An endless list of compositions by almost any composer from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras (including Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, etc.) are considered lost or an autograph has never been found to confirm whether it has been rightly attributed. These range from small works to larger scale works such as operas. To name an example, several unique manuscripts of Haydn were lost when the opera house at Esterhaza (where he was employed) burned down in 1979.
Felix Mendelssohn mentioned in various correspondences that he was writing a cello concerto at around the same time he composed his famous violin concerto. The manuscript is said to have fallen off the back of a coach while Mendelssohn was travelling to present the concerto to its dedicatee; it was never recovered.
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius published very little in the last twenty years of his life, and he indicated an interest in adding an eighth symphony to the seven he'd already done. To this day it's unclear whether he finished or even started this work, and it remains one of the biggest mysteries in classical music. See here.
What is now known as Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No.9 in E-flat major, first performed in 1964, is actually the second version of the work. Shostakovich told Beethoven Quartet first violinist Dmitri Tsyganov that the first version was "based on themes from childhood", but he became dissatisfied with the work and destroyed the manuscripts in a fit of depression in 1961. A draft version of the first movement was recovered and recorded in 2003.
The French composer Paul Dukas, best known for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", was an ardent perfectionist and destroyed the manuscripts of pieces which he felt were not up to standard; his surviving works only constitute around half of his total output. Among the lost works are several operas and ballets, a symphony, and a violin sonata.
Many works by Alberic Magnard (a contemporary of Dukas) were also destroyed, albeit not directly by the composer's own choosing. In the early days of World War One, Magnard spotted German troops marching by his home. He opened fire on the soldiers, killing one of them. The Germans responded by burning down Magnard's house - without letting Magnard out. Several unpublished works, including at least two operas and a song cycle, were lost in the blaze.
Green Day recorded the album Cigarettes and Valentines in 2003, only to have the master tapes stolen. As it turned out, the band wasn't all that happy with the album anyway, so instead of re-recording it they elected to write an album's worth of new material. The whole thing turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since the new album became American Idiot.
The release of happy hardcore group Dune's planned 2000 album Reunion and the single "Heaven" were cancelled due to a lawsuit from A7(not to be confused with Avenged Sevenfold) accusing them of plagiarizing their song "Piece of Heaven". A couple years earlier, while Verena was on hiatus from the band, they had another cancelled album, Five, due to poor performance of the singles.
The original video for Nas' "Hate Me Now" featured Puff Daddy (as he was known at the time) being crucified alongside Nas. Puffy, who initially agreed to acting in the scenes, changed his mind before the video was set to premiere and wanted his cross scenes removed. However, when the video premiered, the uncut version was shown by mistake, and Puffy and his bodyguards then forcibly seized the video. The only apparent version of the video visible today is the recut version, with only Nas being crucified.
Self's Ornament and Crime was supposed to be released in 2004, but was indefinitely shelved once Universal Music Group acquired DreamWorks Records. The unreleased album did leak, however, and the band themselves put up a collection of its outtakes for free download under the title Porno, Mint, And Grime. The album is probably never to see official release, but the band are slowly working another album, Super Fake Nice. The story of that album is another trope.
This can be extremely common in the music industry. If an album has produced repeated unsuccessful singles, or if the label goes through a restructure and ends up firing some key people, it can end up unreleased. In some cases, advance copies may end up at radio stations, but no copies show up in stores.
Amy Dalley released seven singles between 2003 and 2008 but never got an album out because, at the time, the label had a policy that leadoff singles had to hit Top 20 before the album dropped — when most other country labels are satisfied if a new artist even makes Top 40. Along the way, she hit #23, #27, and #29.
This same policy previously screwed over Steve Holy, who had five singles between his biggest hits "Good Morning Beautiful" and "Brand New Girlfriend". None of the five songs made it higher than #26, and only three of the five can be obtained legally. He also had two more singles between his second and third albums, of which one ("Might Have Been") was never included on an album.
David Nail's debut album got axed at the last second because its producer, Keith Stegall, had just gotten fired from the label (Mercury Nashville). Promotional copies had already made it to some radio stations.
