Many a metalhead probably looked at the seven different versions of Lamb of God‘s box set, Hourglass and asked “why?” As in, “why are there so many different versions of the box set to choose from,” and “why is there one that costs $999?” But there’s no question that it’s the definitive greatest hits package from one of the biggest metal success stories in the last decade, and anything a ravenous fan could want. We caught up with Epic rock/metal product manager Jason Lekberg to talk about the ambitious set and its different price points, what goes into planning a box set and the best way to mass produce a cow skull.
Metal Insider is giving away a copy of Hourglass (sorry, just the three-disc version)! See below on how to enter to win.
So tell me about how Hourglass came about.
Towards the end of last summer, Lamb of God’s manager, Larry Mazer, came around the offices to catch up and talk about where we were going. Lamb of God is one of those bands that generally does about 18 months of touring on each record. We were talking about timing for the next album and realized it was going to be quite a while before they would be going back in the studio. So with the 15th anniversary of the band coming up, we decided to do a really cool, limited piece just for the fans in the meantime.
How many different versions did you initially envision?
The original idea was that we were going to make something that would be part one of a two part set so we would put out part one now to chronicle the band’s existence to this point and maybe ten years from now do a part two. But as this idea kept growing and we kept feeding off each other and going back and forth, it got to the point where that kind of got lost in the creative process and we just ended up developing something that we felt was really cool. I’m sure we could make a second coffin if we wanted to, but I gotta tell you, I don’t know if I want to do another one of these right now (laughing).
Where did you come up with the $999 price point?
That was really a result of what we needed to charge. We felt like there may potentially be the super fan out there and some people that would be interested in this type of a really deluxe set so we felt like there was a tolerance for that for a higher price point. We didn’t really know what it was going to be. It just came about as we began putting all the parts together and then figuring out what the cost was and what we had to put in. And then we backed down to the lowest price we could get it to and still put it out and have jobs.
Well, the Mark Morton guitar is about a $500 guitar.
Yeah, that’s about the most expensive part, the guitar. The coffin case is a one-of-a-kind. There’s only 300 of them ever made. They’ve never done the material or one that was printed like this. And then on top of that, we’re putting a badging on it so every person that buys this set gets their name engraved on a plate that goes on it with the number of however many it is out of 300.
So there are only 300 of these super deluxe versions made?
What kind of research did you do to see if there was an audience for it?
I don’t think in this extreme end of metal there have been any boxes this size. We looked at some of the things we knew The Rolling Stones had coming out. It’s becoming more and more popular to do these kinds of really, really large boxes. There’s a Miles Davis thing that we’ve put out here.
Yeah AC/DC Backtracks. Exactly, that’s another thing we’ve done. We decided to make a really low number and just go for broke. We knew that it was going to be a gamble. We knew that it was going to be a marathon not a sprint. We didn’t expect to sell all of these in the first month. Would I be excited about that? Of course, but we know that’s not what’s going to happen.
Do you know how many you’ve sold so far?
A: Yeah, we did a decent number at pre-order. We sold twelve in the first 24 hours of it going live last Tuesday, which I’m real happy about. I haven’t logged in today, or actually since midday yesterday, but we’re doing good. We were well over twenty at that point, which is a number I’m very happy with for the first week.
Absolutely. I mean, it’s not like a 60 dollar deluxe version.
Right. And the other versions, because we have the deluxe that is a 260 version and it breaks all the way down to the three CD set. Those are selling as well. We’ve got decent numbers of those as well. All of those are limited. This wasn’t something that we wanted to make thousands and thousands of these and end up with them in a warehouse. We wanted it to be something really special. You know, if you bought this we wanted it to be something where you were one of only a certain number of people to have it.
How involved was the band with the ideas of it?
