favorite lyrics so much easier, but I like CD reissues and still hope that, for those of us who still collect on the format, they think hard about the quality and bonus material. If the Japanese can do it, surely we can do it. I’ll never be content to sit and listen to my favorite album as a streaming privilege on You Tube, as if I were listening to it on radio, with all kinds of commercials, sometimes ruining song segues and just destroying the stream-of-consciousness feel of one song to another! Record companies know this because I’m not the only one who insist on such carefully produced product! I will keep reading this weblog as I used to read ICE Magazine, and I hope that record companies start listening as they eventually did in many cases with the previous publication.

To Paul Sinclair: I’m so glad that you are even “hired” to assist on a super deluxe on some things. I wish those connected with Rolling Stones product and Who product would listen to you, although, when some SDE’s like the MY GENERATION box, are conceived, they do a fantastic job–again, I’d love to see the same for A QUICK ONE and SELL OUT, even though the latter has been done as a passable two-disk edition. There are still great ways to celebrate these albums. It isn’t overkill; it’s just giving the consumer all kinds of ways to cherish their favorite album and it puts the stuff back in the mninds of the general public! If they kill off those opportunities, I am sure they will suffer! I just fear right now that so much good source materials on all this stuff will just deteriorate in time and all we can expect is inferior quality, no matter what the packaging!


You are bang on on the covers – the recent deluxe european LP pressings of Klaus Schulze’s back catalogue featured sleeves that were clearly scanned from (in some, not all cases) the CD covers (others were scans from LP covers)! They were poor.
Pretty shocking when you are paying the best part of £30+ for one . . . but then 30 years on are record company art departments still keeping the original pre-press printing materials? Erm, clearly no.


Labels who continue to sell CDs are trying to find creative ways to package [and repackage] music. Not surprised. Some stuff is ridiculous – especially when try to have people shell out overpriced £150+ for a box set with no real new material and a bunch of reproduction memorabilia and some book [think recent Eagles box sets].
Or maybe [don’t ask me why] release some set where it comes only on CD and LP in the same package for some ridiculous package. I am guessing few people listen to both formats. [Just like movie studios keep on releasing Blu-ray discs with a DVD. Who cares about the DVD!]
But finally there is the record label that allow streaming of music – clearly an inferior sound to CDs, vinyl and especially Blu-ray audio. But instead of people buying a full album or at least a CD single, they grab a single track and pay next to nothing for that song. In turn, the artists will probably get next to nothing per song sold.

Rich Goodall

I think the difference here is that the Japanese version would be primarily sold in a record shop while with the UK edition, the record company has designed it primarily for a supermarket shelf. That ‘sticker’ is there solely to catch the eye of the casual CD shopper (“Ooh look, Doreen, Robbie Williams is on this, we like him”) and I’m guessing that as supermarkets are all about bottom line, then it’s cheaper to actually print on the cover than manufacture a load of stickers and then run a machine to stick them on to the shrink-wrap of the finished product

alan hansen

i frequently find my conversations with (usually) younger music listeners frustrating, for whom so much of music is not art and is therefore completely disposable and easily replaceable. (mind you, they are NOT music lovers; let alone music collectors.) it’s impossible to present a case for ‘why music quality matters’ when these aforementioned have no concept of what quality in music actually is – they are bereft of musical experience and history, and sorely lacking any natural artistic curiosity.

Richard Littler

I recently traveled to Japan and managed to pick up some CDs from Tower Records. CD has always been my favourite format and I’m especially fond of Japanese CDs with the bonus tracks and extra booklets.

Randy Metro

Think how Johnathan Barnbrook would have designed the cover; he would have enlarged the black square & obscured Trevor’s face (The Next Day).


I speak from a U.S. perspective. In North America for the first six months of 2018, streaming constituted 77.1% of industry dollars and digital downloads constituted another 12.6% according to the RIAA. Physical media was only 10.3% and the second half will come in even lower. You cannot expect the same number or quality of releases when the physical media business has become a tiny niche.

