Unnecessary Albums: The rise of deluxe editions

deluxe albumsYou all know the type; once an album has been released the record label will keep flogging it for every penny it’s worth. In today’s modern music industry, during what is probably the most unpredictable time since it’s inception, the business side of things plays a bigger role than ever before. With streaming becoming the dominant form of music consumption, but offering little in terms of monetary rewards, labels have to go to greater lengths to try and push sales for physical copies of albums. One of the biggest, and most irritating ways that they do this is by releasing “deluxe editions”, packed to the brim with content that, if we’re honest, no one asked for. 

Classic albums from the likes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac etc. are the worst culprits. Every few years sees a new reissue, and with it comes ever more expensive deluxe editions. The odd one-off reworking of a classic album is forgivable, many albums from days gone by could benefit from more advanced modern production techniques, and sometimes poor production during the album’s creation can be worked around at a later date so that fans can hear it as it was originally intended. Unless you had someone make a great album worse with their own poor production, something that has occasionally been known to happen, there’s no reason why these albums need constant refurbishment.

But that’s just the standard editions, the deluxe editions have even more to answer for. As well as pointless, and often indiscernibly different, reworkings of the original, there is usually a whole host of extra material ranging from early demo recordings and alternate takes, to bootleg live versions and rare b-sides. A lot of this material was never intended to see light of day, and often for good reason. Bands spend years working on albums, making sure that each track is as close to perfect as possible, so it is hardly fitting to reward their hard work by airing their dirty laundry and sharing all their early mistakes with the world. Deluxe and collectors editions, which often carry a hefty price tag, are aimed at the biggest fans. Personally, if I truly love a band I want to hear them at their best, I’m not interested in something that is half-finished or was purposefully discarded.

Though classic albums are the worst culprits, it’s surprising just how many new releases also have their own deluxe editions. These editions usually consist of an extra CD with an EP’s worth of bonus tracks. Far too many albums are afflicted with filler tracks. It’s rare to find an album over an hour in length that meets a consistently high standard, and yet we are increasingly seeing these longer running times becoming the norm. If you’re offering an album that would be best served by removing a few songs from the tracklisting, it’s hardly an incentive to spend extra money for songs that weren’t even deemed worthy to make the final cut. If these bonus tracks were worth bothering with, they would have been on the album in the first place, or at the very least released as a separate companion EP.  And don’t even getting me started on albums that are advertised as a “deluxe edition” when in reality they are the only edition available.

Great albums are a collection of songs that belong together. Every piece is important, every piece has its place. Messing with that formula by throwing unwanted sub-par material into the mix just brings the rest of the album down. Quality is by far more important than quantity.