Friday, November 11, 2005

The Versions

Software almost always come with versions - so do books (although you call it 'editions'). That's understandable - new versions / editions of software / books contain additional stuff, updates and often, bug fixes. Fair enough. However, is it fair for music CDs to come with versions? It seems common enough these days.

I just got myself a CD last week, the second album of an 18-year old 'singing sensation' soprano from New Zealand (I won't mention her name, but there aren't many that fit the description). There are 12 tracks in it, which was already a slight disappointment, since her debut international album contained 14 tracks. Some days later, when I surfed into the artist's official website, the greater disappointment set in. There are FOUR (4) different versions of this album - the Japan, UK, US and 'international' version. Each version contains a different track list. The one I got is the international version. While it contains only 12 tracks, the Japan version has 15, and the UK version 16. But the extra tracks are not 'bonus tracks' (which recoding labels are fond of) - there are only about 9 common tracks between the Japan and UK versions. The US version, although also has 12 tracks, has only 11 of them common with the international version. Why? Beats me. No, it doesn't beat me actually - I am quite convinced that the many versions are released on the sole purpose of making more money. To collect all the songs that are released for this 'album', one has to obtain three different versions - the Japan, UK and US. Most unfortunately for me, the international version does not contain a single track that is unique to itself, and not available to the combination of the rest (someone show me a wall I can bang my head into!)

She's not the first, nor the only, to do this. My favourite classical crossover soprano, for example, has over 5 or 6 different versions of her last album released - each one with only 1 or 2 bonus tracks that are different from the others. Then, there's a 'limited edition' one which came with a bonus DVD, and an 'ultimate version' available only in Japan, with a track not available anywhere else in the world. Well, I don't blame the artist - I blame the management (it's easier on me if I don't think badly of the lady whose voice I love). The 'official' reason given for the releasing of so many versions of an album, is that fans in different regions in the world appreciate different bonus tracks. Excuse me? Some hardcore fans had to buy like 4 or 5 copies of the album just to collect all the bonus tracks - and that's not including the single CDs, which will usually contain a single, and probably 2 or 3 remixes of that single (a hardcore fan would want all the different remixes too!). That spells P-R-O-F-I-T. Lots of it.

I don't buy a lot of CDs, don't know much about the many recording artists that there are, but I firmly believe that most of them do exploit their fans using this 'versions' technique, although their true fans are the only ones who'd fork out hard-earned money for original music CDs. And what are the fans' rewards? "There are several versions! Collect them all!" Hmmmph! How about the pasar malam version for RM3 per CD? How do you like that?

Shedding my eye-patch just got a lot harder than I thought!

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