For all the vinyl hype, CD’s outsold vinyl 2 to 1, although LP’s constituted 45% of the CD/LP total dollars. There’s no conspiracy. At its peak in North America, 942.5 million CD’s were sold. In 2017, it was 87.6 million. 2018 will come in under 37 million. Consumers have spoken. The record companies aren’t happy with streaming – they make far less from it. Consumers have driven this.

It’s inevitable that there will be fewer releases. From the standpoint of a record company executive, what’s the point of releasing a CD if no one is going to buy it? The same is true on the video side. In North America, the physical video business was an $11 billion business in 2009. In 2018, it was $4.1 billion. There will be fewer releases, fewer restorations, fewer releases with deluxe packaging, fewer extras, etc. Again, you can’t blame the studios – it’s the consumers who have moved to streaming services.

Even back in 2011, when physical media constituted 49% of industry dollars in North America, 80% of albums released sold fewer than 100 units and 94% sold fewer than 1000. Of the 8 million digital tracks available at the time, 7.5 million had fewer than 100 paid downloads.

There’s been a radical change in the culture. Younger people don’t feel the need to own media as long as they can access it. And if they can’t access it anymore, they just move on to the next thing because it’s all pretty much the same anyway.

Randy Metro

Regarding the oversized postcard & what to do with it: Over the years I have cuttings, magazine pictures, etc. I stick them inside a relevant book. I have tons of Bowie & Hendrix books for example. Otherwise, I just tuck them inside a book or one of my no glue/no tape scrapbooks.

Fast forward 5, 10, 20 years, and I will find one of these hidden bits. A little surprise always, sort of like a message in a bottle to my future self. A month or two ago, I opened a Bowie book & I found a forgotten all-occasion (no message) greeting card with a beautifully drawn picture of 80’s Bowie in a tuxedo. Wouldn’t it have been really neat if I had written a message to my future self?

peter chrisp

Have to agree their packaging is simply amazing. As what Paul pointed out the UK version is straight out simple. With Japan you get an extra cd of music. What’s not to like. Also inclusive you get an inner plastic sleeve for protection. I have a number of Japanese cd’s. The most were the Led Zeppelin 2014 remasters. Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin 4 In Through The Outdoor, Coda, and Presence, & in 2015 bought the 3 Bad Company reissues from Japan. The Japanese Zeppelin remasters also include lyrics. Each album has a 14 “Page” booklet with the lyrics in both Japanese & English. Spent 12 days in Japan 2017 & before i flew out had to find the worlds biggest record store in Tokyo, stunning 9 floors. Tower Records, Paul let me know if you need anything from Japan. Will be there early June.


Great unboxing but the album is just awful.

Matthew Holbrook

I’m sure I read about plans for a CD form of Record Store Day – to try to make people love CDs again. I think that was last year so something might be in the works.


That permanent pretend sticker is awful. Thankfully this release is not something I would buy anyway…


Okay, one more thing. I was initially quite interested in this Trevor Horn release, but I can’t get pass that offensive black faux sticker box printed right on the album cover. Putting that promotional box on the cover tells me BMG has a lack of confidence in the album, and felt compelled to boldly state what’s good about this recording conspicuously on the cover with the teaser “…AND MORE…” Mr. Horn, whose musical talent and insight I appreciated and enjoyed from the Buggles to all the recording artist he produced during the 1980’s, deciding to NOT include any excerpts of his recent interview about the concept behind this album, tells me he doesn’t think there’s much importance to this release either.

So now I need some time to think about this, and if I change my mind, I would also have to think about spending more money to get the superior Japanese version — although I really, really wish the Japanese booklet included the content in English too!


Why do we need a big black square showing what’s on the disc, plastered all over the front wrecking the artwork?! Just look on the back of the package! Its all there. If I want that useless info, I’ll cut/peel the sticker off and put it where I want to. In the case of vinyl, I peel off the sticker and attach it to the plastic sleeve I put the record cover in. Duh!
Btw, I would buy way more CDs if they were packaged like the Japanese do theirs. Unfortunately, importing Japan spec CDs to Canada are way to expensive normally. I would hope that more record companies would learn a lesson from the domestic releases of This Mortal Coil CD reissues. Simply beautiful presentations!

