One of the great things about the digital music revolutions is that it opened the doors for indie musicians to cheaply and effectively distribute their music to a wide audience, without having to invest in physical CDs and records. And yet, many have felt that the digital revolution has deprived albums of their visual and tactile components and depersonalized the experience of music ownership.
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Entries in artwork (7)
The potential for animation to express a deeper, more poetic reality than film has been evident since the days of Walt Disney. These days, music video producers are beginning to utilise animation for this purpose too.
As we all increasingly download our music rather than browsing through the shelves of our local record shop, album artwork is less important. Or is it?
There is evidence to suggest that musicians and audiences are still interested in imagery surrounding music.
“I like a bit of controversy. It tests the nation’s intelligence.”
When photographer and director David Boni came up with the idea of hanging The Stranglers in a kids’ swing park, bass player JJ Burnel, replied “I like a bit of controversy. It tests the nation’s intelligence.” And so, the cover of brand new album ‘Giants’ was born. Currently touring the album – and, inevitably, some of their classic tracks like ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Peaches’ – the band has seen a revival in fortunes across Europe, only tainted by drummer Jet Black’s recent illness.
I’ve been meaning to write this article for a looonnggg time, and I am finally finding the time to get around to it. It really irks me whenever I hear somebody say they are dissatisfied with digital music. It doesn’t have to be some boring, robotic thing, people! Despite what some industry folks may tell you, there are still tons of music fans out there that prefer the experience that a physical music item can provide. I am one of them. Believe it or not, there are ways that artists can bring some of the physical album experience to digital music. Some of it is common sense, and some of it takes a little “out of the box” thinking, but it is indeed possible.
Quality graphic design is expensive. I paid $500 just to license the cover image for my last album, plus $600 for the rest of the design. That’s fine every couple of years, but now that I’m releasing songs individually, I need a cover design every month or two. I decided to give 99designs a try, and the results far exceeded my expectations. For $145, I got 96 custom designs from 33 different designers. Sure, some were amateur, but a solid half were usable, and a handful were excellent.
Sound too good to be true?
I think it’s safe to say that we’re at the end of the “album age,” and although the format will hold on for a while, it’s clearly waning in popularity. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come up with what I think are the reasons, but be aware, they’re not all exactly what the popular wisdom assumes. So let’s begin with the 6 reasons why the album format has, for all intents and purposes, died.
1) It was a visual experience. The album format in the vinyl record age had the advantage of that wonderful piece of cardboard known as the album jacket. The album jacket contained the cover art (still found on CDs), and most importantly, the liner notes on the back, which we’ll get to in a second. But one thing that everyone either forgets or has never experienced is the fact that millions of albums were purchased completely on impulse because of the album artwork alone!
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(Updated Sept 29, 2014)