Eric Heatherly also had his first Mercury album go woefully under-promoted (although its leadoff single made #6), and his second album go unreleased, for the same reason. He later had a second unreleased album for DreamWorks Records after its lead-off single tanked. As with David Nail, Eric's DreamWorks album had seen release of promotional copies.
James Otto ended up subverting this. While his debut album had a few advance copies dropped around in 2002, the actual album didn't see the light of day until 2004. He had to change a couple tracks because another artist wanted to release one of them (specifically Montgomery Gentry with "Gone") as a single.
John Berry also had two unreleased albums in a row: the first, Crazy for the Girl, was dropped (and its single withdrawn after only a couple weeks on the chart) because he was having vocal cord troubles and couldn't finish recording it. After recovery, he recorded Better Than a Biscuit, which didn't get released because he asked out of his contract the week before it was supposed to come out.
Yet another example of this happening twice to the same artist is Jessica Andrews. Also signed to DreamWorks at the time, she was slated to release Ain't That Life in 2005, but it never saw release due to the label abruptly closing only months after the second single hit the charts. She eventually moved to Lyric Street, where she released the single "Everything", only to get screwed over by that label closing.
Indeed, Lyric Street has not been kind to its artists in that regard. Besides Jessica Andrews, nearly 1/3 of the label's roster has had at least one unreleased album, even if it had a charted single, and Josh Gracin's second album was delayed for two years (although that one was mostly his choice since he was unsatisfied with the first draft). Bucky Covington perhaps got the shortest end of the stick, due to his 2010 single "A Father's Love (The Only Way He Knew How)" having hit the charts just as the label went under; another label pushed the single to #23 but he still didn't get the album out. Another label finally released it in 2012.
Jon Randall also has two unreleased albums in the can: Great Day to Be Alive in 1996 for RCA Records, and Cold Coffee Morning in 1998 for Asylum. The former produced no singles, but its title track was later a big hit in 2001 for Travis Tritt. The latter had two chart singles in its title track and "She Don't Believe in Fairy Tales".
Rebecca Lynn Howard takes the cake, though. Her second album, Forgive, was cut off after only one single. After that, her third MCA album Laughter & Tears was canceled in 2003 due to underperforming singles; an album for Arista titled Alive & Well, slated for a 2005 release, suffered the same fate. Then after that, she moved to Show Dog Nashville (now known as Show Dog-Universal) and released only one single in 2006 that went nowhere. She finally got a third album out in 2008.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor's first album, All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling was limited to a release of 33 cassette tapes. To this date, none of the songs have leaked to the Internet and all that's known are the album title, song titles, and the album art.
Some of the songs from The Beatles' 1962 Decca session were included on the first Anthology compilation, but many are still only available as bootlegs.
"Carnival Of Light" is the only confirmed Beatles song to still be unreleased. In fact, not a single excerpt of the song, which is a nearly fifteen-minute psychedelic jam composed for The Million Volt Light And Sound Rave (around the time Sgt. Pepper came out), has never been released or bootlegged after the festival ended (any "leaks" turned out to be fake). Only descriptions of the song by people who composed or listened to it survive. Paul McCartney, who has the master tapes for the song, has expressed intentions to release the song at some point, but he hasn't received the unanimous consent necessary.
"Now and Then" was originally recorded as a John Lennon home demo, and was given to the surviving Beatles in the 1990's by Yoko Ono to flesh out and make a new song. It was never finished and never made it out. Fans are dying to hear it in one way or another, even if incomplete. The good news? Paul has shown interest in finishing it with Ringo.
At around the same time, a new song, "All for Love", was rumored to be on an Anthology album as an all new song. It never was finished, and if there are any recordings, we don't know where they are.
Hawkwind's 1975 album Warrior on the Edge of Time, arguably their most psychedelic and inventive, has not been included in the remastering programme because the copyrights are owned by all the participating band members, making royalty negotiations difficult. It wasn't until May 2013 that a remastered version of the record was finally released.
The Enid's debut 1976 album In the Region of the Summer Stars was not reissued in its original form for many years because of an apparent dispute between the band and EMI records. With only the multitracks for side 1 available, the band were forced to remix and overdub side 1 and completely re-record side 2 for the 1984 reissue. It was not until 2010, when a bootleg of the 1976 version appeared, that EMI finally supplied the band with a digital transfer of the original 2-track masters and the band were able to re-release the original album officially on CD.
