The superduper, ultradeluxe, expanded, iTunes, Borders, hidden-track, exclusive, video disc version…

Expanded Albums

There is a plague afflicting the music industry.

The symptoms include an overwhelming need to release an album in as many different variations as possible.

He with the most adjectives at the end of the title apparently wins some sort of prize.

Instead of the regular grouping of tracks, album cover and some liner notes there’s an extended super-deluxe version somewhere or a USB-stick that gives the buyer super-exclusive access to top secret, from the bottom of the vault, we’d tell you what it is but we’d have to kill you material.

Without vinyl singles, artists need some way to get their babies that didn’t make the 12 song cut out to the people. With illegal downloading (which is not a new concept, just a new method) the record companies need another way to line their pockets.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s the most dedicated fans that are getting the short end of the deal as we end up buying multiple copies of the same album.

We pre-order an album from our local indie record store only to find out that if you pre-order the album from iTunes there is one more track. So you keep the first order so you can have a hard copy and order from iTunes to get the song.

But then you see that Barnes and Nobles has yet another version that has two more songs not on either the normal release or on the iTunes release.

Three weeks later, the record company decides to release a two disc extended version with video and demo tracks or another few songs or something called a “B-side” for a single that wasn’t even released.

Now the dedicated fan has four copies of the same album, and has about five new songs and a music video. The record company has the profits from three more sales. Tricky.

This is how I ended up with seven copies of Patty Griffin’s Children Running Through, three of Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Will and why I’m currently mad at Lyle Lovett, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Well, actually I’m mad at Tom for a few reasons, but releasing an expanded Highway Companion is one of them.

However, there are the few artists out there that really do it right: take the New Pornographers and their Challengers album. Everyone bought the regular old album and then offered separately for approximately three bucks was two blank CD-Rs, a blank DVD-R and a snazzy slip-box that had room for the previously purchased regular old album. It’s not instant gratification, but we’re still downloading happy new stuff months after the release. It’s like a little present straight from the band every few weeks. It’s enough to make one feel all warm and fuzzy. No one is left out because they didn’t want to buy the album multiple times with various “extra” tracks and no one is stuck with 15 copies that they have to copy to their computer and combine into one CD to put in their car. Less work, more music, happy listeners.

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