Back in middle and high school, when I made more frequent trips to local record stores, I was a kid hell bent on amassing an impressive collection of music. I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t much of a “crate digger”; for one, I was buying CDs, not vinyl, which that term more blatantly refers to when buying new music. On top of that, I wasn’t looking to buy rarities or obscurities, as is also typically the case when using the term. Instead, I’d be in the store looking for specific artists that I’d already decided I want to support. I remember the hours spent scrolling through Wikipedia pages, magazine articles, and blog posts looking for tidbits of new album information from my favorite artists. There were two columns in a Word document that was always present on my computer: one for projects that were in the works but had no official release date, and one for those that did. When the release dates finally arrived, I’d make my way to the store and make my purchase.
I typically had a budget of what I could spend on new music. Whether it be a leftover birthday gift card or some extra spending money gained from doing a neighbor’s yard work, I always tried to stretch my dollars as much as I could. As I stood in the aisle with a handful of “wish list” purchases, I’d whip out my phone, add all of the prices together, and see what combination would get me the most albums. Sometimes I could only get one or two, but there’s many times I can recall walking out the door with a stack of five or six, a huge smile stretching across my face as I excitedly decided which I’d listen to first.
Because I was so intent on getting the most for my money, there was a dilemma I frequently ran into. Upon finding the bin containing my soon-to-be purchase, I’d more often than not realize I had a choice to make: get the cheaper, standard version of the album, or the more expensive, deluxe version. While the deluxe version contained more songs, I was always hesitant to shell out the extra money. Of course, it was usually only a three or four dollar difference, but when that decision is placed on a 16-year-old kid who sweated in the sun for half a day to earn that money, it seems like a much larger difference. I’d usually decide to just go with the standard version. In saving those few bucks, I could usually add on another item, but if not I could just save it for next time. There were times, however, when I’d be willing to let go of the extra dollars. When it was one of my absolute favorite artists, I’d allow myself to splurge a bit in order to get those extra tidbits at the end.
In my mind, back then and still to this day, the deluxe version isn’t a more complete or definitive version; it simply contains a couple extra tracks. When listening to a deluxe version, I always remind myself to let the album end with the standard final track and consider the extras more as an unrelated dessert. Now that we’ve almost entirely entered a new era of music listening with streaming, fans are no longer stratified by whether or not they’re willing to cough up those extra dollar bills. Everyone, no matter if you’re a diehard or casual fan, pays the same flat monthly rate to enjoy the music (There are, however, people out there who still buy hard copies of albums, God bless em).
Because of this, the deluxe album will all but fall into extinction. When all you have to do is pull out your phone and press play, the idea of a deluxe album is insignificant. Twice this week I’ve been listening to albums on Apple Music that I own hard copies of. When what I thought was the final song ended, I was prepared to find something else to listen to, only to discover that there were three tracks remaining, tracks I had never even heard. I had selected the deluxe edition of the album and didn’t even know it. There is no more distinction between the two versions, unless they have different album art, which is sometimes the case. Yet, I couldn’t help but think about all those years ago when I had to decide what artists I liked enough to spend more money on. It all seems so trivial now, and it is, thanks to streaming. Soon enough, there most likely won’t be deluxe versions of albums, just the albums themselves, all fully loaded into our handheld devices. The idea that bonus tracks are unrelated dessert won’t be the case, as the songs will just be part of the album. This contributes to the fact that playlists are now becoming more popular than albums, as the songs that once would be considered mere second-thought add-on treats are now fully-fledged, album-worthy tracks.
I don’t visit record stores nearly as much as I used to, or as much as I want to. Though part of me still wants to have a massive collection of music, another part of me sometimes feels like it’s almost worthless in the face of new technology. So many years ago, back when I was so eager to fill a bookshelf with albums, I’d be happy to know that everyone has a fair opportunity to get the deluxe experience from their favorite artists, all for the same rate. Now, I’m just hoping that the death of deluxe won’t lead to an influx of filler tracks and album dilution. No longer do I have to count my money to figure out how many albums I can treat myself to. We have instant access to any piece of music, all a click away, for a price that barely seems noticeable in a monthly budget. Oh, how bittersweet it is! Rest in peace, Deluxe.