In recent years, the retailer-exclusive bonus track has become an important if controversial part of music sales. Today’s Short Takes, then, is your public service announcement and guide to the bonus tracks available with three recent and upcoming titles from some of music’s most legendary artists. Chances are you might want to own these previously-unreleased rarities!
Last week saw the release of Carole King’s The Legendary Demos from Rockingale Records and Hear Music. Its thirteen tracks, recorded between 1961 and 1970, offer King at her stripped-down best, pounding the piano and passionately singing newly-minted compositions written for artists such as The Everly Brothers, The Monkees and ultimately, Carole King herself. Two additional demos have surfaced as iTunes exclusive downloads. “Every Breath I Take,” written by King with Gerry Goffin, was a 1961 hit for Gene Pitney as produced by the young Phil Spector, and the demo shows off King’s sure arranging sense as she vocalizes all of the dip dip doo bop bop bops plus the background harmonies! It’s joined by “Oh No, Not My Baby,” a Goffin/King tune introduced by Maxine Brown in 1964 after an abortive attempt by The Shirelles; it was later covered by Manfred Mann, Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and others. This demo is less revelatory as King already released solo versions of the song in 1980 and 2001, but offers a worthwhile comparison to those two familiar recordings. King is achingly vulnerable on one of her most beautiful songs. These tracks are available individually on iTunes.
Hit the jump to see what Paul Simon and Paul McCartney have in store, bonus track-wise!
Thanks to our pals at Super Deluxe Edition for the heads-up that iTunes and PaulMcCartney.com will offer two bonus digital-only audio tracks in conjunction with the already bonus-packed edition of Ram due in stores on May 22 from Hear Music. These tracks are “Eat at Home/Smile Away (Live)” from Groningen, The Netherlands, and “Uncle Albert Jam” based on the famous track included on Ram. Not much more information is available at this point, including whether these tracks will be available individually. Watch this space for more details!
Last but certainly not least, the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon's landmark Graceland will be celebrated on June 5 with a variety of deluxe editions coming from the fine folks at Legacy Recordings. These include a 2-CD/2-DVD box set, a CD/DVD version and a 180-gram vinyl edition which premiered on Record Store Day. The documentary Under African Skies arrives in a stand-alone Blu-Ray edition on June 5 as well. Those who order the 2-CD/2-DVD box set from Amazon.com, however, will get one more surprise. We have confirmed that the Amazon-exclusive edition of the box set adds a separate CD of five previously unreleased bonus tracks recorded in San Sebastian, Spain, from Simon's 1989 Graceland/Rhythm of the Saints tour. These performances are as follows:
- Gumboots/Whispering Bells
- Crazy Love 1 and 2
- I Know What I Know
If you're going to Graceland, you just might want to get there via Amazon.com! Happy hunting, all!
I hate the "bonus tracks" for selected merchants so much, that I just about refuse to buy any edition whatsoever. The corporations don't seem to get the idea that this marketing approach only encourages more downloading from torrent sites.
The worst case is the "exclusive for Japan only" tracks.
Artists should refuse to take part in this ploy.
It's my understanding (and I may be wrong about this) that in Japan import discs are cheaper to buy than domestic ones so the labels place bonus tracks on the albums to entice buyers to purchase those and forgo the imports.
Second your thoughts wholeheartedly, Kevin. Michael Buble and Barry Manilow are two other artists who unfortunately are tied to labels who are among the worst offenders. they just don't get that genuine consumers will pay for music but will not accept being ripped off so blatantly.
Bill Janowski says
I know I'm a little bit off-topic here, but to me Target's exclusive CD's seem to be a good deal. I realize those are mostly New Releases (and that's probably why they don't get mentioned here), but they also do a few Greatest Hits/Best Of titles. Of course, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel and even Borders (when they were still around) - among others - have done their share of them. Yes, it can get confusing, but to me, I might as well try to get the version with the most content, be it a few extra songs, a whole CD's worth, or maybe even a DVD.
Bill Janowski says
But if you're interested, other forums like IMWAN have plenty of posts about New Release Exclusives and those with Exclusive content.
Ed Silverman says
I resent the iTunes exclusives. i'd be happy to pay a few extra dollars for a cd - call it a deluxe edition or whatever you want to call it - for a cd that includes all of the Carole King demo tracks. The same thing was done with the Badfinger reissues. It's all very annoying to those of us who are buying cd's.
Bill Janowski says
I agree - don't blame you - I've never bought anything from I-Tunes either. Would rather get an actual CD or LP rather than a bunch of downloads, even if the downloads are intended as extras to supplement the CD or Vinyl version.
Some of you may know of a video (most readily seen on YouTube), wherein the legendary performer Townes Van Zandt does a version of "Waiting Around To Die" on a country front porch, in front of his girlfriend and an old black farmer affectionately known as Uncle Seymour.
If you haven't, check it out via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLWo0oyDp1A
It's an amazing video, not just due to the mastery of Van Zandt, but because the song's tale of hard knocks evokes something so personal in Uncle Seymour that he begins to quietly sob. I have a lot of music, I've seen a lot of shows and spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the meaning of music . . . but I don't think I've ever witnessed the power of music in quite as intense a way as I have watching this poor fellow reflect on his life so immediately and so intensely upon hearing a single tune.
