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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