Twelfth Night's self-titled album was released in 1986, but because of a dispute over royalty payments no CD version appeared until 2005, nineteen years later.
The film version of "Lapti Nek" from Return of the Jedi was never included on any soundtrack albums, and has since been only available on the VHSs and the 2006 Limited Edition DVD. There was also an unused piece of Source Music composed by Joseph Williams that was lost.
Bob Dylan recorded Blood on The Tracks in New York in September 1974 and was planning to release it in early December. Almost literally at the last minute he postponed the release, then went into a Minneapolis studio shortly after Christmas and re-recorded 5 of the album's 10 songs ("Tangled Up in Blue", "You're a Big Girl Now", "Idiot Wind", "Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts" and "If You See Her, Say Hello"). Despite Dylan's many rarities and outtake collections, only the original New York take of "You're a Big Girl Now" has been officially released. Alternate takes of several of the others have been released, but the takes that were chosen for the original album are only available in bootleg form.
Prince has a bevy of unreleased material that he's expressed no interest in ever releasing, to whit: fifty music videos, well over a dozen full albums, and about three documentaries.
According to music historian Tom Graves, Robert Johnson is known to have recorded 59 tracks in his career. Only 42 of these are currently available.
The Beach Boys have quite a few unreleased albums stashed away. The famed "SMiLE" was finally released in 2011, but the others (including "Landlocked," "Adult Child," "Lei'd In Hawaii," and the oddly-titled "New Album") will probably never see release - primarily because they're mostly horrendous.
The Bee Gees intended to follow their snore-inducing 1973 album "Life In A Tin Can" with a similarly-styled-but-far-superior album called (believe it or not) "A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants." Both the group and their manager deemed this album terrible, and it was scrapped, prompting the group to start experimenting with the black-funk sound that would define their late Seventies hits. Given this album's popularity among fans, however, it has been bootlegged a number of times in its entirety.
David Bowie's Toy — which would have primarily featured new versions of some of his earliest songs — was going to be his followup to 1999's hours... but was shelved by Virgin Records, his label at the time. Two new songs he wrote for it were rerecorded and released on 2002's Heathen, and several of the other tunes became single B-sides/special edition tracks. In 2011, the original album was leaked online; because Bowie hadn't released a new album since '03 (and wouldn't until 2013, as it turned out) and has been a Reclusive Artist since '06, this made waves in the music press and even got a formal review by Classic Rock magazine.
All of Venom now that Chamillionaire and his record label have been released from Universal Records.
Butthole Surfers' 1998 album After The Astronaut had promo copies sent out, but the official release was pulled, reportedly due to record label disputes. About half of the album's songs would get reworked for their next album, The Weird Revolution, which was released on a new label in 2001. Also, bizarrely, the back cover of After The Astronaut ended up becoming the front cover of Marcy Playground's Shapeshifter - the two bands shared a label at one point, and Capitol didn't inform Marcy Playground the artwork was originally intended for another album.
Powerman 5000's Anyone For Doomsday? similarly got pulled from official release two weeks before it was planned to hit stores. This was such a late development that review copies had already been sent out, Rolling Stone and Allmusic had already published reviews and the album's first single, "Bombshell" was already climbing the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart (it reached a peak of #26 before being quietly pulled). In this case though, the band themselves decided not to release it. Rumor had it that this was because the album title started seeming Too Soon after 9/11, but frontman Spider has said it was just because he felt it was too similar to their previous album. For several years, "Bombshell" was the only song from the record legally available (it eventually found its way onto the soundtrack album for the 2003 film Freddy vs. Jason), but the whole album became available for purchase on iTunes some time in the late 2000's.
