Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Sublime please fans from the grave

Janis Joplin has been selling some 5,000 copies a week of her latest album, “Live at Winterland ’68,” which was released earlier this month. Not bad for someone who has been dead for 28 years. And she’s not the only artist pleasing fans from the grave: Jimi Hendrix’s “BBC Sessions” double album has sold 50,000 copies since its June 2 release; and Sublime’s “Live: Stand By Your Van,” the Southern California band’s third album of unreleased material since singer Brad Nowell died of an OD two years ago, hit stores yesterday.

Although young bands like Sublime have limited exploitable material in their vaults, labels for veteran singers can churn out boxed sets, compilations, and rarities for years after an artist’s death. Elektra has released 10 Doors works since Jim Morrison died in 1971. “BBC Sessions” is one of more than 100 Hendrix albums released by more than 10 different labels since the guitarist’s death in 1970. And RCA has offered about 150 Elvis Presley compilations, often using one unreleased track as an excuse to repackage others. “There seems to be an inexhaustible market for Elvis,” says New York Daily News music critic Jim Farber. “They keep on finding some burp that he made when he was 5, and they release that along with 25 songs they’ve released before. And it will sell again.”

Morbid as it sounds, death doesn’t help everyone sell albums. John Denver and INXS’s previous releases haven’t seen a marked sales boost since the artists’ recent deaths, which is a good indicator of the way posthumous albums will fare. “The old cliché that death is a great career move is generally true,” says Farber. “But it’s not going to revive someone who’s been dead for years, in terms of album sales.”