Chris Adler is very involved with anything that happens with the band. He was very involved with early stages of brainstorming. The whole band actually deliberated together and picked the anthology track listings so there’s the two discs that are kind of anthologies of two separate sections of their career. And then there’s the third disc with the rarities so they specifically curated that. Then everything was approved by them so any other ideas that Larry or I came up with went back to them and they approved everything. The artist that does all of their work, his name is Ken Adams, he works directly with the band, and they were approving and finishing art before I even saw it.
Has there been any backlash from fans yet that you’ve heard of?
Not really. The majority of what I’ve seen has been, you know, ‘I wish I could afford that.’ There’s a couple of people that I don’t think read through the releases. There were a couple of “it’s just a greatest hits package”, which it’s definitely not. And then there were a couple of people saying it was a grab for cash, but I gotta tell you, if that’s the case I probably should have spent a whole lot less making it (laughing).
Do you think that this is going to be something that you’re doing with more artists in the future and do you have any plans that you could talk about?
I definitely would say that with boxes this size, I’m gonna think twice about doing it again because I’ve been working since last August pretty straight to get this done. There were even a few of the items, due to logistics and the Chinese holiday and things like that— several of these items were made in China—that we lost a month and a half at the beginning of the year. So there were several things like that that I’ve been dealing with up until this week just making sure the details are handled. We’re doing a few things with the band Hellyeah. We’re doing a deluxe version with that that comes with a bull skull that’s engraved with the band’s name. It’s a much lower price point. It’s a $50 item.
How do you find a bull skull? Or find someone that makes bull skulls?
Yeah, that was another difficult one. One of the biggest challenges that I have is that the turn time of the music industry is much shorter than the turn time of what you would have making these specialty items. I actually put the order for the bull skulls in before we had finalized a release date or even had an album for the Hellyeah record. We knew we were doing it, but in order for me to get these made, we bought a real bull skull and we shipped it to a plant in China where one of their very skilled craftsmen sat down with a lump of clay and made an exact replica about a third of the size and sent us pictures for approval back and forth. We approved the design and then they made a resin mold so these are plastic resin casts. It’s a very heavy resin so it actually weighs about four pounds. I mean, you hold it and it feels very hefty in your hand. So they’re resin molded and then they’re hand painted, but we had to start that process—it’s about a five month turn time—I had to start that process at the beginning of the year.
That’s pretty awesome!
Unfortunately, if we’re going to do things like this at a price that’s even remotely affordable, it has to be done that way. I just do my best to think as far ahead as possible and get ahead of it. Sometimes I can’t, you know. Sometimes I’m able to do things like what we did with Mudvayne with the blacklight ink. That ended up being a much easier thing than it seemed like it would be. It’s one color of ink as opposed to four colors, but getting that art done was difficult. Paul Booth really came through on that one. He just knocked it out of the park.
This is all basically you coming up with the ideas and pitching them to other people at Sony or their management?
Yeah pretty much. I handle all of the traditional marketing as well as kind of being the train conductor, for lack of a better word. I’m trying to just make sure all of the information gets where it’s supposed to be and everybody has what they need to do their job. This is something I really feel like, added to value, is an important part of the music industry business model moving forward. Less and less people are paying for music so it’s important for us to create things that are valuable to fans. We want to create these bundles that are saying “We get it. You wanna download music, well now we’re gonna give you a reason to want to buy this physical thing because unfortunately music isn’t the reason enough sometimes”.
Hey, you can’t download a bull skull.
Exactly. So I feel like that’s part of my job to brainstorm and to find these creative ideas. It’s the reason we did the Escape the Plague giveaway with Wrath. The reason we did The New Game with Mudvayne. Those are all things that I devloped. We’re just trying to stay ahead of the curve.
To enter to win a three-disc version of Hourglass, simply leave a comment stating what your five favorite Lamb of God songs are by 11:59 on Thursday, June 17th. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Be sure to catch the band this Summer at the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. And if you don’t win or want to pick up a more deluxe version of Hourglass, you can buy it on the band’s website.