So you can imagine my surprise one day in Austin a couple of years back, when a guy who was a dead ringer for Uncle Seymour walked into Waterloo Records. I know Uncle Seymour had been gone for a few years, but the fact that he lived near Austin - and the fact that you don't see many elderly black men who look like farmers in overalls walking into Waterloo - intrigued me. So I watched as he looked around the vast expanse of Waterloo, utterly bewildered. Just then a clerk approached and asked if the gentleman if he needed help. The old fellow hesitatingly explained that he'd just seen the movie "Crazy Heart" . . . that he didn't get out to the movies much, but that this film and its music had really been excellent, and he'd decided to seek it out. I could tell he probably hadn't been in a record store for ages (if ever.) He wasn't used to talking about music much. He looked a little intimidated by the store. (They were playing some low-fi skate punk!) But that something in the music of "Crazy Heart" had driven him to this new experience. As it happened, both the clerk (a swell guy, though I didn't know him) and I had both seen the movie, and we both mentioned this to the old guy, in a sort of spontaneous gesture of making him feel less out-of-place. "Those songs sure were good!", he enthused. And we agreed.
As it happens we were pretty close to the soundtrack section, so the clerk leaned over and pulled up the "regular edition" version of the CD, and the "limited deluxe edition" of the CD. The gentleman looked a little astonished at the price, although both were on sale and Waterloo's prices aren't extravagant to begin with. "What's the difference?", the old guy asked. The clerk very kindly explained the difference - for a couple of extra dollars, the "limited deluxe edition" offered several more songs. You could kind of see the disappointment in the old guy's face . . . that some odd bit of art which affected him so much was reduced to a bogus, money-grubbing marketing gimmick. He left without buying either one; he said he couldn't be sure that either copy would have the songs he liked. The clerk was as nice as can be (and Waterloo is a superb store in nearly every regard, so that's no surprise) and there's little chance that the old fellow was ever going to become an "important" consumer of music, so the sale the record company lost on him, I guess, didn't count for much.
But as odd little incidents do, I think of this one every time I head about some bogus repackaging of material for the dozenth time, or "exclusive" bonus tracks or releases that come in two or three or four different editions - each holding something back from the others. I no longer wonder why people download illegally, or copy each others CDs or torrent or whatever. I know record labels are in business to make money, and that's fine. But in their "greed first, nothing else matters" pursuit, record labels are no longer the co-conspirators in the exposure of magic they once were, they're more like the worst sort of gutter pimp.
Ed Silverman says
To your point, what one could do is transfer the Carole King demos to a laptop and buy the pair of iTunes 'exclusives' and then burn it all onto a CD and stick that in the package for the official release. Have all the music - all the songs, including iTunes specials - and the packaging in one spot, as it should be available in the first place. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. But the knuckleheads at Hear Music/Concord Music Group ought to know they're alienating some consumers.
Since I don't want anything to do with iTunes or digital downloads I'll never get to hear these bonus tracks and that always upsets me a bit. I don't think any bonus track exclusives should exclude the entire physical CD format. I wish every market and retailer offered the exact same tracks, and if there are to be exclusives it should be posters or other swag and not music.
I have a feeling that the issue with retail-exlcusive bonus tracks is going to become increasingly moot--Target and Best Buy have both slashed inventory, Costco seems to have stopped selling music altogether, and I have no idea whether F.Y.E. is still in buisness anywhere (nor do I care). I'm not a huge iTunes fan, but I do like to snag download-only exclusives when I can. Sure, I'd prefer to have the material on CD, but I've just learned that by valuing format over content, I'm turning my back on a lot of great music.
As for import-only bonus tracks, I'm two-faced on the matter: as a music consumer, they annoy me, but as a music collector, bonus tracks make it that much more satisfying to score an import version of an album.
Except for the BS pricing, $40!! Never. I know that once in a while you can get one for $25, but this is so much garbage to abuse the music fans.
Refuse to buy
My least favourite "exclusive" was the A-ha reissues from a few years back, when some remixes were only exclusive to the iTunes purchases. Those CD reissues were not cheap, so I was very disappointed to learn there were more mixes available on iTunes.
ed silverman says
There is a sad irony in this. The Carole King demos CD - as so many reissues of classic albums or previously unavailable material by artists whose heydey was decades ago - is largely targeted to a certain demographic. This code word, of course, refers to folks who are likely old enough to have been around back then and, not surprisingly, still play and buy CDs. (This does not mean younger people are not interested in making a purchase, but that's not the point...)
The labels - in this case, HearMusic/Concord Music - are trying to push consumers toward digital, and that's their right, since they're trying to sort out the business model. But if that's the case, why bother selling anything on CD? Well, there must be some ROI still there. But if the label is going to the trouble of selling the CD, and wants to appeal to the core base of fans to ring the register, then the label ought to offer all of the songs on a CD. It's called knowing your customer. To an extent, the knuckleheads at Hear Music/Concord Music are turning their backs on some of their own customers (or at least this customer).
Maybe one day I'll take my newly purchased CD and the iTunes selections and burn it all onto one CD. Or maybe I won't. Am I turning my back on a couple of songs? Yes. But how else to make a point to the knuckleheads (I use this term with great pleasure) that they don't understand some of their core customers? My suggestion - include the iTunes exclusives on the next Carole King demos CD that will be issued, assuming a second volume is planned and will be sold on a CD.
Brian from Canada says
This isn't the first time McCartney has issued exclusives: when Band On The Run got the archives treatment, two live tracks were made exclusive for pre-orders — but on all versions of it.
If I have to buy the Ram set in deluxe only from either, I'll be really upset: to get the last two archives shipped from his website to Canada, it cost as much as one of the sets (and I had to go to Amazon USA to save $75!). No two songs are worth $50 together and I really want the physical extras, so buying the digital set is out. 🙁