Paul E.

As a U.S. based music collector that’s been purchasing only compact discs since 1986 (age 16) I don’t have the desire to begin collecting vinyl- I’m not rooting for it’s failure either. I’ve been patching the holes in my CD collection with a true sense of urgency these last three years as I’ve come to understand that everything, in essence, is out of print- original pressings, Japanese pressings, limited run SDE’s etc. It’s clear the industry has all but given up on my favorite format- and my belief is that what’s left in inventory (Amazon, Discogs, etc.) is quite literally going to be sold through and not repressed ever again.

Many of my friends abondoned the CD format with the success of the iPod. Ripping their collections to MP3 and selling things to a local used music store. At that time, the market was truly in favor of collectors wanting the physical format as used CD stores began to pop up everywhere. Fastforward about ten years ahead and streaming services now have killed those stores (alongside the U.S. retail chain stores) driving collectors/consumers to online retailers. I anxiously watch Amazon US prices fluctuate (daily) based on supply and demand and see market place sellers adjust their prices up accordingly in response. It’s always maddenig to see the last remaining seller on Amazon list a disc for 10 times the price because they are one of the very few who have the title for sale (alongside one sole seller on Discogs/eBay).

Sorry for the already understood history lesson but that’s my two cents. I enjoy listening and viewing my collection everyday (around 5,000 discs [ok not everyday]) and am dissappointed by the industries white flag approach to my preferred format. Paul and SDE keep me positive as I love still seeing what there is in new releases and this includes vinyl. When or if vinyl goes belly up again [maybe it never did], I fear the physical music collecting market will be exclusive to second hand/used titles only and that’ll be a shame.

Andy Hanson

Good post…my sentiments exactly. Never could get past vinyl’s surface noise detraction from the music. CD rules.

Randy Metro

If it hasn’t already been stated here: Amazon has something called Amazon Digital Services IRC. Which is an “On demand” service that is simply a CDR with crappy paper booklets & bare-bones info. It is in a smaller font in the product description & I’ve seen some CDs getting bad reviews due to the sound of the CD or poor artwork because the purchaser didn’t realize they are getting a CDR from MP3; WAV if they are lucky. Several have reported track lists on the artwork not lining up with the music on the CDR.

My point being that Amazon will provide out of print CDs with “buyer beware” in the fine print. I don’t think the format is going away, just the quality. Quality or lack of quality control doesn’t appear to be an issue with new legit SDE releases; so what does Amazon have to lose with the CDR On Demand versions?


Hi Paul – this little article gives you an idea of the stupidity of used pricing and how it works on Amazon etc:


Kevin Galliford

I’d love to know how the CD market is doing in Japan. For such a technologically fond country, do they still love the CD or is streaming more popular?

Henry Martinez

Hello Kevin

Yes, the CD is still a viable format in Japan. In fact, there are still 85 Tower Records brick-and-mortar stores in Japan.

Paul, I’m glad to see the issue of CD packaging addressed here. Everything else being equal, a beautifully rendered mini-LP package adds great value to a purchase. Presentation matters.

I would call the readers attention to the somewhat recent Japanese mini-LP releases in a 7″ x 7″ size (see Santana, Lotus, http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/SICP-10116?s_ssid=e345dd5c5dceb7c95b and Miles Davis, Bitches Brew, http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/SICJ-10008?s_ssid=e349f65c5dd0b0b500).

The Lotus and Bitches Brew editions above are simply the most beautifully realized mini-LP packages I’ve ever seen.

Paul E.

