On Pirating, Google, Copyright, Substance, and New Order album covers.

Twenty years ago, the US studios announced that the end of civilization as we know it was at hand; the destructive force was the video-cassette recorder. Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, went before Congress and said that "The growing and dangerous intrusion of this new technology is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone." - John Lanchester

Lanchester's phrase, “an amazing variety of beautiful forms,” applies to the best music packaging as much as it does to books. There is an undeniable sense of completeness when music comes with handsome packaging and engaging graphical material. -Adrian Shaughnessy

The corporations have the power, and they are not afraid to use it. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US considerably extended the range of both criminal and civil offences that could be committed over copyright issues. There is a clause in US film contracts which awards the producers rights "in perpetuity and throughout the universe and for any and all forms of expression whether now existing or hereafter devised". As far as I can tell, the only loophole in that is if you fell through a crack in the space-time fabric of the universe into a parallel one. (In case you're wondering how that bizarre clause came about, it was as a result of a lawsuit between Disney and the singer Peggy Lee over the video-cassette edition of Lady and the Tramp. Her contract was drawn up before the existence of VCRs and she sued on the basis that Disney did not automatically have the right to sell videos without her permission. She won $3.8m, and the "throughout the universe" clause was born, to make sure the studios never went through anything like that again.) - John Lanchester

"..is the determination of the micro labels to continue producing CD and vinyl packaging anything other than the remnants of a fanboy obsession with recorded music common amongst people who grew up in the pre-digital era? Most of the label owners I’ve interviewed for my book have talked about the usual teenage interest in band logos, enduring love affairs with New Order album covers, and fixations with the "smell of records." But are we talking about something deeper here? Does music need some sort of physicality to maintain its intrinsic value? If our favourite music merely exists as a sliver of invisible code on a computer, do we lose something?.." -Adrian Shaughnessy

excerpted from "It's a Steal" in The Guardian Unlimited and "Are JPEGs the new Album Covers?" in Design Observer.

What goes on in your mind?


Greg Davis said...

i think with the physical object (cd, record, book, etc) there is a sense of ownership of it and a sense of longevity. something you can cherish and use for years and years. digitally delivered media seems more abstract and maybe more temporary or prone to be lost or deleted. ive had hard drive crashes before and lost my entire mp3 collection (which is rather large). so there is a temporary feeling with mp3s and that it could all be gone at any time. but the thing about mp3s is that you can redownload them again and replace things that are lost quite easily.
i really still enjoy the physical object and i buy music today with more of an awareness that im supporting musicians / bands that i like. the only thing that i dont like is the accumulation of objects (cds, books, records) it tends to crowd my life a little bit. mp3s win in that regard because you can have thousands of albums in a tiny little box......

Tanner M. said...

I fully agree with that your sentiment. I keep alot of MP3s, and then when i can, buy vinyl... i find it to be the best of both worlds (though not because "vinyl" is better... which it is.)

I found it encouraging to see labels like jagjaguwar and secretly canadian including a link and password to download the MP3's of an album inside the vinyl packaging. To me that's a step in the right direction.

The ARBitrator said...

The vast majority of albums I've downloaded on to my computer (or copied from friends) I end up buying on CD anyway. (I don't actually have an mp3 player!) I still like being able to physically get a hold of a real CD and stick it in a cd player, and put it in a real case when I'm done with it.

If I need to download a song because the band is attempting to learn it, mp3's do come in quite handy.

jay said...

Record companies brought music piracy upon themselves. They moved away from vinyl and cassettes because CD's are cheaper to mass produce, and the technology turned on them. Boo hoo.

I say we just go back to vinyl. You can't easily copy it digitally, the album art is better & most audiophiles will argue that the quality trumps what CDs offer (though this is highly dependent on the quality of the turntable and stylus and I would argue that SACD and HDCD rival even the best 180g vinyl).

That said, I used to download a lot of my music, but now I buy 90+% of what I listen to. This is for several reasons: desire to support artists and indie record shops, audiophile snobbery (say what you will but a 128kpbs mp3 is noticeably inferior to the sound quality of a CD)...but most of, Shaughnessy's quote sums it up best:

Does music need some sort of physicality to maintain its intrinsic value?

Absolutely. Like any art form, music doesn't exist within a single sensory vaccuum. If you go to a live show, you're not just responding to the music you're hearing. You're responding to the hall you're in, the physicality of the people around you, the temperature in the room, the smells, the contact buzz you're getting from the guy in front of you smoking a massive joint.

Same with recorded music. It's not just the music itself--the album art, the media format used, etc. all add to the experience. Think of the difference between playing mp3s of "Sticky Fingers" of "Velvet Underground & Nico" vs. having the record in front of you, unzipping the fly or peeling the banana. Or maybe another album that isn't so homoerotic.

Well, you get the point....

Tanner M. said...

temper all that homoeroticism w/ some Roxy Music album artwork.

lol - someone needs to do a mashup of VU and Sticky Fingers and work those two album artworks together... image the possibilities...

jay said...

Speaking of Roxy Music album covers...


ben said...

vinyl sales are up 10% and the recording industry can't figure out why:

he should pay us all his market research $ just to tell him.