When The Minutemen's double album Double Nickels On The Dime was released on cd, it was missing three songs from the original release ("Mr. Robot's Holy Orders", "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", and "Little Man With A Gun In His Hand"): The album ran too long to be compatible with all CD players without splitting it into two discs, so the band personally picked their three least favorite songs and cut them. The songs aren't available as digital downloads either, at least not the versions that were on the album. To hear these missing songs you have to either buy the still-in-print vinyl version, or settle for different version of them on other albums (live versions of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and "Mr Robot's Holy Orders" are on Post-Mersh Vol 3 and Ballot Result respectively, while an earlier recording of "Little Man With A Gun In His Hand" is on Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat, and a studio version of "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" is on the Tour-Spiel EP). Or of course you can find digitized versions of the record out there.
Jason Aldeannarrowly averted this when the studio holding the masters to his second album, Relentless, caught fire but stopped just shy of the room holding the masters.
Kraftwerk's Techno Pop. A few of the songs were moved on to Electric Cafe, and the single "Tour de France" became the basis for its own album nearly two decades later.
Happens quite a bit with almost any artist you can mention. When they record an album, a lot of them start off with about 20-30 songs to choose from, which is then whittled down to the 10-20 that actually make it on to the album. A few of them become B-Sides, but a lot of the rest simply disappear, either unrecorded or as rough demos. For one example, when Rachel Stevens was recording her second album, Come and Get It, a song called "Nothing in Common" was recorded but didn't make the cut, which led to a few whispers among Rachel's fans about wanting to hear it, since her previous collaboration with producer Richard X had given Rachel her biggest hit, "Some Girls." Six years later, Richard X, leaked the demo on one of his websites.
For a couple of years, Red House Painters' last album, Old Ramon had become one of the most famous lost albums of all time. Recorded in the summer of 1998 and originally slated for a 1999 release, Island Records dropped the band before the album came out and cancelled the album's release. The record company absolutely refused to let the band have it back claiming copyright issues. After several companies tried to buy the rights for the album and got denied, Sub Pop finally offered enough money for it and the album was released in 2001.
The early RHP demos from before the well-known 1991-92 demos are considered mostly lost. What remains are 2 or 3 songs that were featured on a rare 1988 interview that didn't surface on the internet until around November 2012. While there are a few tastes given by Kozelek alone on acoustic guitar, it is likely that we will probably never know what those songs sound like with a full band, or if there are possibly more songs missing.
Between Tin Planet and Suburban Rock 'n' Roll, Space made an album of songs with the working title of Love You More Than Football. The provisional tracklisting was published on the band's website, and song titles were leaked to magazines. One of the songs, 'Diary Of A Wimp', was released as a single in 2000, while 'Gravity' was premiered at gigs on the Bad Days Tour in 1998 and included on the Greatest Hits Album. However, due to problems with the record company and increasing delays, the album was never actually released and is now only available on bootleg. It's also the last album with Jamie Murphy on it, and also the last album with lead vocals by other band members besides Tommy Scott (or instrumentals).
KMFDM's 1984 debut album Opium only saw an initial release of 200 cassettes in Germany, and the master tapes were lost for nearly two decades before being salvaged from a house ravaged by fire and water damage. It finally got a full release in 2002.
Jinkaku Radio's song "Hikizan" will probably never be released simply because one member criticized a seiyuu for the show it was supposed to be the closing theme for.
Velvet Revolver supposedly recorded a song entitled "The House is Alive", and was going to be used as the theme for the 2006 animated film Monster House. The song was never included in said movie, and has never been released to the public.
Pink Floyd with the legendary rejected third single "Scream Thy Last Scream"/"Vegetable Man". Despite being hailed as two of Syd Barrett's finest songs, they have yet to see release outside of a bootleg and the reason speculated is that the band feels it's too connected with Syd's Creator Breakdown.
Front Line Assembly's first album Nerve War was never released past the demo tape run, probably due to the loss of the master tapes, although an Mp3 bootleg has been leaked.
Microdisney's songs 'Harmony Time' and 'Money For The Trams'. These were originally B Sides of the single 'Birthday Girl', and soon after appeared on the cassette version of the album The Clock Comes Down The Stairs. In 1995, when the band were going through their master recordings at Rough Trade, this master tape could not be found. As a consequence they are the only Microdisney songs from this period to have not been released on CD. Considering 'Harmony Time' was included on at least three releases (7", 12" and Cassette) it is confusing that this happened, as surely master tapes would exist for all three releases. They are still lost as of 2012, when the band are set to reissue those albums again.