The August 2018 Japanese Deluxe CD + DVD release of Beck’s “Colors” was also outstanding with regard to exclusive packaging, content…the works really. The CD has three bonus tracks and an exclusive DVD that contains a 2017 full concert performance with many of the tracks performed for the first time. The outside cover is die cut and has several full color pieces inserted behind it to give it a 3-D appearance. Of course, both discs are well protected in poly sleeves – Japan went over the top with this release. The only alternate I’m aware of is the Target version with different artwork/cover and the same standard single disc track listing. I recall reading from a certain SDE editor about the prospect of a future unboxing video for this release :)

Kevin Galliford

Thanks Henry. I mourn the loss of Tower, the Piccadilly branch in London was amazing by the way.


Addendum: I like Japanese CDs especially the extra protective case for the CD, I would like to see sometimes in Europe. And Digipaks are still better than Digisleeves, they don’t go at all.


Glad someone is addressing the scourge of scuffed postcards! Too long this has gone unremarked upon!

I bow to no-one in my love of Trevor Horn but I admit to being nonplussed by this release. A pass for me I’m afraid. I’d rather he directed his efforts towards getting his long out of print work re-released such as Philip Jap. Not sure how much pressure he can bring to bear but some surely?


I don’t hope the CD dies out so quickly. I only recently decided to end my general vinyl collection rage. Unfortunately, the vinyl is a little too much price wool. Even though the sound has improved, there are always slips in terms of quality and quantity here or there. I am no longer willing to spend so much money on vinyl. Then rather CD that is affordable from price. The price strategy for vinyl cannot go well in the long run. What I can still write, after the sale of my record player and the first big part of vinyl, has really fallen a stone from my heart and I feel something like that freed from. Long live the CD, although I don’t have to have all of them anymore, which doesn’t appear this CD.


I must admit, having sold cds all my working life since 1985, it still baffles me who buys an LP these days. There’s some extraordinary prices being charged on new vinyl releases and given that I never see a single person carrying an old school 12″ plastic bag, then I have to conclude that there’s a ton of overstocks starting to amass. I read mailouts from wholesalers across the world on a daily basis and the ‘bargain’ vinyl lists are getting longer and longer.
Why the drive to kill the cd? Beats me. I still buy them.
I’ll certainly warrant that a large number of the old-time record buying public never heard a decent CD playback system . . and the same is true for vinyl too . . but the dread streaming is probably just too convenient for labels and punters to keep the physical medium alive over here.

As for CD quality – I still play my 1980’s puchased Japanese cds and they still sound great – the Japanese always did make all their audio products like little jewels and that is still the case; though I do miss the old cases that had the little lip in the lid to support the back of the sleeve!
Japanese mastering was always good, though I have heard some remasters from recent years that were downright not great.
European and US mastering – there’s good and bad – more of the former, but still a tendancy to over-egging it.

Bob M

I agree with Tonk – the used stores I see are FULL of vinyl, but rarely do I see anyone buying them. Used and scratched there seems to be a market for, but new, at the current price points, are out of reach for most people. And there is something to having the right gear to listen to anything – just go into a good Audio shop and hear the difference.

Robert Atkin

I suspect single new releases of cd’swill be killed off in time and that deluxe editions of the type issued by the like of King Crimson and Jethro Tull etc will carry on. I suspect that cd’s in the other parts of the world will carry on too I am into K-Pop and all the releases are available as downloads and cd only (no vinyl). Downloads in the UK are the same prices as for other artists, but in Korea can be 50% or even as low as 10% of our prices. The albums are issued initially in book form with anywhere of up too 150 pages or so of photos and information. They can also come with photo cards (usually one comprising a random member of the group) and also a poster that is usually folded. The cost sually ranges anywhere from £20.00 to £40.00 depending on buying new or older. Usually if older, the posters are not available. If the labels over here did a similar thing and charged a reasonable cost, I am sure more cd’s would sell.

I watched the video and the postcard included with the Japanese version could be framed and hung on a wall.


I caught part of the Trevor Horn interview with Graham Norton on Radio 2 recently:


He actually came across very well, and clearly into the music, but when he was asked ‘do you listen to Vinyl at home’ he totally dismissed the format saying (in effect) that ‘CD is actually far closer to the master tapes than Vinyl and sounds better, and that there’s no reason at all to listen to Vinyl’. Odd view really, especially as many here (myself included) totally disagree. Perhaps he just doesn’t see the point of the format and hence no Vinyl release.


