Music Business

"New" Albums Composed of Old Music: Good or Bad?

It's 2013, and we've all pretty much finished our end-of-the-year lists. Now we look to the future. What albums are we looking forward to this year? If I had to guess, at least some of the best releases of the year will consist of music out of a vault or reissues of old albums. But is that a good thing?

In our modern musical landscape, it's become an increasingly popular trend to sell antiquated music under the guise of a new release. It used to be that these kinds of "rarities" albums were simply stopgap measures stuck in between our favorite artists' new releases. Now these are the new releases from our favorite artists.

Perhaps it's because it's much cheaper and less time-consuming to compile a lot of rarities or unreleased demos and tracks that got left on the cutting-room floor rather than going into the studio to record new tracks. There's nothing wrong with that in theory. It's easier on the artists and gets them out on the road promoting new music faster.

But it seems like this is all we get from some artists. It makes sense in the case of old bands who have long since broken up or simply reunited to tour and need something to put out for their fans, because they have no intention of recording new music. But what of active artists who are lazily shilling this stuff to us in lieu of new recordings?

Take Bjork, the queen of this sort of thing. In the past decade, Bjork has put out three studio albums. She's also released three box sets of previous albums, one of which compiled odds and sods recorded just two years earlier, and two remix albums, along with countless other single releases and assorted cash grabs.

I have the utmost respect for Bjork as an artist, but doesn't this endless reissuing and merchandising cheapen the artistic integrity of her work just a little bit? It turns it into a cheap, lazy way to make more money, for which frankly I can't imagine Bjork being hard up.

Then there's the ever-popular "vault." Prince probably started it, releasing an album or two a year consisting of material that had oftentimes been recorded years prior. He still has a legendary amount of unreleased material and we'll probably see albums being released decades after the man's death. But at least in the case of Prince, he records new albums as often as he releases vaulted ones.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Corey Deiterman