A long haired rebel freak pulls the plastic covering off his brand new Sticky Fingers record. There’s an image of tight black jeans with a bulge, and an actual zipper molded into the cover. Down the street another young rebel opens his new copy of The Wall, and inside is a sleeve with psychedelic artwork and lyrics to every one of the odd, incoherent tunes. Sergeant Peppers, His Satanic Majesty’s Request (built-in hologram)- just endless records with some of the world’s best tunes, and awesome artwork to boot.
Years later, a young dude tears the cellophane off his Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album, with some Alphonse Mucha-like artwork and lyrics tucked inside the filler of the amazing double-CD. Memories of music in the past, from the records of the 60’s and 70’s to the CDs of the 90’s: almost as exciting as getting the new music and listening to the new songs, was staring at the artwork, thumbing through the liner notes and seeing what sort of exciting media was tucked inside. Even though we’re listening to the music for the music, getting the satisfaction from the emotion, lyrics and instrumental sounds- there is still something extremely special and satisfying about having some great album artwork. For anyone who purchased White Zombie’s Astro Creep 2000 back in Middle School (OK, that was me)- the pamphlet in the cover of the album with Rob Zombie’s psychosexual artwork, just masterful. Sure, maybe I stared at the naked demons a bit too long, but hey, I was young and restless.
...from the records of the 60’s and 70’s to the CDs of the 90’s: almost as exciting as getting the new music and listening to the new songs, was staring at the artwork...
So many fond memories of album artwork, so many associations and corrupt thoughts accompanying the free album notes inside, it raises the question- what about today? What happens when all the music we purchase online is simply mp3 format, with no concrete plastic CD case or cardboard record sleeve to stare at and tack onto the walls? There’s an entire form of media lacking from today’s musical scene, and though there are still some liner notes that accompany online album purchases, it’s just not the same. This raises the question for all new and preexisting artists of today’s music scene: how important is the album artwork?
When there’s nothing left but an album image accompanying the music in iTunes- let’s face it, that’s pretty much all the world is using- the album/artist cover is pretty important (for visual listeners like myself). When I hear a new band, I’m obviously not looking for their artwork or logo, but if they have some catchy covers or strange logos, they tend to stick in my mind a bit more. Whether a mainstream artist (the album covers of the Black Angels come to mind)- or an unsigned independent band (I love the covers and images that Shadowface use to promote their work)- the pictures accompanying the sounds really do catch my attention.
So even though all the focus should be placed on the music, and artist logos and album artwork is way low on the priority list- it still should be somewhat kept in mind. Use something catchy, something that means a lot to the band or really harnesses the vibe that the band (or solo artist) is trying to convey. It may just end up being the thing that draws listeners in to the music; it’s a lot quicker to get attracted by a cool logo or album cover than it is to listen to an entire song/album. Use visual stimulation to your advantage, rope in the listeners, catch their attention and force them to want to hear what you have to say.