Once upon a time an album was an album.
Eight to 12 songs split down the middle with the best track first (or at least that was the idea) and the quality gradually diminishing from start to finish.
If fast forwarding a cassette changed the playing field a little, then CDs allowed fans to flick from one track to the next with such ease that the old order was swiftly shattered.
And then came digital music. You don’t even have to buy an album now and tracks don’t need to be released in any particular order to entice potential buyers.
But what never normally appeared on an original album was the so-called Bonus Track. Now they’re like some kind of audio plague.
These days it’s not only special editions, deluxe editions, expanded editions or remixed, re-released and remastered editions that feature the mysterious bonus track.
They pop up anywhere and everywhere. And in many cases it’s hard difficult to know what the bonus in the Bonus Track really is.
Only this week rushonrock received a promo copy of the debut album by a young British band we’ve been following for some time.
Consider, if you will, this is their very first full length album. It’s 11 tracks long but the 11th is a Bonus Track.
Why it isn’t simply track 11 is anyone’s guess. What marks it out from the other 10? Why is it deemed to be a bonus? And would the rest of the album be poorer without this perceived unexpected extra?
If you could get this album in different formats or as an original from some years back then the 2010 version could justifiably include the odd bonus track.
But it seems to me that the bands of today don’t have enough faith in their own material to release an album like albums used to be released – and in the case of a debut the Bonus Track is surely just another gimmick lacking any judgement or meaning.
Back in the day Bonus Tracks were Bonus Tracks. You got them on the 12 inch version of a single – setting that record apart from its seven-inch namesake.
And when vinyl was competing with cassettes and CDs, genuine Bonus Tracks often appeared on different formats to encourage the collectors to buy all three and the casual buyer to pick up whatever format the marketing men were pushing at that time.
These Bonus Tracks might have been unavailable elsewhere, live versions of classics or even rough demos. But they really were a bonus if you loved your band and their music.
As fans we love something a little extra in return for our loyalty. But these days it’s hard to know the difference: Bonus Track or Bogus Track?