Elvis Costello to fans: my label is gouging you on my new box set; don't buy it. Buy Louis Armstrong music instead, and download my stuff by "unconventional means"

Elvis Costello addresses his fans in an editorial called "Steal This Record," in which he notes the absurdity of the price set by his label on "The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook," a live CD and DVD combination priced at $262.46 ("either a misprint or a satire"). He laments that his label has refused to budge on the price, and recommends that his fans not buy this, referring would-be gift-givers instead to a fine-looking Louis Armstrong gift box called Ambassador of Jazz ("Frankly, the music is vastly superior."). Mr Costello concludes:

If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.

Steal This Record (Thanks, Glennf!)


  1. Nothing could make me want to buy his work more than that lovely piece of insider industry criticism along with a humble attitude of comparison with Louis Armstrong. Thanks for the honesty, Mr. Costello.

  2. Remember when Trent Reznor said this of Year Zero? (Specifically of the Australian release, though people enthusiastically took it out of context to apply to everything from the US release to copies of Pretty Hate Machine, which was retroactively justified when he did pay-what-you-want for The Slip and Ghosts I-IV)

  3. But wait… if you order it at Amazon for $202, you’ll receive a $1 (one!) and a $2 (two!) voucher for purchase of Amazon mp3s.

    That’s a total of $3 (three!) in savings!

  4. The headline is a bit misleading.  How do you translate “assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means” into an imperative statement?  Was he winking when he said it?  If so, that should have been mentioned.

    1. Not only did he wink – repeatedly – in a cartoonish manner, he nudged several reporters with his elbow in a very knowing sort of way.  Then he quickly held up a sign saying “I’m a little stinker, ain’t I?” which he did not appear to have in his possession moments earlier.

  5. This is very timely.  Though not a huge fan, I saw Elvis Costello in concert in 1994, in Hiroshima.  One of the songs I had never heard before, and it blew me away.  Only a few years ago was I finally able to Google a tiny snippet of partially correct lyrics, to learn the name of the song.  Then I discovered that it did not appear on any of his albums, nor was it for sale on any download site.  Finally, I discovered a rare CD containing the song, for sale by a private individual on a website in the U.K (though it did appear to be some sort of official release.)  I bought that CD, and have been wrestling with whether I should rip it and send it to my friends who were with me that night.  Maybe this is my answer!

    It was Basement Kiss:

    Did you bruise your arms on those false alarms?Did you bruise your pride on his smile so wide?Only fingertips from forbidden blissDid you bruise your lips in this basement kiss?

  6. More proof why Elvis is awesome. I hope more artists start challenging their labels like this.

    Though I think “Steal this Record” is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally. He’s not saying music should never have to be paid for, in fact he recommends buying the Armstrong album (which I think I just might).

    His headline is more of a protest and a message that record companies need to continually hear, “If you continue gouge the consumer and engage in draconian copyright practices, you drive them to download through torrents and make the art of digital theft justified.”

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