When I buy an album, rarely will I buy the standard edition if a deluxe edition is available. There’s just something so tantalizing about having more music or visual content to enjoy from a band, even if it means paying a slightly higher price. I’ve recently started thinking about deluxe editions and whether or not they’re really worth the higher price, which led me to thinking about them in a more general sense. What makes a deluxe edition deluxe? What constitutes a deluxe edition worth buying? Should deluxe editions interfere with the structure of the main track-listing? With all these thoughts swirling around in my head, I figured the best way to try and find an answer was to take a deep dive into the subject.
There are no set rules for what can come in a deluxe edition, though more often than not, it means you’re getting extra audio/visual content or expanded packaging. Depending on the artist, you may even get extra goodies that you can’t find anywhere else. Limited availability can also make something deluxe, which is usually reserved for the limited edition of the album, but at times the terms seem interchangeable. These are the elements involved in making, at the very least, an edition of an album that can carry the label of “deluxe.”
As far as a deluxe edition that’s worth buying, usually you want to feel like it’s something you can get your money’s worth out of. Is that one to two extra tracks worth the couple of dollars you’re going to drop on them? Will you really watch that live DVD as often as you think you will? Whenever I’ve bought deluxe editions, I find myself usually forgoing the bonus tracks to solely enjoy the main album, as many bonus tracks are simply demos, remixes and or songs that weren’t good enough to make it onto the standard edition track-list. This is not to say that a deluxe edition can’t include these things in quality form, however. The deluxe edition of Devin Townsend‘s Epicloud, brilliantly titled Epiclouder, has an entire second disc filled with nearly finished songs that are very sweet on the ears. Then again, not all artists can consistently turn out quality material like Devin can. What makes a deluxe edition worth buying is truly up to what you’re willing to pay for. If you like to hear how a song evolves, even if the songs aren’t the best of quality or necessarily enjoyable to most other people, spring for the edition with four demos. If you’re really excited to watch your favorite performer in a live setting, scoop up that two to three disc set and get to watching. Ultimately, you as a consumer decide whether or not the edition of an album is truly deluxe.
There are certain things that I believe certain deluxe editions don’t ever get quite right, however. One thing in particular that irks me to no end is when the deluxe edition of an album inserts the bonus tracks into the standard album track-list. The tracks aren’t made to be an addendum, but rather part of the full experience. So, my question is, why are you hiding that content behind a paywall if it should be part of the main track-list? The first time that I saw this was on the Deluxe/LP edition of Converge‘s excellent All We Love We Leave Behind and it confused me to no end. If you’re just going to insert the bonus tracks into the main body, shouldn’t that just be the standard edition of the album? It just seems odd to hide those tracks from a select few when you clearly think they’re good enough to be along the sides that actually made the cut. This doesn’t affect the quality of the music, but it’s something that makes me wonder and keeps me awake at night.
I believe that the conclusion I’ve come to is one I can live with. A deluxe edition is truly made deluxe by the value it holds in the mind of the listener. Some deluxe editions aren’t for everyone and some make odd decisions of track placement, but at the end of the day, that’s okay. One person may not be able to extrapolate enough value to pick up the deluxe edition, while others may see a wealth of it flow through their eyes and ears. Much like music itself, it’s up to the listener to find where the value lies.