Neil Strikes Gold
From the department of "Every once in a while I like something that a lot of other people like as well":
Neil Strikes Gold With Archival Release
March 22, 2007, 12:00 AM ET
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
Neil Young has been a consistent presence on The Billboard 200 since the late 1960s, but only once has he ever debuted higher than the No. 6 position enjoyed this week by the Reprise set "Live at Massey Hall," taped in Toronto in 1971. Young previously reached No. 5 with the 1995 album "Mirror Ball," a collaboration with Pearl Jam.
"The tricky part with marketing an artist like this is, how much do you focus on the initial launch and then also save something for afterward?," says Reprise VP of marketing Peter Standish. "We also worked hard to decipher where his audience aggregates and how to reach them in a cost-effective manner."
Standish declined to go into detail about the different strategies the label employed to raise awareness of "Massey Hall," but concedes, "We've been on and off with print in terms of how heavy to advertise, but we decided to be aggressive with it this time and I'm glad we did. The marketplace is changing so rapidly -- a plan that worked six months ago is irrelevant today."
Indeed, there was a concerted effort to promote "Massey Hall" in advance of the September or October release of "Archives Vol. 1," a mammoth boxed set that has been in the works for 10 years and is something of a Holy Grail for Young fans. The project, which covers Young's career from 1963-1972, will feature eight audio CDs, two DVDs and a 200-page book of photos and memorabilia.
"Massey Hall" and last fall's "Live at the Fillmore East" will be included in the box as bonus discs. The remainder of the chronological collection features material cut with Young's early Canadian band the Squires, recordings from the period during which he lived in Topanga Canyon, Calif., scores of previously unreleased studio tracks and a live disc drawn from a week's worth of concerts from the Toronto venue the Riverboat.
"This really is an audio biography, not a boxed set," enthuses Standish, who says three additional "Archives" boxes will follow. "The photos in the book are unbelievable. Those in and of themselves are incredible pieces of art."
The notoriously press-shy Young is expected to do some interviews in support of "Archives" but for now is not planning a tour around the release. "A lot of people don't realize how extensive and intense the Freedom of Speech tour he did with Crosby, Stills & Nash was," says Standish. "I think Neil is taking a little bit of a break at the moment. But you never know what's around the corner. If the muse moves him, anything can happen.""