UPDATE 7-6-22: This whole post is essentially obsolete now. The limited box is hanging out at around $100 , and a new 3 LP version has also been announced. Here is a much more up to date post about the whole ordeal.
UPDATE 2-25-22: Pre-orders for the Fear Inoculum 5 LP version are now live, shipping on April 8th. The price is a manageable $169. A bit pricey but far less than I was expecting.
We are in a pandemic economy, rife with supply shortages, inflation, and a lot of other things that are complicated but make stuff cost more. We are also in the marketing era of the hypebeast, where FOMO rules the day and stuff that is hard to get becomes all the more attractive. Combine the two and things get really, really expensive.
Even all of that might not account for the latest music-related marketing craze. Earlier this week fans at Tool concerts began circulating the news – the long-awaited vinyl version of Fear Inoculum was for sale to VIP ticket holders.
The price? $750, with assorted fees and taxes, $810.
There is context here, though likely not $800 worth. The record box set comprises 5 LPs. Yes, Fear Inoculum is a long album at a bit over 80 minutes but it does not take up 5 records. The LPs are single-sided and feature etched designs on the second sides. The packaging is a deluxe version to accommodate the lofty record total and the editions being sold are signed by the band. A “general” edition will be for sale around April according to the band’s social media. No word yet if that version is this same one just unsigned (likely since it’s already pressed) or if there is a different (read: cheaper) configuration planned.
Obviously there’s a lot to unpack here. I’ve never been one to gripe about high-priced merch, as a rule. If Kiss wants to sell “Koffins” for stupid amounts of money, have at it. I don’t have to buy that, I don’t have to buy super mega deluxe collector’s versions of anything and I don’t have to spend $800 to buy Fear Inoculum on record.
All this does point to a problem, though – is this the only version of the record being released? I don’t expect it to hit for a $750 price tag on wider release in April but this could be $200 or $300 easily (EDIT – It’s $169, expensive but not horrible I guess). And if it’s the only official vinyl version of the album available, well, that kind of sucks. It forces a purchase at retail right away or a prospective buyer runs the risk of paying out the nose for it on the secondary market. It does break the line of affordability, even when considering this is something of a luxury market in the first place.
Tool is not one to shy from expensive memorabilia. Their merch table features many items priced far above the median line for arena bands. Having a $800 record might seem insane, and it is, but it’s not out of the ballpark for the group.
Perhaps this is just a limited, ultra version and a baseline, no-frills set will be released? Sure it will. I’d love to have their 2006 set 10,000 Days on vinyl. That album has been out for 5,778 days as of the date of this post and no official vinyl has been released. And their seminal 1996 set Aenima? An original pressing exists and will set a collector back several hundred dollars. No reasonable reissue in sight. I’m skeptical that there will be any consideration to a halfway affordable version of Fear Inoculum given the band’s proclivities with high-priced merch and no urgency to reissue scarce or non-existent pressings of past records.
I can easily say I won’t be buying this record, unless something happens and it is cheaper than expected (EDIT – it is cheaper and I am buying it) or a different version at a lower price point is released. I don’t have the money to prioritize to a high-end collectible thing at this point and honestly I don’t want to spend that much on what amounts to one album. I’ve spent a bit more on a highly collectible set before but that has 26 records in it and was a different story at a different time.
Tool fans are in a tizzy over the news of the record’s scope and price. Not Tool fans are having a laugh at the state of Tool merch and the six-figure job needed to acquire it. I guess time will tell if Fear Inoculum will be made available in a more budget-friendly configuration later on. After all – if the album takes up 5 sides, that only requires 3 LPs. I don’t know and we won’t know until release, but I pretty well do know what album won’t be on my record shelf.