New Package For The Boss

The lucrative Japanese boomer music market found another avenue for exploitation recently when Bruce Springsteen‘s entire catalogue was re-released on CDs in cardboard sleeves.

Aimed specifically at male music-lovers in their 40s and 50s, the “paper sleeve campaign” taps into nostalgia for old LPs, which in Japan were slightly more elaborate than those sold commercially in the West.

In Japan, records came in sturdier cardboard with the vinyl itself encased in high quality slip cases. In addition, the sleeve itself was encircled by a band of shiny paper called an “obi” that included the pertinent information about the record’s contents in Japanese.

All of these elements have been painstakingly recreated in smaller formats for the new CDs.

As with most music-related booms in Japan, this one was initiated by jazz record companies, who started re-releasing classic jazz albums in cardboard sleeves in the mid-’90s. Sony Direct, which handles Sony’s catalogue sales in Japan, has already released the entire Aerosmith and Jeff Beck collections in paper, and is in the midst of finishing off Bob Dylan.

Springsteen, however, was something of a coup, since the singer had refused for years whenever Sony asked for permission to release his catalogue in paper sleeves. For reasons that Sony has not revealed, however, Springsteen this year gave his blessing to the project.

Toshiba EMI has also announced that it will start releasing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on cardboard in coming months.

Though cardboard sleeves have been used recently for vintage albums in America, the Japanese versions are slightly different. Reproductions are made directly from original LP jackets and then retouched digitally to get as close as possible to the original look.

As a result, the CDs are slightly more expensive and released as limited editions, usually about 5,000 copies per album. They sell out quickly.

— Phil Brasor