Weekly survey: Do you miss album artwork and liner notes?

I spent part of the weekend filing records and CDs, a task that should have taken no more than 15 minutes. But it took much longer than that because I kept stopping to look at the artwork and read the liner notes.

That’s when it struck me again: With the rise of digital tracks and streaming, we don’t spend much time–if any!–with album artwork and liner notes.

This used to be a big part of the music experience. I can’t tell you how many times I bought a record or CD simply because it looked good. Yes, sometimes I got burned, but most of the time it turned out to be worth the risk. I also spent countless hours pouring over liner notes while the album played, trying to divine as much information as I could about what I was listening to.

Today, though, this experience has been almost completely removed from music culture. With digital tracks and streaming, we don’t get elaborate artwork and liner notes. So here was the question: Do you miss this? Here are your choices:

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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5 thoughts on “Weekly survey: Do you miss album artwork and liner notes?

  • No because I still buy LPs and CDs. Unless I really want it and can’t get a physical copy I will buy digital but do not use streaming services. I want to support musicians and streaming does not support musicians, just record companies.

  • It was part of the listening experience, especially before music video television. I also spent many hours in front of a set of speakers or wearing headphones, pouring over an album cover or inner sleeve while listening to it. Much of the time it was about more than just the lyrics. You could learn what instruments the band played on the songs, who wrote them, guest musicians, producers, engineers. You could use this to make connections to other bands, sometimes leading you to new favourites. I also have a few albums where the label included a cut sheet of other artists you could order. So much information that streaming just doesn’t provide.

  • I still buy physical media and think about this sometimes. Part of the thrill of records in particular for me is the art. The instant you see something and recognize who made it, perhaps the label it’s style is associated with because they employ one or two deisngers that have developed something as instantly recognizble as.. Terry Cole/Leroi Conroy from Colemine Records in Loveland, Ohio or Mo’ Manley’s work for Funk Night Records in Detroit or more recently for me, Brett Savage from the group Dead Sea Apes who does quite a bit of work designing cover art for albums released on Cardinal Fuzz Records in the UK. It’s like running into friends, so to speak.. part of being the musical historian that is a collector/DJ is romaing through the liner notes and noticing credits, who performed/produced/engineered/mastered, what label it was released by, shout outs to other bands/artists and using this information to connect the dots between some of my favourite records and the actual people and wider community behind all this art and not just names on a dusty jacket sitting on a shelf.

  • Absolutely I like album covers and liner notes. That’s why I still but physical product. I want to get a deeper insight into bands I care about. I believe the Grammy’s even had a category for Best Liner Notes. Sometimes, I’ll grab 10 CDs and review the liner notes as a refresher. With today’s “popular” music sounding the same from song to song, there’s probably not much interest in reading liner notes and not much to gain from Bomp bomp bomp bompbompbomp…

  • I too really miss the experience of a physical artefact in my hands to peruse while listening to the music. It might explain the popularity of remastered box sets from vintage artists like the Beatles, John Lennon, The Stones et al – people of a certain age just want the total aesthetic package and no amount of digital convenience will make up for it. I collect the occasional cheesy, budget album and often find myself fascinated by the effort made at the time to write liner notes which are often illuminating. I found a site that caters to this kind of genre and best of all they show the back of the record as well as the front so you can read and enjoy the liner notes too. Probably not to everyone’s taste but I’d recommend a look for a trip down nostalgia lane – coverheaven.co.uk


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