Lookin’ at the devil / Grinnin’ at his gun

We’ve talked about this at work, where you might spend the time to do a cool pack­age, it just does­n’t have a disc in it. And instead of a disc, you’ve got a lit­tle piece of paper that says “go here for your down­load.”

So says Jeff Klein­smith, Sub Pop’s Art Direc­tor, who mus­es the idea that you buy a piece of art and the audio comes free with it (thus, of course pro­tect­ing his job whilst the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pro­vid­ing the music an out­let).

Whilst the idea is not any­where near­ly as rad­i­cal as the blog­ger sug­gests, the notion of tying music as a down­load­able sync with a high­er lev­el of art and design than acts who have in the past giv­en away their music with news­pa­pers of mag­a­zines as a down­load (and there are a few) sounds like yet anoth­er poten­tial val­ue-added way to sell music.

But is it any more rad­i­cal­ly inven­tive than sell­ing a video with a song as the sound­track? I’ve bought Anton Cobi­jn videos of bands I dis­like sim­ply because they offer me some­thing I want­ed to enjoy visu­al­ly 1:

How­ev­er, this scur­ry­ing around to try and pre­serve an indus­try that is still not doing too bad­ly still strikes me as odd. Yes, albums sales are down, but over­all unit sales, even if there are some hic­cups, are roar­ing ahead.  And per­for­mance income, as I’ve stat­ed before (yes I know I’m a stuck record) is at record lev­els and grow­ing.

If you are a writ­ing musi­cian it real­ly ain’t a bad time to cre­at­ing right now. 5% growth – in a reces­sion.

But what is just as odd is the idea that music if it need­ed sav­ing, can be saved by pack­ag­ing it with a bit of art.

Very, very odd.

I’m sure many is the music con­sumer (not music lover – that weird phrase so used by the NZ media – what does it mean? ‘Music Lovers queued up for tick­ets to…’ was, typ­i­cal­ly, on TV One’s news a month or so ago – no peo­ple that like that par­tic­u­lar artist may have queued up, music lovers, who­ev­er they are, did not en mass) who likes a bit of art or design, cut­ting edge or oth­er­wise. How­ev­er, pas­sion for music being what it is, I doubt if swarms would be dri­ven to pur­chase that music sole­ly, or even pri­mar­i­ly because it came free attached to a cool pack­age.  I’ll leave that to the art lovers. Isn’t that what the album cov­er is all about? And many many album cov­ers are already works of art, some quite extrav­a­gant. Any­one remem­ber the San­tana Lotus pack­ag­ing? It must’ve almost bank­rupt­ed CBS.

Or maybe I’m the odd one. I buy music because I’m like­ly to swoon to it; to dance to it; or most­ly, because it makes me feel fuck­ing won­der­ful, even if that won­der­ful is mis­er­able some­times.

If those boom­ing unit sales mean any­thing they show us that music is about music, not the way it’s pack­aged: those sales fig­ures are dom­i­nat­ed by sequences of 1s & 0s that have no sleeve or art­work.

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but it sim­ply is. So sor­ry Jeff Klein­smith, you are actu­al­ly a hell of an Art Direc­tor, respon­si­ble for all sorts of icon­ic bits and pieces, but the music will and does speak for itself most­ly.

Show 1 foot­note

  1. In this case I bought a DVD, in Shang­hai, of a col­lec­tion of his vids — half the acts on it I dis­like, a cou­ple I hate, but it’s visu­al­ly won­drous

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