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A compilation album is an album (music or spoken-word) featuring tracks from one or more performers, often culled from a variety of sources (such as studio albums, live albums, singles, demos and outtakes.) The tracks are usually collected according to a common characteristic, such as popularity, genre, source or subject matter. When the tracks are all essentially by the same recording artist, a compilation album is often referred to as a retrospective album. Compilation albums may employ traditional product bundling strategies.
Common types of compilation include:
- "Greatest hits", "best of", or "singles collection" LPs, gathering together an artist's or a group's best-known songs. If the artist or group continues to record, compilers commonly include one or more previously unreleased tracks as an incentive for fans to buy the album, even if they already have the other material on the compilation.
- Other single-artist compilations, such as rarities or B-side collections, albums compiled from radio sessions, songs performed by an artist exclusively for a film soundtrack or collections that combine multiple releases, such as LPs and EPs together on one or more compact discs. Such compilations generally target existing fans of the artist and have little mainstream appeal, though postmortem compilations of unreleased materials from recently deceased artists have significant popularity.
- Box sets, elaborate multi-disc collections often covering the entire breadth of an artist's career or the full sweep of an entire record label or genre. Many anthologies are released in this format.
- Various artist themed compilations, e.g. love songs, Christmas songs, songs featuring a particular instrument (such as saxophone or piano), and countless other variations.
- Various artist genre compilations, e.g. jazz, synthpop, rock, etc. These may be from the same time period (Year, decade or era, for example), or may incorporate a common theme, as a soundtrack exemplifies well.
- Various artist hit compilations. This has been a very successful part of the album market since the early 1970s. Recent hit singles are gathered together in one place. In the 1970s, these were often single vinyl LPs with 10 to 12 tracks or more. In the 1980s, a double album with 6 or 8 tracks on each side became the norm. Now that CDs are the dominant format, these compilations are usually released on one, two, or three CDs.
- Promotional compilations or Samplers. These are creative, successful forms of promotion for artists and/or record labels to promote their music. Generally, these types of releases are free or cost very little for the consumer or end listener. Elektra Records released the first sampler albums in the 1950s.
- Private label promotional compilations. Promotional compilation CDs can be private labeled for products, retail outlets, or commercial organizations or non-profit organizations. Artists and labels like to co-brand themselves with well-known brands for marketing purposes, and transversely well-known brands like to co-brand themselves with artists.
- Business-to-business promotional compilations. The music industry may use other types of promotional compilations within a business-to-business context to promote artists to media concerns (radio stations, music supervisors for TV, film or video games for synchronization)
- Composer/producer albums/record label. Many hip-hop and reggaeton producers will release a compilation album which features various artists, but with each track composed by the same producer or it is under the same Record Label.
List of notable compilation series
United States, Canada and United Kingdom
- Motown Chartbusters (Motown, 1967–1982), series of 12 label samplers plus variants
- The Rock Machine Turns You On (1968) and subsequent budget-price samplers produced by CBS in the UK
- You Can All Join In (1969), first of a series of Island Records samplers
- Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders (1969–80), long-lived series of mail-order sampler LPs from Warner Bros. Records
- Nuggets (Elektra, 1972) collection of 1960s garage rock
- Now That's What I Call Music! (Polygram/Virgin/EMI, 1983–present) – recent hit singles
- The Hits Album (CBS/WEA, 1984–1991 and Telstar/Global TV, 1993-1994, 1995–2006) – recent hits
- A Very Special Christmas (A&M, 1987–2009) Christmas album benefiting the Special Olympics
- Deep Six (album) (C/Z Records, 1985–Present) Compilation of several bands from Seattle, one of the first ever grunge releases
- BRAVO Hits (early '90s-present) - recent hits
- Mushroom Jazz (Om Records, (1992–present) – genre broken beat/nu jazz/hip-hop
- The Best... Album in the World...Ever! (Virgin Records, 1993–present) – genre & themed (e.g. The Best Christmas...)
- Sessions (Ministry of Sound, 1993–present. Includes Summer Sessions, Chillout Session, Defected Sessions etc. – genre (Dance/electronic)
- Café del Mar (Manifesto, 1994–present) – genre (dance/ambient)
- Jock Jams (Tommy Boy, 1995–~2001) – genre and themed (dance/techno/sports)
- The Annual (Ministry of Sound). 1995–present. The World's best selling dance series. – genre (Dance/electronic)
- DJ-Kicks (!K7, 1995–present)
- Bonkers (Resist Music, 1996–present) – genre (happy hardcore/UK)
- Global Underground (Boxed, 1996–present) – genre (Dance/electronic)
- "WOW", 1996–present – genre (Contemporary Christian music)
- Dance Nation, 1996–present, Ministry of Sound – genre (Dance/electronic)
- Big Shiny Tunes, 1996-2009 - genre (Alternative)
- Pure Moods (Virgin Records, 1997–2004) – genre (New age)
- EMI Songbook Series (EMI, 1999, spotlight of favorite music of featured artist)
- 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection ((Universal Music Group, 1999–present))
- Have a Nice Day (CD series) - 70s music (Rhino Records, 1990–1996, 25 volumes)
- Trance Nation (Ministry of Sound), 1999–present – genre (Dance/electronic)
- In Search Of Sunrise (Songbird), 1999–present – genre (Dance/electronic)
- Clubbers Guide to..., 2000–present, Ministry of Sound – genre (Dance/electronic)
- The Essential (Sony BMG, 2000–present)
- Gold (Universal Music Group, 2005–present)
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés Café, (2001–present) – genre nu jazz/deep house
- Simply the Best..., (Warner Music) – genre & themed (e.g. Simply The Best Movie Album)
- Endzeit Bunkertracks, (Alfa Matrix, 2005–present) – genre Electro-Industrial/Noise/Dark Electro
- Dark Was The Night (4AD, 2009–present) - Contains songs from many independent artists. A part of the AIDS Benefit Series.
- Essential R&B (Sony BMG, 2004–present)
- Housexy (Ministry of Sound), 2005–present – genre (Dance/electronic)
- Fabriclive (Fabric, 2000–present)
- Punk Goes... (Fearless Records, 2000–present) - genre pop/punk/metal
- Cruel Summer (GOOD Music album) (GOOD Music, 2012) - genre Rap
- 100% Hits – Top-40 tracks
- All That "Hip Hop" - hip hop music
- Ministry Of Sound Annuals – dance music (yearly)
- House Party! - dance music
- Indie 2000 - alternative music
- So Fresh – Top-20 tracks, quarterly, with an additional 20 tracks each summer, comprising the best-selling tracks of the year
- Triple J Hottest 100 – a selection from the overall yearly poll
- Now – Top-20 tracks, quarterly (similar to So Fresh)
- Super Eurobeat (Avex, 1991–present) – genre : eurobeat
- Dancemania (Toshiba EMI, 1996–present) – genre : dance
- Image (Sony Music Entertainment Japan, 2000–present) - genre : easy listening
- List of garage rock and psychedelic rock compilation albums
- List of punk compilation albums
- Mix album
- Product bundling
- Various Artists
- "TLC to Release Greatest Hits Compilation to Accompany Biopic, New Album Coming in 2014". Pitchfork. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Gentile, John (8 November 2013). "Deadmau5 Compilation 'We Are Friends Vol. 2' - Album Premiere". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Suchet, Richard (28 November 2013). "Now Compilation Albums Celebrate 30 Years". Sky News. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- "UK Top 40 Compilation Albums", BBC, retrieved 2012-04-01