Bonus Tracks

Some time ago, I got a newsletter saying Wende‘s new album № 9 would be out soon. It even included a nifty link to pre-order it. So I did. The album arrived, and all was well. Until I found out that there was an iTunes bonus track. * Damn. Then, yesterday, I found out that two chains of record stores (well, they used to be, anyway) sell a version of this album that includes the same bonus track. Crapdammit.

Yesterday, I received my copy of Night Castle, the new album of Savatage off-shoot Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And there’s an “Amazon MP3 Exclusive” bonus track. On only. There’s no TSO to be found on, .de and .fr whatsoever. But since geographic restrictions apply it’s a moot point for me anyway. I’m in The Netherlands, so I’m screwed.

So I spend some quality time with Google, and after a short while I had found and downloaded both tracks.

When an artist I follow has a new album coming out, I usually seek out the physical version that has the most musical content on it. As one of those types that prefers physical copies, I don’t mind paying a little bit more for some more songs too much. I’ve grumblingly accepted that the ‘iTunes/Amazon/etc. Exclusive (Pre-Order) Bonus Track’ is a fact of life. But believe me: every time I buy an album and some unannounced version with a bonus track pops up; when there’s a digital bonus track that’s only on iTunes or I’m unable to obtain it for whatever reason beyond my control; or even worse, when the same album is re-released some months later in a configuration that contains more previously unreleased material, I feel cheated. And then I have no qualms about obtaining those tracks through alternative ways.

So here’s some free advice for artists from a fan: don’t bother with bonus tracks. If a song is good enough to be heard, it should be on the album in the first place, right? And if it isn’t, why bother?

But if you really, really, really and then I really mean *really* think you have to play the the bonus tracks game, here are my rules:

  • Don’t spread out your bonus tracks. Sure, there are some people who’ll buy every version of an album to get every track, but my gut instinct says that most people will buy just one version and download the rest as they see fit. A regular version for the regular fan and a “here’s everything we recorded this time around” package for the obsessive ones should do the trick.
  • Release them all digitally. It’s the 21st century and we all love the internet after all. Which brings us to:
  • There’s more than just the iTunes store. Not all your fans can or will use it. Linux-geeks listen to music too, you know.
  • The internet is a global thing. Your fans can be anywhere. Don’t bother them with geographical restrictions.
  • Advertise your bonus content Let your fans make an informed decision. This should also include a heads up when an überdeluxe edition with even more content will be released some months later.

Basically: don’t screw your fans over. They won’t like that. I know I don’t.

* I don’t do iTunes, I’ve got my reasons and I won’t bore you with the details.