The crux of the matter is that old vinyl pressings of pre-cd albums largely sound better than the remastered and reissued cds.

New cds sound better than their new vinyl counterparts for the most part, because it’s the same master pressed to both formats. Basically new lps are just the cd pressed to vinyl and yes, adding an analogue step does introduce noise etc.

Anyone listening to Heathen by Bowie for instance on vinyl is listening to the exact same information as the cd and stream, there is no extra dynamic range whatsoever. It may sound better to the ear because vinyl listeners can tune their systems to their preference a bit more, and may be taking some more care with their setup. A properly configured hi-fi component set-up will most likely sound better than a Panasonic micro system, but it’s the speakers or the circuitry that’s doing the work, not the format.

However, an original vinyl pressing of say Heroes by Bowie will sound better than the cd to most people in a blind test.
This is true for a lot of pre-cd vinyl pressings. When the volumes are matched to remove the known positive impact of the extra loudness, and the music is played side by side, on the whole people prefer the original in the small amount of tests that i’ve been involved in. The cds can sound brittle like the EMI remasters, or boomy and bassy like the recent Parlophone masters. Hence the general preference for the RCA or Ryko editions which are reasonably faithful reproductions of original analogue masters.

There are exceptions where the artist actually cares. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories was mastered differently for the vinyl. There is more information there, it is literally better quality, and certainly sounds nicer to my ears.

It comes down to the ear of each listener, but it’s a simple fact that if this Trevor Horn album were pressed to vinyl, it would almost certainly be the cd master, and played side by side on a decent system, the only difference would be the dust in the grooves which would appear to make the cd the winner.

And that’s why i’ll stream new music and search out decent vinyl for older music. Ten quid for the digital data that i’ve already paid for through spotify makes it a waste of ten quid. Pressing play on a cd player or pressing play on spotify for me is indistinguishable. When you buy the cd and you have a streaming subscription you are literally paying that money for the cd cover, and the ability to hold it in your hands. Which I understand is the premise of this site.

But you are right, in this case the packaging is in no way worth that ten quid, and that’s most likely why the emotional feedback of holding a record is making a resurgence. So yes, fully agree, the record companies are not helping themselves if they want to keep cds on the shelves.


If ever I have the choice to buy a jewel case over a digipack I will take it. I loathe digipaks. The amount of times I’ve re-bought an album on CD at a later date after they decide to start putting them out in jewel cases is ridiculous.
It puzzles me how anybody could prefer a flimsy, cardboard case to a protected, plastic one. That’s all that matters to me really when it comes to packaging :’D


Paul, I also favour gatefold vinyl replica wallets for CDs — even preferring them to vinyl records (which I buy because they’re nice to look at and hold, but require too much special care when playing, storing and transporting). Needless to say, I play a new vinyl record maybe a few times, but afterwords go for the CD of the same album, simply because it’s so much easier to place in a tray and press “play.”

I have collected quite a few Japanese issued mini-LPs over the years. This type of CD packaging is my preferred choice because it provides the convenience of a CD, while also satisfying my desire for good aesthetics and accurate reproduction.

Following the Japanese love and attention to detail packaging, I truly hope music manufacturers will realize there’s a market for mini-LPs, since most serious music collectors still want physical product, but prefer it to be attractive and comprehensive.

The nostalgic appeal of vinyl records may ebb at some point, if it hasn’t already. So why cheapen the CD packaging as a means to justify a precipitous phase out, unless the endgame is to eventually do away with ALL physical music products? People “cherry-picking” only a few songs from a recording artist by downloading from a website, means less revenue for the music industry. If this ongoing trend continues, it will more than likely result in streaming service fees going up exponentially to cover the loss from sales of physical product — and nobody wins :-(


Interesting article, pretty awful music.

