With Record Store Day being increasingly popular again this year, you have to wonder just how much of a renewed renaissance vinyl records are going to have. While they’ve increased in a niche market, they still may not have the sales of MP3’s or even declining CD’s. Ironically, the digital market may be helping to bring a groundswell of interest back to vinyl thanks to something long overdue that began last year.
The New York Times wrote a piece in 2013 about how digital music service Rhapsody undertook an interesting project: Bringing back the liner notes people remember from CD’s and the vinyl era. Since last year, Rhapsody has been attempting to compile millions of liner notes for all recordings publicly available. On those liner notes, people can finally see what date the recording was done, who produced it, plus all the other personnel who were in the studio. It’s an overwhelming project that some people may not even be aware of, and one perhaps showing the merging of the vinyl era with digital services.
Going the above route was the only way to appease the Baby Boomers who essentially grew up through the birth of the 33-rpm vinyl record in the 1950s on through to its death in the early 1990s. They were also the first adopters of the CD, which offered everything one saw on vinyl, only in reduced form. Once the MP3 caught on, though, the age of the liner notes and album art seemed lost forever for the sake of only wanting the music and nothing else.
Regardless, the digital music industry perhaps heard all the laments about wanting more out of music downloads than just the song. Part of that was being able to enjoy the album artwork so many people missed seeing. With much of this being brought back in the vinyl revival, digital music services are also stepping up to the plate to bring some of it back.
Is Album Artwork Having a Digital Comeback?
If you happened to purchase any of The Beatles albums on iTunes in the last several years, you may have noticed that they offered a chance to see the original album covers in their full glory. This included any photos on the back of the album, as well as inside to give you a feel of what it was like to buy the original vinyl back in the 1960s. Despite purists likely scoffing at such a thing and saying holding the real thing is so much better, the digital generation at least had an option to experience a lost art. Nevertheless, it seems only available on The Beatles albums and little else.
Will the next digital conquest be to catalog all of the album art of the past and making it digitally viewable while we listen to our albums on iTunes? There may be some who don’t care about anything other than music, even if they don’t realize how much the artwork and notes brought an overall better appreciation of the album in total. Including new albums today, understanding artist intent sometimes has to be done through artwork and notes rather than directly through the music.
Eventually, the renaissance of the vinyl record may be competing with the digital version of the very same thing. Who wins out will be a matter of how tangible we want to be with an album. Because art has to be tangible sometimes, digital artwork and liner notes may persuade Generation Y to go buy one of those mysterious large black discs that once littered every home decades ago.