February 22, 2008

Oddities of The Modern Age...

by Chris Randall

I'm working on the cover art for the upcoming Micronaut album today, and it got me thinking about how incredibly strange this business has become in the last three years. I mean, here I am, making a 300dpi front image for an album that will never exist on this temporal plane in a manufactured form. I was waiting for a render to complete in 3DS Max, and I was like "why the hell am I doing this at print resolution instead of screen resolution?"

I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense to do it at print rez, in case I, like, go on tour and, like, wanna sell CDs or something wacky like that. Then at least I have it and don't have to do it over. But it just gave me a fit of the giggles. Why do albums even have cover art any more, when there's no cover? The image is simply a picture you get with your iTunes download that you can look at and say "hey, this is the image that goes with these songs." It is definitely an odd situation.

I am reminded of the River Run Project from Underworld, where each "song" (which was actually a single MP3 of four to five songs interleaved) came with a folder jam-packed with images. I'm still to this day not clear as to what the images were for, exactly, but they were kind of cool.

But I digress. My hypothetical question for the day is thus: how does one deal with the traditional accompaniments to an album, cover art and liner notes, in this day and age? My solution for Callisto is to put the liner notes on the appropriate page in the Positron store, and the "cover art" will be available in the store, and will come down with your iTunes purchase should you go that route. But this isn't the only way, or remotely the best way. Thoughts?



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Feb.22.2008 @ 6:52 PM
That's a great question. I'm still pretty much in the dark ages - I like to buy a CD because I know that my iTunes collection will eventually get lost or "upgraded beyond" or something similar. So the notes are nice to have.

But what sort of additional info might today's consumer (and tomorrow's hoarder) want? Maybe instead of a static product, there could be occasional updates to the documentation. Say if a track is used on a TV/movie soundtrack next year, would it be possible* to have a link appear to add that on? Maybe instead of having a fixed list of how the track was created, there's an evolving list of how the track has been moving after release.

*yes, I know. I used to be a full-time software developer. "It's possible, sure. Just insanely expensive to actually do".


Feb.22.2008 @ 6:55 PM
Having 200x200 cover art embedded in the MP3 does make it really nice for use in iTunes, Windows Explorer and Media Player, Media Center Extenders and in Xbox Media Center. It's nice to have a picture to associate with an item rather than seeing the same generic music icon over and over. I'm also pretty sure that liner-note style comments can easily fit in ID3v2's Comments tag and there is also a standard Lyrics tag.

Another thought: Why not a wiki? Whenever I want info on an album, the first thing I do is google up "album name wiki". I don't know if that would be an appropriate use of Wikipedia under their rules, but that really is were I would first look for that info if it was not already embedded in the MP3.


Feb.22.2008 @ 7:04 PM
I guess it's also worth noting that as an end user, I normally don't actually care about the traditional liner note stuff. :) Who made Micronaut? Crandall? That's all I need to know! Give me a square cover picture to go along with that MP3 and I'm good to go.

Feb.22.2008 @ 7:09 PM
Pictures are great for indexing. For instance on something like the Positron store front page, the pictures are a good way of quickly scanning down entries to get at what you're interested in.

But, once CDs die a death, I can't see much point in sticking to CD-like cover art (i.e. square, single photo, etc) it'll change to whatever is appropriate to the most popular delivery method.

It's especially funny that in every mp3 store, the album graphics look like miniatures, such that you get the impression of the graphic, but you can barely make out any detail. We'll have to work on that, come up with something where information pertinent to the musical release is actually clearly legible to the customer.


Feb.22.2008 @ 7:20 PM
Well.... if we're gonna reminisce... why doesn't anyone miss the old double album cover which doubled as a perfect tray to clean your weed and roll a joint.


Feb.22.2008 @ 7:45 PM
you could just write a script and shoot a video and then link to it on youtube. the script could be you reading the liner notes and then you could have some one translate it into many languages and find someone who reads/speaks those languages and have them read those versions of the notes... ;)

or you could just add the "liner notes track" as a spoken word thing and include it at end or beginning of the album. lol. you could get some notable person to read them so then people would listen to it. maybe james earl jones or jim jarmusch or henry rollins or george clooney or eric cartman.


Feb.22.2008 @ 7:46 PM
i went snowboarding today. i wish i could edit that post so it is not engrish.

Feb.22.2008 @ 7:48 PM
I suppose the reason for 300dpi is that magazines reviewing the album will want to print a cover along with the review. But then as a journalist first and sound-engineer second, I would say that.

Feb.22.2008 @ 8:10 PM
Well, people will still want cds for a while, and magazines/newspaper still require hi-rez images. It is a good idea to continue doing our graphics the way we've done for years, i think.

CR: completely off topic, but i was wondering if you ever considered doing a version of this blog as audio podcasts, with commentary, music, reviews, demos etc.?

/| aKido |


Feb.22.2008 @ 8:37 PM
A better question for the modern age, Why are albums out of print? Why wouldn't a record company put their entire back catalogue on iTunes so I could purchase it legally? Especially if it's already been released on CD.

Back on topic, perhaps one day "album covers" will be little animated Flash movies.


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