Collaborate and Listen Part II: Compilations

Yesterday we talked about the advantages of having a guest vocalist in a song. Today I’m going to discuss a different type of collaboration, compilations. Compilations, or albums consisting of songs from multiple different artists, may not initially be thought of when thinking of the word “collaboration”, but it plays just as big of a role as guest vocals.

A “Greatest Hits” album is also considered a compilation, but for this post we’re going to be talking specifically about albums filled with a variety of songs from a variety of artists. Compilation albums usually are created by specific genre, as a soundtrack to something, or for a charity.

So how do artists use compilations as a means of furthering their reach? Well, in a time long ago, before internet radio and YouTube sidebars with related videos, it was not as easy to stumble into new music that you love. Sometimes I would go into FYE and look in the “Punk/Ska” section for a band with a cool name and cool album art and take a gamble and buy their record. While exhilarating, that isn’t the best means to discover new music. The other thing I would do is go into Hot Topic, where there would be really cheap compilation albums with a lot of songs on them. I would throw down five or six bucks and pick up the latest “Take Action,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” or “Punk-O-Rama” compilation. What happened after I bought these music-filled, low cost CDs? In many cases I found a band I really liked, and bought more of their stuff, and then told others about them. I think my experience with compilations is what artists hope happens.

But one case study of a dumb kid doesn’t prove anything, right? Well let’s break it down. There are three key things that make compilation albums so valuable.

  1. Wide scale appeal to people who haven’t heard of you: Like the advantage of bringing in guest vocals combines audiences to view one product, compilations also combine audiences. It’s not as much of a guaranteed thing that a fan of one song on the album will listen to all of them, but the fact that the songs are in the same vicinity is a big step. Then there are the weird people, like me, who buy a compilation CD without knowing any of the songs, in an adventurous search for new music. I discovered one of my favorite bands, The Spill Canvas, off of Take Action vol. 6, a compilation I picked up from Hot Topic.
  2. It’s a relatively passive process: The great thing about compilations is that they don’t  require a massive effort to write and record  a whole new song. An additional vocalist doesn’t have to be contacted and recorded. All it takes is getting a song (it can even be a live version or remix) that is relevant to a compilation into the right hands. Sure, you have to know the right person, or have a really great song, but even then the amount of resources that have to be exhausted are minimal compared to other forms of collaboration.
  3. It is a chance to join a community and broadcast that: Similar to strengthening your identity (from the part I), joining a compilation is a way to portray yourself how you want to be seen. Compilations are released often with a theme, specific genre or for a charity/non-profit. The “Punk Goes…” series consists of different compilations of punk influenced bands covering songs of a specific genre. To be a part of that compilation shows that you like to have fun and be creative (also it’s kind of inferred you’re a little bit punk). The Hopeless Records-sponsored Take Action compilations which coincide with the Take Action tours, donate a portion of their proceeds to charities that help in teen depression and suicide prevention, among other non-profits. Being a part of that compilation is a great way to show that you’re compassionate and care about current issues. Compilations also include soundtracks. If you get a song on a Twilight soundtrack that shows that you are in love with vampire/werewolf romance. Just kidding, Twilight actually has great soundtracks. But getting on a soundtrack is a sure way to be heard by many more than the average compilation.

Earlier, I said compilations are what I went to before there were “related artists” sidebars easily directing me to new music. So what does that mean for compilations now that YouTube sidebars and artist-based internet radio do exist? Sure there is increased competition, but there’s something special about compilations. Whether it’s a magazine, record label or some other organization, a tangible compilation of intentionally designated tracks has an allure to it. There are still compilations on compilations in existence, many in the form of samplers, compilations compiled by a record label to let people hear a taste of what’s on their label.

Despite the increased competition, it still stands that compilations are an effective form of collaboration. Putting a song you more than likely already recorded on an album with a bunch of other artists to be released to the masses sounds like an easy way to potentially get a lot more fans.

As with any thing, these points are just a portion of the benefits of being a part of a compilation record. Can you think of any other major benefits? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.


One thought on “Collaborate and Listen Part II: Compilations

  1. This post needs to be more like the previous, for reasons discussed therein. I like and will steal your wording – “one case study of a dumb kid doesn’t prove anything, right?” – to explain this further, so be warned.

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