For the past year and a half, we’ve been in eager anticipation for what could be the most ridiculously expansive (and expensive) releases to grace vinyl audiophiles and completionists of all time, thanks to Finnish label Blood Music and their career-enveloping Emperor boxset. Last week, the pre-orders for the ambitious 25LP collection have hit the internet, but not without its fair share of controversy and discussion.
Most of the critical commentary involved the hefty pricetag of €700 (~$770 USD), a far cry from what Blood Music had initially hoped for with a €500 estimated retail price. Some questioned the purpose of creating the set in the first place. The outpour remained pretty consistent: Who was this thing supposed to be for, exactly? Do Blood Music expect people to be able to afford this monster of a pressing? Fortunately, the label’s enigmatic and anonymous owner has made no bones about maintaining transparency and is relatively quick to address concerns publicly and via email regarding this metal holy grail of a collector’s piece.
“Start saving your money this minute,” the label warned back in summer 2014 during the initial announcement. “The box set will be a one-time only, limited edition pressing. There will be no copies of our records outside the box set this time. This will be a unique offering that will make a massive mark upon the history of metal and quickly vanish into thin air.”
From the onset, the idea of collecting the entire works of legendary black metal band Emperor in a single vinyl release would be an exercise in patience; there was simply no way the undertaking would be cheap or easy. Without knowing the facts or figures, any music fan with even a limited knowledge of vinyl knows that pressing an unprecedented 25 records and providing its own custom casing and bonus materials will quickly rack up a massive bill. Multiplying it over the 667 copies the label plan to produce, and you’re starting to get the big picture.
Further, every collector knows that vinyl records can get real heavy real quick. Surely, this would impact not only its production cost, but a nightmare for international shipping.
“The plant estimated the weight at 17kg (around 37.5 pounds),” Blood Music revealed. “It’s not yet possible to tell the final weight until everything is completely finished, as the production is so complex on this box that things will keep being modified slightly until the end.”
As such, they’ve added a €100 shipping charge, or ~$110, in order to make sure this box gets where it needs to go. Adding that kind of money on top of an already large investment could very well make or break a purchase, but it’s a requirement that wasn’t made lightly or arbitrarily, with the label having to make an educated guess on ensuring that the shipping rates are fair and covered after the fact without breaking the label.
“I have a fully-packed ‘dummy box’ here that was custom cut and loaded up with all similar pats. I weighed it out at 12kg, but I noticed they forgot to include a few pieces, plus while the album material is all in production, we’re still heavily discussing methods for fortifying and designing the outer box. This is basically the largest box ever produced of this type, so there isn’t really a shape we can pull from. There are designs we’re referencing, but we’re testing and discussing the potential load-bearing as we go. So, I’m gonna guess 14-15kg is nearly correct.”
To make matters worse, “once it’s released, inflation will have kicked in on global shipping costs, which will be significant in carting these away from the factory, as well as shipping these out.”
With the final pricetag approaching €800/$880, in order to have afforded the set day-one, fans would have had to put back $50 each month since June 2014. Even with the transparency the label provides and the justifications for the price, one can’t help but to wonder; how much cushion is there for markup?
“Let’s say that sell out is right around my break even point.”
While working with a myriad of professionals over the course of two years from the contacts at pressing plant to the artists involved in mastering and artwork layout, the expenses started to pile up and shift with the ever-fluctuating international exchange rates and personnel issues.
“You usually don’t see a music release that has to seriously adjust its retail cost because of currency fluctuations (and inflation as well) but because of the size of this thing, it had a serious impact.”
“To gather the budget, it would be a rather complex calculation,” the label explains. “Already since I’ve announced the price a few weeks ago, the [manufacturing costs] have skyrocketed because […] the plant found they couldn’t print certain parts as they anticipated and will have to do multiple print runs of the same materials to accurately attempt the ideas, once again increasing the costs.”
“Not to mention there was an entire first round of mastering that was completely rejected, and a new engineer had to be hired to do it all again from scratch. That was costly and time-consuming.”
So after all this hard work and money spent, trial-and-error and educated guesses are the major book-keeping that makes sure the label doesn’t go broke.
“I won’t know the full, final price until everything is totally finished and shipped with the books on it totally closed. Even then, I probably won’t want to know the final price – I’d rather just see that there’s money in the account to keep releasing music.”
So then, what’s the point of two years worth of headaches on something that won’t even turn a profit?
“Let’s say that I could’ve done a lot of other stuff with the money. But this is what I was interested in doing.”
Pre-orders for the massively ambitious Emperor vinyl collection are available now at Blood-Music.com. For more information and to keep up with the label’s plans in 2016 — which include releases from acts such as Perturbator, Xanthochroid, and more — visit Blood Music on Facebook.