The Album is Dead, but Album Art Lives On Digitally

The Album is Dead, but Album Art Lives On Digitally

Microsoft has unceremoniously announced the death of its not so popular Zune MP3 Player. With technologies like MP3 players without 3G access becoming obsolete, there has been no chance for CDs to remain a viable purchasing option. While CD jukeboxes and MP3 players no longer require technical support from electronics stores, music consumers will need support from graphic designers. Here are five reasons why designing for musicians is a still a big deal:

Social Music

Facebook and the Swedish social music company Spotify have brought a new spin to how we view our music. Users of these new shared hosting services can view their friend’s playlists, post their favorite selections to Facebook and Twitter, and play an unlimited collection of music through their smartphones.

For music designers, this makes the packaging and artwork surrounding a band’s album even more important. A properly designed album will usually show up right next to a song or album on a phone, music service, or social media. This is a great way to associate a solid image with a sound and capture listeners in a sensory overload.

Augmented Reality

Smartphones are now a beacon for virtual reality technology. Wired magazine features a John Mayer music video that places the user directly behind John Mayer’s head when they place their smartphone up to a webcam. It was a partnership with Adobe that Mayer himself described as a 3-D hologram.

The pop-punk band Blink 182 also struck up a deal with Frito-Lay to allow people who purchase Doritos to wave a special AR chip on the bag into a webcam and view a video on the back of the bag.


A lot of rock bands and indie musicians are turning to vinyl to get the classic feel of the music back. This technique is not only an old school approach to sound engineering, it is also a way to create mind-blowing cover art. During the 1960’s and 1970’s it was vital to have an awesome design or band portrait in order to get the attention of album store patrons. Artists employed designers like Hipgnosis and treated them as extensions of the band themselves.

If you walk into a record store, you usually come into contact with record enthusiasts and collectors. If you wish to monetize your band you can offer a digital version of your album available on iTunes. After that you can create special packages that include extras like loaded USB flash drives, specialized artwork, and other goodies. Bands like The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, and Pearl Jam are excellent recent of groups who have used this technique.


Not everyone actively searches for music they like.  The majority of music listeners are getting their information via pop radio stations, friends, and streaming Internet stations. In order to identify your band with its relevant genre, it is important to associate the artwork with what is appropriate.

If you are marketing someone like Katy Perry, bright florescent and technicolor will stand out better. If you are marketing a band like Radiohead, you should use minimalism and industrial elements. If you’re marketing a metal band, employ fantasy and science fiction designs.

User Interactivity

Not only should the packaging on CDs and other music media be artistic, it should  perform basic functions that allow fans deeper access to bands. While people may be reluctant to purchase physical copies of music, they will still be able to discover information from retail displays and physical albums using such things as QR codes and NFC technology located on smartphones.

Unlike physical CDs, artwork has taken a stronghold in the digital arena. By not utilizing a creative and defiant design strategy for the artist you are promoting, you are risking the chance of losing the strong personal connection that graphic design is capable of. Just like the rest of popular music, keep in mind that image is everything.