With the increase in digital downloads, is album artwork as important?
In my (ok slightly biased opinion) YES! don’t be stupid!
Album artwork is in many cases the key to the success of an album, almost as much as the music itself. It needs to be striking and direct. Don’t try to be too clever with your art, most fans of music will be wanting to tell what the music is without listening to it. They will want to see something that is clearly going to show that this record is what they are looking for. The first bite is with the eye!
The art is the first thing they will see and with digital music sales the only part of the art they will see until they have bought it (and that is if you have thought about digital booklets for your release) If fans don’t already know your music, this will be their first introduction to your band, make it count!
The importance of an album cover and package has been noted over the years as important to making your product stand out from the crowd.
A very brief history of the album cover
- In 1909 German record company Odeon released the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky on four double-sided discs in a specially designed package.
- In the 1920s, collections of empty sleeves similar to a photograph album with a plain card or leather cover, were released for music fans.
- In the 1930s, record companies started bringing out collections of records by a single artist or one type of music in special albums.
- In 1938, Columbia Records hired its first art director, Alex Steinweiss. With this came the concept of album cover art.
- In the 1940s, album cover art started appearing for all the major labels and featured their own colourful paper covers. Some featured reproductions of classic art while others utilised original designs.
Since then the album cover art and packaging has, in many cases become as iconic as the music itself. For example The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had cutout inserts, a gatefold sleeve (even though it was a single vinyl album) and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon which had a gatefold, lyrics, no title on the sleeve, poster and sticker inserts.
Now with the popularity of digital downloads and pirated music downloads along with the cost of physical production, is this the death of the album cover? Well in the printed sense it does seem to by on it’s way out in fact in 2008 album cover artist Peter Saville (New Order, Roxy Music) stated that the album cover is dead. Although at that time digital sales were still being out sold by the physical product.
Collectors of classic vinyl will still fight the cause and the packaging of the digital release will continue to evolve. The cover will always be the first thing the fans see, it will still be the attention grabbing icon for a bands music, and as I said at the start can still be a major factor in the success of an album.
Or am I wrong?