From Taylor Swift to Olivia Rodrigo, vinyl variants exhibit widespread overconsumption

By Grace Hogsten

Copy Editor

Even in the age of streaming and digital downloads, mainstream musicians still release vinyls, creating multiple different versions for fans to buy. While this phenomenon is widespread, critics take issue with it and argue that vinyl variations are a hallmark of consumerism and overconsumption.

Pop singer Billie Eilish recently commented on this trend in an interview with Billboard while discussing her dedication to sustainability.

“For some reason, it’s very important to some artists to make all sorts of different vinyl and packaging…which ups the sales and gets them more money,” Eilish said. “I can’t even express to you how wasteful it is…it’s some of the biggest artists in the world making f–king 40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more.”

 According to a post on her Instagram story, Eilish was not attempting to single out any artists and acknowledged that she herself has released vinyl variants, though they were made from recycled materials.

Nevertheless, for many, Eilish’s criticisms seem to ring especially true for one musician: Taylor Swift.

According to The New York Times, Swift has released nine variants of “folklore,” six variants of “Midnights,” and five variants of “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” So far, there are six variants of the singer’s latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” according to Billboard.

While some variants differ only in their cover art or the color of the record, many include tracks that are exclusive to each edition; to own all the songs on vinyl, listeners must buy several versions of the album.

Many fans enjoy the opportunity to own various editions of their favorite artist’s albums. The New York Times interviewed one collector, Tylor Hammers, who spent about $1,000 to buy as many of Swift’s album variants as he could. On social media sites like TikTok, a simple search yields scores of videos of fans showing off their extensive collections.

However, not everyone is happy with the phenomenon. Some fans took to social media to share their criticisms regarding artists’ never-ending album editions.

“Just saw a tweet asking why ppl complain about bonus tracks being limited to different vinyl variants. Maybe because it’s wasteful capitalism & causes overconsumption all for the sole purpose of sales farming?” X user @luimacronne said.

Responses to these criticisms of Swift often include reminders that plenty of other artists release vinyl variants, too.

“When other artists [release] different variants of vinyl for the same song [it] is not a problem but dare Taylor Swift [have] more than one variant each with a NEW song she’s a capitalist,” X user @swiftshaze_ said.

While it is true that other artists also release multiple editions of their albums, the participation of more musicians only makes the issue of overconsumption even worse. No matter the artist, vinyl variants create a demand for continual production and purchasing.

On Hammers’ Instagram page, he catalogs the vinyl variants released by different artists, including Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, and Ariana Grande.

Separate from these artists, Eilish discussed her personal dedication to sustainability and her efforts to make environmentally-friendly options standard in the music industry, according to Billboard.

“It was kind of alarming to find that no one’s really doing anything to better the world,” Eilish said. “These giant companies are not even doing anything when they have so much more power.”

Nevertheless, Eilish is dedicated to promoting environmental consciousness to her fans through statements and the way she chooses to produce her vinyls.

“Artists can cast a giant shadow of influence…you’re not perfect, but you are influencing many, many, many people to do better,” Eilish said.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption: Eilish recently responded to the overconsumption found within the vinyl variant trend.

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