A compilation album is a musical album featuring songs or tunes with some common characteristics. They may all be by the same artist, or by several (often credited to "Various Artists"). Some common types of compilation are
- Single-artist "best of", "singles collection" or "greatest hits" LPs, gathering together an artist's best-known songs. These often outsell an artist's regular albums. 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, or albums compiled from radio sessions. These are generally aimed at existing fans of the artist and have little mainstream appeal.
- 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.
- 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 ten tracks on each side, and correspondingly low sound quality. In the 1980s, a double album with 7 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 with a running time of over 70 minutes each.
Famous compilation series (UK)
- The Best Album in the World... Ever! (Virgin Records, 1993-present)- genre & themed (e.g. The Best Christmas...)
- Cafe Del Mar (Manifesto, 1994-present) – genre (dance/ambient)
- The Greatest Hits Of (Telstar, 1985-present), annual hits compilation
- The Hits Album (CBS/WEA, 1984-1989 and Telstar/Global TV, 1993-present) – recent hits
- Motown Chartbusters (Motown, 1967-1974), label samplers
- Now That's What I Call Music! (Polygram/EMI, 1983-present) – recent hit singles
- Nuggets Elektra, 1972, collection of obscure 1960s garage rock