Saturday, January 13, 2007


Album Art & Lyrics Cards

Until a solution is presented, I'm going keep coming back to this. Now that music is going digital, what's going to happen to album art and printed lyrics? We're so quick to jump ship toward something new that we forget to look for sharks in the water. We're so quick to embrace the newest in technology that we forget to examine what we might be giving up. When it comes to album art, some think, "Good riddance to bad rubbish. No tears here if there is no album art. " On MPR's The Current music blog, Hans Eisenbeis posted "Album art! Does it matter anymore?" The title says it all, but there are several wonky album covers pictured in the post. If we want to have a discussion about album art, why don't we pick the cream of the crop, rather that the crap? I, of course, think that album art is important. I am an artist and album art is a great way to bring fine art to the masses. Album art gives fans a physical representation of musicians and bands. It allows us to connect with musicians along another dimension. Album art helps to brand musicians. It is also one avenue of employment for visual artists. If pictures of the musician or band members are included, we get to know what people look like. Another important part of album art is the printed lyrics. How often have we misinterpreted a song because the singer or our hearing wasn't as clear as desired?

I asked my daughter, who did not grow up with 12-inch albums, if she liked CD booklets with their album art. She answered in the affirmative. She especially liked being able to read the lyrics. Daughter has an iPod, and she said, "Mom, the album art comes with the downloads." I asked her to show me this album art. There it was, in postage stamp form on her iPod screen. If that's what album art has come to, why bother?

Of course, with music becoming available solely through the digital realm, album art can't remain the way it has. For one, most people download singles, rather than entire albums. We're not going to want an entire CD booklet for one song. You can find lyrics for most any song online, but I, for one, don't want to be intravenously connected to a computer 24/7. I listen to music away from the computer and want to be able to have quick access to those lyrics.

I've been pondering this problem of dying album art & lack of lyrics for a while and have a possible solution: Lyrics Cards. For each song a band creates, there could be a card produced that has lyrics on one side & art on the other. Think of playing cards, no . . . that's not quite right . . . think of Tarot cards. Lyrics cards would have to be bigger than playing cards so the lyrics would fit. I suggest cards about the size of current CD booklets, if only because most of us have CD holders we could fit them into. They'd also be big enough to show some decent artwork and allow the lyrics to be seen without a magnifying glass. I imagine Lyrics Cards to be like trading cards. We can mix-and-match with friends. We can arrange our own playlists with them. When someone downloads a song, if they desire, they could have a Lyrics Card mailed to them. Bands could use them as promotional items.

So, there you have it. My crazy idea for saving album art: Lyrics Cards. Will it work? I have no idea. Maybe I'm just an old codger at the tender age of 39. Maybe I'm not with it and the majority of people want to see album art and printed lyrics leave in a whimpering fizzle. I, however, am not ready to give up without a fight.

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