music makes the people come together

I keep hearing about how the music industry is strugling. Some musicians mention it (though typically only when asked by an interviewer), but usually its the PR folks for the majors speaking on behalf of the big wigs.

I have a decent-sized music collection, on my hard drives, in CDs, cassettes, and LPs. Most of it was obtained legally from overpriced stores. A lot of it is bootlegs. Some of it I downloaded illegally, and I have no guilt for that because I feel I’ve paid my dues. If I download a commercially available song illegally (which hasn’t happend in close to a year), it’s because I want to get a feel for the artist. Or maybe it’s an old song from an album I sold years ago.

But I’ll buy just about any music if it’s $10 or under, just because I think that’s a good buy. Like a DVD that’s $15 or under, I feel that money is well spent. I can usually get a brand new album, like Get Behind Me Satan, for $10 at Target or Best Buy on its release date. (Sorry, Electric Fetus.)

So you’d think I’m all about iTunes or Napster or other legal music download services. But I’m not. As you read recently in this here blog, I had an iPod and sold it because I simply wasn’t using it, and I do not like the sound of compressed music. But still, $9.99 for an album is decent, and 99 cents a song is a steal.

However, nobody has discussed what is lost (besides sonic quality) when downloading music (either legally or illegally). Album art is a dying art, I’m afraid. Perhaps when the industry wakes up and realizes that soon enough, more downloads will be purchased than CDs sold, they will include album art with the download.

I am totally willing to pay $1 more for a real CD with album art. Something tangible. I like displaying my music collection in my living room. I’m proud of it. I can’t do that with downloads. I’ve got a shelf of CDs I’ve either downloaded or burned from friends…they are all in those stupid skinny jewel cases so despite keeping them in alphabetical order, I have to flip through them one-by-one to locate what I need. I’m soon moving all of those to a huge magazine CD holder, but still, the glory of displaying even all those skinny cases is gone with such a practice.

Album art has gone through major changes. It’s bad enough that it was shrunk down to a quarter of its original size from the LP cover to a CD, which of course has its own benefits (bigger booklets). Packaging as a whole is itself an art, and becomes part of the album experience. Take Sigor Ros’ album ( ), for example. I’m sure Beck’s latest album had a special edition that included a large book-like case, extra tracks, and a (crappy) DVD just so people would pay the extra money instead of download the ablum.

Will album art die or simply be included in future downloads? iTunes’ attempt to “display cover art” is incredibly lame. When you rip a CD with Windows media player, it does include some cover art, but as far as I know, iTunes does not do this. I think this is such a shame.

Long live album art!!

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