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What is the future of album art?

I work at a vinyl record pressing company in Fairfax and have seen some of the worst and some of the best album art today. I seen the manufacturing of album art with vaginas being held up by fish hooks to Skrillex’s sleek black, two dimensional box set. After seeing both these methods of design, I would definitely be more inclined to listen to Skrillex over the other, just like, if I was exploring a new place to eat for dinner, I would most likely go to the restaurant with the more attractive and accesible website over the one that had a poorly designed one – because I would view the food as being better. It is true that today, when most of us are suggested a new place to eat, before we go, we check the website. Most likely to get directions but THIS is our first impression of the place. The album art industry used to work like this. Ten years ago, a friend would suggest that you listen to *NSYNC’s album, “No Strings Attached” and what would you do? Go to the store and buy the CD, once again taking in their corny puppet like photograph on the cover before hearing the music. But today? Today, we hear the song on radio, we hear it in a new movie, it shows up on our Pandora or Spotify. We can fall in love with a song or band without even looking at the album art. Is this industry for designers being diminished? Sure, once we’ve heard the song and loved it, the awesome album art is a bonus, or if it’s bad, it doesn’t matter because the song is good. As a designer, I wish this wasn’t the case. We want our art to sway someone into buying the CD and while this is working in the restaurant world, I see its future in the music industry dwindling.

6 Comments

  1. nmonton001 wrote:

    I guess I have never really been one to pay attention to album art before so this post was very interesting. You are right, I don’t even know what most album covers look like anymore. I did when I was younger when I bought CDs (N*SYNC included). I don’t even pay attention to the album art on Pandora. It is a little sad to say but I do think album art is no longer as popularized as it was 10 years ago.

    Monday, February 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  2. i_like_cats wrote:

    Well, iTunes and Pandora and the rest of the music sites do usually feature an image of some sort while the song is playing, even if it is just a thumbnail. I have to imagine there has to be a lot of designers involved in that. I’d say that the career field isn’t dying, but evolving, just like the music industry itself.

    Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Kate Welch wrote:

    Hmmm, CD covers as album art. To me, album art is a 12.375 inch cover for a vinyl record. Some how album art on a 4.75 inch CD cover does not have the same impact, details are lost and the designers just have less space to work in. Holding a 12.375 album cover in you hads and being able to turn it over and look at the other side is very different than handling a CD plastic case.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  4. Arthur Reinaltt wrote:

    I think its kind of sad that vinyls ever went out of style. I really wish artists would release their new cds along with vinyls because some albums are so awesome i wish i could hang them in my room.

    Friday, March 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  5. Kimberly Salins wrote:

    This is a very interesting topic. I am interning for a record company and a lot of what I do requires me to look at albums others have designed (some good, some bad) so I definitely know where you’re coming from. I think the importance of graphic design in the music industry dwindling is a sad reality. How often do people even buy CDs anymore? It’s so much easier to just download the song off of iTunes (or whatever other sites people use…) or listen to our favorite artists on pandora. However, album art is still visible on these sites, so good design can still make an impact. But I think as far as sales go with albums, it probably isn’t as important as it was fifteen years ago.

    Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Lia DiValentin wrote:

    This is a subject, I find myself very often wondering about, especially since the last tangible CD I bought was Kelly Clarkson Breakaway. One of the reasons, I wanted to become a graphic designer was because I adored my father record and album collection and loved looking at the covers of “The Strokes:Is This It”, “The Beatles:Revolver/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/Abbey Road”, “The Eagles:Hotel California”, “Led Zeppelin:House of the Holy”, and “Pink Floyd:A Saucerful of Secrets/Meddle/Dark Side of the Moon”. However, I feel like the only time I see album art nowadays is when i am buying a song on itunes; and even then it usually just consists of a head shot of the artists.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Permalink