Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bonus Track Flimflam

So, tonight was goofing off and looking for music from Breaking Bad's fourth season to add to my collection.  I went to the Breaking Bad site and scoped out the detailed list of a) the music b) the scenes it was in and c) where to buy it.

Naturally this lead me to iTunes where I fell down a rabbit hole of music.  But once I managed to regain my senses, I was struck by how angry I'd become.  And it was all because of bonus tracks.

Now, despite the fact that I've yet to put my Best Albums of '11 (it's coming, I promise) it should be apparent that am a supporter of the music industry.  I like buying music.  I enjoy cds, what can I say?

But that's what irks me about iTunes; the exclusive bonus tracks.  I literally just spent ten dollars on bonus tracks from albums that I already physically own.  Ten dollars isn't going to break me, but it's also money I don't necessarily believe I should have to spend when I went through the trouble of actually buying the physical release.

This isn't the first time that bonus tracks have plagued me.  In the mid-aughts the bonus track fad swept the recording industry.  It seemed like every album released had exclusive bonus tracks from specific retailers.

So, say you wanted to by the new album by Canadian rap and reggae artist Snow you might be faced with a dilemma.  You might be inclined to buy it from the Target directly across the street from your apartment, however if you opted buy it from the Best Buy across town, you'd be rewarded with two exclusive songs you could download.

And of course if you supported your local independent record store you'd get nothing, other than the satisfaction of knowing spent your money in your own community helping a small business owner.

This tactic was designed to help the ailing recording industry, which was on a severe decline.  The idea was to push consumers to buy the physical cds buy providing them bonus tracks as incentives.

Of course the recording industry isn't known for doing things in moderation and it quickly spiraled out of control.  Pete Yorn's 2006 release Nightcrawler  offered up exclusive bonus tracks from five different outlets and boasted ten bonus tracks in total.

Flash forward half a dozen years and the paradigm has shifted, where the bonus tracks are now predominately found on iTunes. While it's much more convenient to pick up my bonus tracks from a single destination (with the added bonus of being able to do it from my bed) it still sucks to have to have to search for them.

And I get that now I'm being pushed away from the physical releases into the digital realm of the cloud, but if anything the preponderance of bonus tracks has strengthened my resolve to stick with cds.

Ok, I think I'm all better now that I've vented.  Thanks for listening.

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