And I think you signed off too quickly at the end. The last sentence reads “Signed CDs are no longer available but you can .”


Try turning off your Adblocker. Mine was removing simple hyperlinks on this site and what you’re not seeing is a link to buy the Japanese 2CD version.


Ultimately, it’s our own fault.

British consumers have a psychological price point in mind for a new single-disc CD album of £10. This has been the case for about 15 years i.e. roughly when the supermarkets started undercutting the record stores. In 1997, I paid £12.99 for the original CD release of OK Computer. In 2017, I paid £10 for a double CD edition of the same. A couple of people have tried to creep it up to £11 but with no real success.

With margins becoming increasingly narrow, what can be produced and still have a profit margin becomes more and more basic. The industry has worked ’round this by have nicer editions with extra music for serious fans but this is only useful where there is demand for more than one CD edition.

Meanwhile, vinyl pricing is in Wild West territory with new single LPs veering from about £17 to about £30. At some point, this will settle too and where it settles will have a similar impact of what we get in future.

As Peter Hammill always says…Onwards!

Paul Mac

A Japanese edition only postcard, presumably… :)


I tend to buy Japanese CDs by artists that I class as my DNA stuff, for example the Beatles and Beatles solo, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, etc etc. They are always beautifully packaged and nearly always sound better to my ears, either the SHMs or the bluspecs.
I think in terms of the UK market that CDs have been packaged cheaper as they have been pretty much inflation proof. Proportionally, I pay less now for new UK releases than I did thirty years ago.
The other problem, that I believe has added to the demise of CD is the sound quality that has veered towards the ear bud generation over the last 15 years or so. Not only new stuff but loud remasters (2009 Rolling Stones masters spring to mind). The compression on some CDs makes them sound like mp3s and its pointless in some cases playing them on a HiFi. I started revisiting first generation CDs a while ago, and some sound fabulous (Peter Gabriel Plays Live fatbox from 88 being a recent purchase) and they make me realise all over again why I fell in love with the CD sound.

Geert De Wilde

Funny, I prefer those printed-on hype-stickers! I hate it when they are just on the plastic. You have to cut them out (never an easy thing to do, unless you have a very sharp knife), and then keep them somewhere in the CD case (always loose and falling out). You could glue them back on, but that never looks good. So, manufacturers, stick or print them on the actual cover, please! For me at least. :) That aside, you make an entirely valid point, Paul! It’s always a joy to find how some European/products sometimes raise to the Japanese standards!

Geert De Wilde

To me it would – it would set the new release aside from the earlier one which didn’t have one. Well made hype-stickers are just as much part of the packaging of a new edition as anything else. That is, to me – I feel we’re getting side tracked from the actual issue which you raise :)

Geert De Wilde

OK re-applying this to the issue – I experience a printed on hype-sticker better value/quality than a loose one stuck on the disposable wrapping. But I’m beginning to think that I’m the only one :)

Ian Burgess

Definitely the Japanese version for me. Thanks as always for your insight Paul. The following should probably be on a separate thread, but it was here thataul, you posed the question about the CD demise being a self fulfilling prophesy. Well, yes, if the big companies don’t once again do what they did to vinyl back in the eighties. These days I am a CD man, but acknowledge that modern vinyl is being pressed on high quality raw materials, not the re-cycled, low grade that was often used back then. I have a few old albums that are not much more than flexi discs they are so poor. At the start of cd’s the companies needed no gimmicks, the format itself was the selling point. They sounded much better than vinyl, were virtually indestructible etc etc. Those were the claims, no need to debate here. Now, the high quality vinyl sounds better than the old, partly due to the vinyl, partly, I think, due to the technology that allows mastering to be more accurate to the sounds recorded. However, all that aside why do so many vinyl albums come with a “free” copy of the cd? Minus packaging of course. Now the bonus tracks may be on vinyl, in the 80’s it was the CD with the bonus. Okay, that is to get us all to buy the album for the second time. The whole SDE business foe catalogue is to get us to buy it yet again. I do, far too frequently. Other than as abox set, the vinyl will always look like a better presentation, but the fact that so many cd’s are “presented” in a basic jewel case, often with a cover that does not sell itself at that size will help buyers overlook the cd and see the vinyl. As always the different formats do not have a level playing field, and we will be forced to buy, if we buy, what the companies want to sell us. Downloads are fine for the iPod on the move, but at home, where I listen to most of my music it has to be a better fidelity. Now, what do I do with my old wax cylinders?

