It is generally agreed in the music business that the “art” in album artwork died with the record format. With the advent of the cassette and the CD, the space an artist had to work with was cut to at least a quarter in size. With this reduction, we saw album covers change to merely a logo of the band or a simple photo of the band hanging around looking either as intimidating as possible or stylishly depressed. Then as we get to the digital era, our size has been reduced once again leaving everyone to think any chance for artistic expression is completely lost.
But let’s have another examination of the current digital album cover potential. The only time most any of us saw the cover art for a CD was when we initially purchased the album. Afterwards, that cover was practically never seen again being lost to a stack of similarly, seldom-seen CDs. Now as our CD stack gets replaced by expanding hard drives, album covers are once again being seen; even if this is on an even smaller palette. Yet, as the screen on our MP3 players grow, so does the space for album artwork.
Now here in this digital space is where things can get interesting. If you have an album of 10+ songs, why have the same cover for every song? If you’re a pop diva, show me 10+ different looks, outfits, and ways you run your scene. Give each member of your pop-punk band their own mug shot so we can admire the nuances of each disheveled
haircut. Tell a story as the album plays along. And while we’re at it, couldn’t we even incorporate animation into this space? Perhaps, show the dance moves to your latest track. If banner ads can be animated, why not album cover art?
There’s a world of potential with digital album cover art that is being lost. This idea isn’t about to pull the recorded music industry out of its downtrodden woes, but it could at least at add a bit of life to their product. This will require some changes from the online retailers, but it could give an edge to whoever takes advantage first.
-Contributed by Trey Shelton