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A compilation album is an album (music or spoken-word) featuring tracks from multiple recording artists, 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, 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

Some common types of compilation are:
  • Single-artist "greatest hits", "best of", or "singles collection" LPs, gathering together an artist's best-known songs. If the artist or group is still recording, it is common practice to include one or more previously unreleased tracks as an incentive for fans of the artist to buy the album, even if they already have the other material on the compilation. See Greatest hits article for more details.
  • 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 LP and EP together on one or more compact discs. These are generally aimed at 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.
  • 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. An example is a soundtrack.
  • 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.
  • 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. Other types of promotional compilations are used within the music industry in a business-to-business capacity to promote artists to media concerns (radio stations, music supervisors for TV, film or video games for synchronization)
  • Composer/producer albums. Many hip hop and reggaeton producers will release a compilation album, which feature various artists. Every track on the album will be composed by the same producer.

Budget cover albums

A budget cover album is an album of cheap, often poorly made covers of popular songs (also known as sound-alikes). The budget albums had their heyday in the 1970s. One of the most famous cover labels was Embassy, operated by Woolworths. To distinguish between the original artists and the covers, the albums often featured small print next to the name of the original artists eg. as made famous by. Some cover album series are still going, eg. Kidz Bop, but many are now so-called "novelty records".

Current, 1990s–2000s, budget "artists" include The Countdown Singers, The Hit Crew and Stars at Studio 99. Although these groups are listed on multiple albums they are names for any number of studio musicians. Although the albums are budget covers, they are titled as tributes, but are not akin to tribute albums to name artists with covers by other name artists. The albums are sold at discount prices, mainly in department stores and often end up at a dollar store.

A famous series of cover albums in the UKmarker was the Top of the Pops series, which were released between 1968 and 1985. The pin-up girl covers of these albums now have a cult following of their own.

Famous compilation series

United States and United Kingdom


(The Beatles 1962-1966) (Red Album) (Rock)(The Beatles 1967-1970) (Blue Album) (Rock)




Famous compilation series (Australia)

See also

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