In 2013 they were finally released on CD on a reissue of The Clock Comes Down The Stairs. It isn't known if these are master tape sourced or simply very clean vinyl rips. If the master tape is still missing, then it still technically counts as a missing episode.
Their 1980/1981 demo tapes and most of the radio sessions from that era are also thought lost. Some apparently exist in the channel archives.
And the band have no control over their Virgin material either, which means that it can only see a reissue if the label sees fit.
V V Brown's second album Lollipops & Politics was completed, then for over a year the release was repeatedly put back, until eventually it was scrapped altogether. Only the single "Children" ever saw a release, and that only in North America.
In a 1998 Time magazine article, Bruce Springsteen said he has recorded a country album and a hip-hop album, neither of which he has released. Nor have any tracks leaked, either.
Neil Young has done this several times throughout his career, most notably with the 1975 album Homegrown which was withdrawn at the last moment and replaced with Tonight's The Night, recorded 2 years earlier. It's never been released, though some tracks have shown up on other albums.
"Weird Al" Yankovic has several cases of this. He has several songs (most notably his food medleys) which he's only ever performed in concert and thus, don't have any official releases.
Toadies' second album Feeler was planned for a 1998 release, but was rejected by the label - an album's worth of songs were recorded, but the recordings weren't mastered and a track-list hadn't been decided upon. When their official second album Hell Below/Stars Above came out in 2001, it featured only three re-recorded songs that were intended for Feeler, though a fourth re-recording, "Joey, Let's Go", appeared on a compilation album. Following a reunion, the band attempted to have the original Feeler recordings released on an independent label in 2008, but their old label wouldn't relinquish the rights. Feeler finally came out in some form in 2010 - the release consisted of newly recorded versions of nine songs from the period, leaving five additional songs that are still only available via bootlegs.
Mike Doughty recorded his solo debut, Skittish, in 1996, shortly before the release of Soul Coughing's Irresistible Bliss - the label rejected it for sounding too different from Soul Coughing. The album's first "release" was in the form of homemade copies that Doughty started selling as merch during a 2000 solo tour; Much of his set at the time consisted of songs from the Skittish sessions, and he had found that material had become popular after circulating on file-sharing services. Skittish finally saw a more proper release in 2004, as a two-disc set that also featured outtakes, live songs, and the later EP Rockity Roll.
Canadian doom metal band Woods of Ypres recorded 5 songs for their unreleased EP Woods 4.5: You Were The Light in August 2010, but it was shelved after their label Earache Records showed a desire to have them release a full length album. As a result, the Juno award winning Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light was recorded instead, and while two Woods 4.5 songs came out in 2011 on the vinyl single Home, the other three tracks have never surfaced. Following frontman David Gold's death that December, it's unknown if they'll ever come out.
Boards of Canada claim to have released 5 albums/EPs before the "Twoism" EP in 1995 that first go them noticed. They were allegedly called (in chronological order Catalog 3, Acid Memories, Closes Vol. 1, Play by Numbers and Hooper Bay, and the cover art for these release has been released. Short snippets of Acid Memories as well as the latter two were released on the band's website, but it's unknown wherever these are genuine or wherever these albums did even exist or not.
The critically acclaimed and highly influential "My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts" by David Byrne and Brian Eno lost a song between it's first US release and it's original UK release/CD release. The track "Qu'ran" (which features a reading of the Qu'ran set over a music track) was omitted at the request of several Muslim groups who asked the UK record label to omit the track. It was replaced in all subsequent pressings with the B-Side "Very Very Hungry".
Another song "The Jezebel Spirit" itself exists because of licensing issues that propped up before the album was released over licensing issues. Originally it was a track called "Into the Spirit Womb" and has completely different dialogue from "The Jezebel Spirit". "Into the Spirit Womb" remains unavailable in a legit release.
Momus has had two songs deleted from albums due to lawsuits from their subjects: The first was the Hippopotamomus track "Michelin Man", which compared the tire company mascot of the title to an inflatable sex doll. The second was the Little Red Songbook track "Walter Carlos", which was about transgendered musician Wendy Carlos traveling back in time to marry her pre-sexual reassignment surgery self.