Rodolfo Martin

I think it was Ryuichi Sakamoto in an inerview who said that CD in Japan where still a source of interest for music buyer and that he didn’t see much interest on other format. Japanese vinyls were always the best quality (I remember a friend travelling to Japan in the late 70s and he came with all Geneses albums . The manufacture quality and the sound (do Japanese labels remix albums as their taste dictates?) were impressive. In addition, bonus tracks were a standard feature no matter the genre (pop, rock, jazz, Brazilian music, etc). So, maybe Japan will end up being the only source of CDs someday, which is not a problem if you find the way to buy them at a reasonably price. Thanks God, I have a friend who buys everything for me from Amazon Japan or from Japan Yahoo Auctions (which is still active and very healthy) and my only extra cost is the shipping to USA (which is very afordable if Iput 4 or 5 CDs together. Lucky me. Find your way to buy Japanese CDs. Ebay sellers charge double of the original price plus shipping. Crazy price in eBay but the quality still pays off.


You may want to mention the bonus track on CD 1 as you highlighted in the video. But yes, the Japanese are much better when it comes to issuing CDs by adding little perks like extra tracks, bonus CDs, expanded booklets (and lyric sheets), etc.

Let's get physical

HMV and indie shops need to “mirror” the Japanese style packaging. Some exclusive tracks that aren’t available on digital formats. Even with some thought a Blu-ray with 4 music videos. The fixed pricing in Japan means that you don’t have to play the waiting game. It is unlikely to get reduced.

Over the last few years there has been nice extras on Paul Weller, Manic Street Preachers, Suede and Martin Rossiter releases. Even all Oasis related released in the past 10 years have extras.

I know that the Primal Scream 2 CD re-issues and Manic Street Preachers 4 real re-issues released in Japan years ago would sell well if exclusive product in HMV or indies.


The Japanese booklet contains an interview with Trevor Horn and his brief comments on each track. The postcard does not come with all Japanese copies.


Most of the CDs I’ve bought over the past couple of years or so have arrived in a single gatefold cardboard sleeve. Not too fussed really – It’s mostly the content on the CD that matters but was mildly surprised when I received the recent three CD reissue of Piero Piccioni’s ‘Fumo Di Londra’ in an old fashioned “fat” double CD jewel case – you don’t see them too often nowadays.

Iain Carmichael

Point taken, but all that really matters is the quality of the recording and the music itself.
Packaging is always important for the more elaborate SDEs and the most famous albums , but with a digipak version , the bare essentials will suffice .
The Japanese example ain’t worth the extra dosh even though they are obviously superior in terms of aesthetic appeal.

David A

On the other hand, sometimes the UK/Europe version is a digipack, and the Japan version with bonus tracks is a basic jewel case instead. Plus I’ve noticed many times that, with the extra booklet (with Jp lyrics) slipped into the main booklet, it deforms the main booklet a little and leaves some creases on the middle of the left side, because it’s just too big for it…
So in a case like the one you show, and in many others, the JP advantage is obvious. But SOMETIMES it’s the other way around and I prefer the UK version..


Would I be wrong in thinking that it was probably Trevor Horn who specified the UK packaging, possibly under advice from BMG? A company like BMG is more of an enabling body. I guess they offer the artists a choice of packaging, at a price, but maybe they also steer them. “*Teeth sucking* Nah, you don’t want to do that Trev. No demand for a premium package” Who knows, maybe they are right. I will stream this album if I want to hear it, but I might have bought a ‘nicer’ CD package for a few pounds more. But how many others would?
Not sure if the record companies are deliberately trying to kill the CD, or are just too lazy to find out exactly what could be done to maintain a viable market for the format.


