Death to “Hidden Tracks”

02/20/2014

BrianEno&JahWobble-1995Spinner.jpg[I wrote this back in 2005. I'm reposting it because, well, I still find it annoying. I came across a CD recently with a hidden track, and it still infuriates me. I wonder: is it becoming less common these days, with more digital music being sold? I've come across some hidden tracks in downloads, but not many.]

I don’t know when it started, this idea of including “hidden tracks” on CDs. You know, the kind of track you only hear when you don’t get up and take the CD out of the player at the end; after a minute or two of silence… Like many useless things, or bad jokes, it was cute once. But then you get tired of it.

First of all, hidden tracks aren’t listed on the CD or the liner notes. So you don’t know what they’re called, how long they last, etc. Second, you’ll miss them unless you’re too busy to change a CD after the end. In many cases, you’ll listen to a new CD a dozen times before you notice. And, finally, it’s just obnoxious. If a band’s got something to say, let them say it out loud, not hide it. With digital music, this is even stranger: since you see the actual timing of the last track, you know that it’s either long or that there’s a “hidden” song. But that’s the whole point of this article: with digital music, the track isn’t hidden, so the “cuteness” is gone.

I’ve had enough of hidden tracks: they’re annoying, and I’d really like to be able to hear them in normal conditions. If I’m listening to music on my iPod, then I’ve got to either listen to air or fast-forward. The problem is that bands think it’s cool to add hidden tracks, that it serves some sort of ego-boosting purpose. If they thought about their listeners, then they might think a bit differently…

I’m not going as far as suggesting that someone start a petition against hidden tracks; that would be as foolish as the hidden tracks themselves. But if only musicians realized that they do little more than annoy listeners, maybe they’d stop, and maybe we’d be able to know about all the tracks on their albums.

Wikipedia has a huge list of albums with hidden tracks, and albums with tracks hidden in the pregap, before the first track on the CD.