Death to “Bonus” Tracks

In the music industry’s never-ending quest to get us to pony up our money for the same music over and over, the standard method is to re-issue some music with bonus tracks, hoping that we’ll re-buy the same CD, or, even better, a whole slew of CDs in a box set. This trick is often combined with another one, that of remastering. Sometimes remasters can be good, but other times not. So bands that have been around a long time can re-purpose their material for those die-hard fans who have to own everything they’ve recorded.

The problem is that the real fans are the ones who get suckered into such tricks. Take, for instance, this forthcoming box set of the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Art of the Trio Recordings: 1996-2001. This box set not only brings together the five volumes (six discs) of Art of the Trio recordings that the trio issued, but adds, lo and behold, a seventh disc of “previously unreleased material from shows at the Village Vanguard” that “completes the box.” So, if you have all five original releases, you just have to buy the box set to get the bonus tracks.

Well, to be fair to Nonesuch Records, the box set is fairly priced: it’s currently listed at $38 on Amazon; I paid much more than that for the original releases. But do they really think that I’m going to spend another $38 for that additional disc of music (which is only 44 minutes long)? Ha!

I’m a big fan of Brad Mehldau, and own every one of his releases. But the scam of record companies to get people to buy the same material again, or to, in essence, pay a high price for some bonus tracks, is just too reprehensible for me to accede to. I can certainly find this music elsewhere, and I will do so. As much as I want to support artists, I simply can’t justify the greed of trying to get people to buy the same music over and over. The music industry managed to get us to do that when we shifted from vinyl to CDs, and I accept that the change was positive: better sound, no pops and clicks, and, in many cases, much longer timings on CDs than on LPs. But when they come out and scam fans with a few extra tracks on a re-issue, well, that’s just a swindle.

Alas, I am sure a lot of people will buy this set; mostly people who don’t have more than one or two of the original releases, or even none at all. This sort of budget release is a great thing for artists who have moved on and who don’t sell a lot of back catalog, and for fans who discover artists later in their careers. If Nonesuch sold this box simply with the original releases, I would applaud. But by adding “bonus” tracks, they’re just scamming their customers, as most record labels do.

See also a related article, Death to “Hidden Tracks”

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2 replies
  1. David says:

    Would it occur to you that the CD labels are trying to market to consumers other than you? Other than those who already have all of Mehldau’s Art of the Trio CDs? That maybe they are hoping to sell some music to people who haven’t bought Mehldau before? I for one enjoy the “bonus tracks”, and welcome the opportunity to hear tunes I may not be familiar with already. Just sayin’…

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      Of course, the first reason for this box set is to attract people who don’t know the music, and at a much lower price than individual CDs. It makes perfect sense. But adding the bonus tracks is targeting the real fans as well, something which, in my opinion, they don’t need to do like this.

      Reply

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