Paul, really interesting and thought-provoking video there, loved it, although felt depressed with the content!

I don’t really write huge amounts on this site, though I’m an absolute devotee (Paul Young set just arrived woohoo), but living in Japan gives me a particular standpoint on this.

I don’t have much to add per se, but do agree that the Japanese version looks much better, even if you remove the extra disc, in terms of colour, design (I really find it hard to believe that that “sticker” was actually printed on the casing!!) and shape. As far as the information in the booklet goes, the more the better as far as I’m concerned, and the western version certainly looks pretty sparse. Japanese CDs need to get the people into the whole affair, and since there’s the language barrier, there’s been a history of there being long explanations in Japanese added on to the information: background on the band and their history, explanations of where the current album is coming from, translations of lyrics etc. (not to mention the obi strip, which, pronunciation-wise is not oh-bi, but obi, with the o being the same as the o in pot. Just to let you know lol)

This really goes to show how it’s important to think on what you do with physical product, although this does go at more of a premium price, a quick check on Amazon Japan has the thing for ¥3,240, or currently 22 quid. However, a true fan would be happy to fork out that amount of money, I would think, for some decent product, that had lots of info, lyrics etc. and was well presented

I think I’ve spent a long time basically just echoing you and adding nothing to the conversation, so apologies for that. But, a bonus of being in Japan is being able to get hold of these better editions, that often come with bonus tracks, since they have never done singles here for western artists, at least before the download era (and it’s only recently that they’ve added western artists to the charts!!??!), and it’s something I’m very grateful for.

The only problem is 1) the “CDs are on their way out” argument, despite the fact that I have a vast library of the things collected all through my adulthood and need them to continue, since I have no means to play vinyl and no desire to start (re-start?) all over again

and 2) I have absolutely no interest in the Trevor Horn CD and still fail to understand why he even bothered to make it lol I love the 80s, but this seems completely devoid of any interesting creative spark at all. But, that’s a debate for another thread, I guess

Sorry to go on for so long, but I guess you just hit a nerve (not in a bad sense) or something! Thanks as always for the care and the attention to detail

Cristian Elena

I have a couple of Japanese editions (Queen reissues, Duran Duran, Missing Persons) and I’d like to have a lot more of my favourite albums as Japanese imports too (I love the leaflets with the lyrics, even if the original booklet didn’t have any lyrics!). But even now, when options like Amazon make them available for us “in the West”, they remain quite expensive.

BTW: I wish the makers of the last David Bowie boxes would have got some inspiration from the Japanese layout when it has to be called “vinyl replica”.


Chris Squires

This is a bit of a curate’s egg isn’t it?

Firstly the death of the CD will be a self fulfilling prophecy if they keep producing bare-bones, uninspiring editions like this. “For people who like to flip a CD case over a couple of times, looking for something, anything of interest in their hands” is not the catchiest of headlines.

Then, if they are going to release such a dull CD edition it might be used as part of the conspiracy theory that companies only want to support Vinyl for the extra profit….. BUT there is no vinyl edition. So nothing about this makes any sense. Particularly when the man involved was at the forefront of the movement to give something extra through production and marketing.

(as an aside it was only last night that I realized Trevor Horn is in “The Look of Love” video by ABC. Only took 37 years, but better late than never – it was played as part of the Now 80s channel Top 25 songs about love)

Ben Williams

This raises some good points, certainly some things I have thought myself – if a label doesn’t release something at all in the CD format, then of course it will look like CD sales are in decline.

The so-called deluxe editions that some labels release for artists have a lesser packaging than the standard packaging. I remember James Blunt’s After Love album having very cheap looking packaging compared to the standard jewel case version.

I love both CD and Vinyl, and even keep a tidy mp3 libary so I’ve always had a fair view on all the major formats but my love of CD is absolute and has never waivered!


CD are being killed deliberately. It’s a conspiracy. They want to sell vynil and stream you through subscription.