November 17, 2008

Interactive Album Art: A New Music Package?

After exploring the intricate ways that social networking sites have been using iPhone applications to expand their user base in last week’s post, I have decided to turn my attention to the future of album art and how advances in web technology, specifically the iPhone (see left) and interactive websites, are beginning to address an issue that has been plaguing the music industry for over 20 years. Album art has been debated ever since CD’s replaced vinyl records as the primary music product in the early eighties. While nobody was very happy when the beautiful 12x12 images that adorned LP’s were reduced to an unflattering 5x5 CD insert, it seems as though everyone has waited until now to express their dissatisfaction. Recently, many artists have taken steps to digitize their album artwork utilizing new media in order to create a new music package that could potentially replace the conventional album format made commonplace by CD’s. I have commented on two blog posts, “The Future of Album Art” by Bob Boilen from NPR: All Songs Considered and “Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance” by Eliot Van Buskirk from Wired: Listening Post. Each post offers slightly different viewpoints on where the future of album art lies, as well as examples of interactive artwork. Developments like this could open new doors from a promotion and marketing perspective as artists will be able to reap the rewards of having “album art” that can distribute audio files, play videos, build a fan base or incorporate any other social networking or web-based feature imaginable. Each comment appears on the respective blogs, and both are attached below for convenience. I have added NPR: All Songs Considered to the linkroll to the right, and Wired: Listening Post can be found there as well.

“The Future of Album Art”

Thank you for your excellent post on the future of album art and specifically for citing the visual elements of an album as a definitive part of any listening experience. I can identify with having my attention drawn away from a cover image or lyric sheet by the multitude of far more interactive art forms available at my fingertips. A new precedent has been set by the Internet for what others expect when it comes to graphic design. I agree with the following statement from your post: “The music may hold my interest, but the artwork rarely does. I've come to the conclusion that it's the fault of the art and not my short attention span.” I believe that while an album’s cover art may be visually stimulating, a normal image does not satisfy the level of user interaction even the most elementary web surfers are used to finding on a website or blog. In a time when not only the internet-savvy demand clickable features, and CD sales decline more everyday, the transformation of physical cover art into interactive digital media is becoming an increasingly more important topic. Do you think that the transition from physical art to digital art will have an impact on album format? While perusing cyberspace, I have found a number of blog posts expressing a need for a “new package” to replace the CD, as audio files are only a piece of an album. For example “Designers Work to Rescue a Dying Art Form – the Album Cover” from Wired: Listening Post touches on this topic. As a student closely following technology’s impact on the music industry, I maintain that eventually bands will release groups of songs via interactive websites serving as the “album art” and distribution mechanism, updating the “CD package” for the internet age. The artwork in your post is an excellent example of this because it maximizes any fan’s connectivity to the band while satisfying the original intentions of traditional album art. The post “Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance” from Wired: Listening Post outlines even more ways in which artists have begun to accomplish this, focusing on Amazon’s new artist pages.

“Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance”

Thank you for your comprehensive post on the declining importance of the traditional album as a means for artists to release their music by exploring the transformation of album art into an interactive digital medium. As a music listener who values the visual elements of an album in my listening experience, and a student studying the ways that technology is changing the music industry, I absolutely agree that the future of album art will be iPhone applications, “artist pages” on sites like Amazon or MySpace and even websites rather than a simple digital version of lyric sheets and album covers. The essential factor in creating successful album art is finding a way to visually engage the listener while keeping their focus on the music. “The Future of Album Art” by Bob Boilen from the NPR Music blog highlights this point. In the past before the internet, some of the most popular record covers such as the Velvet Underground and Nico’s famous Andy Warhol-designed banana cover (see right) and the Rolling Stones “Sticky Finger’s” zipper album cover boasted features that maximized user interaction in an age when such features could not be imagined. Today liner notes can come in any form, such as a video, videogame, photo gallery or application. In response to your statement “The album is receding as a means of organizing music, which has been splintering into re-shuffleable digital singles for years,” do you think singles will be more readily accepted, or will albums just get shorter? Will the transition of physical album art to a digital format change the way that songs are grouped upon release?

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