Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Hate Bonus Tracks, And So Should You.










At first glance, when you buy an album and notice that it has bonus tracks, you probably think to yourself "niiice -- the record company and/or band has decided to give me free music! Instead of getting 10 songs for $9.99, I'm getting 12!" As you may remember from an earlier post this week, I love free music as much as the next guy. However, while some may argue that the JFK assassination, global warming, or even the moon landing is "The Great Deception," the existence of the bonus track, in my mind, is truly the greatest deception of all. Bonus tracks are evil creations. I hate them, and so should you. Here's why.

Bonus tracks, by their very nature, are not meant to reward fans. Instead, they are literally created to screw fans-- or at least the good ones. They are a marketing ploy, carried out in various ways, to entice casual fans and punish loyal fans. By loyal fans-- I mean loyal fans of any artist -- even pop-superstars like Lady Gaga or Rihanna.

For starters, if you happen to buy CDs or Vinyls, then you almost never get bonus tracks, even though you often shell out considerably more cash than the people buying the album on itunes. Sure, there are manufacturing costs-- but shouldn't we at least get the same album that someone would get on itunes (since we did, after all, pay the extra $5 bucks to cover those manufacturing costs... plus some)?

I hesitate to even call it an "album" because bonus tracks also distort the ancient principle that an album is a completed, well-deliberated piece of artistic work. Take Weezer's The Red Album for example. The Red Album technically has 10 tracks... but wait! Depending if you bought it in the US, UK, or Japan (and depending if you got the "Deluxe Edition") you might get a staggering 4-5 bonus tracks. If you bought it off itunes, you would get 2 completely different bonus tracks. Fan A, B, and C are all listening to albums with not only different flow, but also different substantive content. Again, there is a reason for this. Companies want to add bonus tracks to releases in foreign countries so fans there will buy from their distributors instead of cheaper western distributors. Of course, this means that even the most casual Australian fan will be listening to songs that the most die-hard American fan didn't even know existed.

By far the worst scenario is when a band releases an album... only to re-release it weeks or months later with bonus tracks. This is a direct slap in the face to all the fans who bought the album as soon as it came out. Not only do they not have the new songs-- but they often have to chose between repurchasing the entire album for a few more tracks or never hearing those tracks at all. I can't even think of any other reason to justify this one-- as I don't believe that creates wider appeal. For example, I don't believe some casual fan, who happened to buy an album 11 months after its release, was really that enticed by a bonus track for a band they were indifferent to anyways.

To alleviate this problem, bands should just release the same album for everyone. That way, no one is punished for buying a specific medium, living in a particular country, or buying it at a certain time. More importantly, the album would keep its artistic integrity. If bands have 1 or 2 tracks that didn't make the cut, they should just give it away on their website. If they have more, they can always release some form of b-sider album or EP (free or otherwise). Bands do this all the time anyways -- e.g. Ryan Adams' Demolition or The Format's B-Sides and Rarities.

Under this practice, the loyalty of fans would directly correlate with the music they get. Everyone, die-hard and casual, would get the same basic album. If there are free tracks on the website, the more die-hard fans will find it and get it (casual fans might also). If the band decides to cut a whole new album with b-siders, then the die-hard fan will gladly pay for it (since it is all new material), while the casual fan won't.

This makes a lot more sense to me at least.

6 comments:

  1. i would like to note that if you buy an actual cd ( which i think you and maybe 5 other people in the world do) you still can get bonus tracks.. i have gotten numerous bonus tracks on actual cds purchased.. i like bonus tracks and thus im gonna argue you about this :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not me. I F^%$#@! HATE BONUS TRACKS! I'd consider myself a collector of classic albums. Unfortunatly, I find it very difficult to purchase thNot me. I F^%$#@! HATE BONUS TRACKS! I'd consider myself a collector of classic albums. Unfortunatly, I find it very difficult to purchase the original albums the way they were meant to be on, and that is on vinyl. First, of all they don't just sell good quality around any ole corner shop. So, I've had to invest in Compact Disc because of convienence sake. It's exactly a loss, because I can listen to them in my car. The problem is as an audophile and a person who believes an album should only sold in its most original form, or as close to as possible. Having that said, if the records or whatever format it was released on did not feature bonus tracks, I do not think the re-release should either.e original albums the way they were meant to be on, and that is on vinyl. First, of all they don't just sell good quality around any ole corner shop. So, I've had to invest in Compact Disc because of convienence sake. It's exactly a loss, because I can listen to them in my car. The problem is as an audophile and a person who believes an album should only sold in its most original form, or as close to as possible. Having that said, if the records or whatever format it was released on did not feature bonus tracks, I do not think the re-release should either.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I fully agree... When I own an album, those "bonus" tracks just annoy me, I just think everyone who buys the album should have the exact same content, that way we can be 100% sure what the "pure" form of the album is... I think if a song didnt make the cut, they should be released on a B-Sides disc, well, just make them into it's own album

    ReplyDelete
  4. I liked the Radiohead released the bonus tracks lately. Everyone who bought the original album would download the bonus tracks for free.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good post.

    I've always hated bonus tracks. It doesn't bother me that someone in another country might get some songs I don't (I know how to file share...), but the integrity of the album does.

    If a band decides a song goes on an album, then great. They've factored in the pacing and mood of the album, how it works with the neighbouring tracks, etc. If it doesn't fit, or just plain isn't good enough, then it doesn't belong. Not in the middle, not at the end, not anywhere.

    It offends me when an album comes to its pre-planned, stirring conclusion, the final track fading out gracefully, only in the next instant for my ears to be assaulted by a radio-edit, or a club-remix, or some second-rate after-thought track pounding in and spoiling the atmosphere.

    It's as if your favourite movie finally wraps up all its interweaving story-lines in one final, conclusive scene and, just when the credits should start rolling, we inexplicably cut to five minutes of the main characters having a party. And a lame party at that.

    Of course, I can (and do) just delete these tracks, but for anyone who still believes that the fundamental unit of music is the album rather than the song (there are still a few of us), there's simply no room for bonus tracks.

    Anyway, point made. I agree with the commenter above about the way Radiohead did things with their most recent offering. Just a shame about the album itself...

    James

    ReplyDelete