When you say “cover photo” today, most folks 25 and under assume you’re talking about the big picture at the top of a Facebook profile, but in the not-too-distant past, there were these things called records, tapes, and CD’s that held music on them. These products came with cover photos and artwork that were designed to catch the consumer’s eye in a music store. Especially when it came to records (which were 12″ x 12″), these covers were often considered works of art in their own right; they had to be at that size!
In today’s digital age, however, cover photos are virtually irrelevant. Most people never even see an artist’s picture when listening to them because the song pops up at random on Pandora or Spotify. If anyone actually looks at it, it’s probably not going to be larger than 3 inches on a screen, so there’s not much call for attention to detail (or, really, high-resolution).
It seems that some artists and/or labels have taken note of this trend. Crossroads is releasing two new albums in September with what you might consider “minimalist” design:
With Steve Ladd’s album, there is still some artwork involved (the lettering seems to be a stencil above the image of a creek). In the case of the Wisecarvers, the cover photo actually IS a real photo and not an after-effect (kudos to the photographer on that one!), which is a pretty cool concept….if it were on a 12″ vinyl cover. Sadly, when viewing on a mobile device, the artwork looks like just an outline or cut-out effect. To be honest, when I received the physical CD for review, I thought the same thing until I noticed the light reflecting off of their shoes.
In both cases, however, the main appearance is that of a simple, black & white album cover (whereas in 1985, the Singing Americans released an album that was actually titled Black and White, and still had more color/detail, thanks in part to Michael English’s red bowtie, but I digress….).
These aren’t the only two opting for the “simple” design, either. Three Bridges is also foregoing the cover photo with a simpler design, while Bill Gaither is abandoning all cover photos (for now, anyway) on his latest compilation. Are we moving away from album cover artwork as a whole, or is it just less of a priority in this digital age?
P.S. I purposely didn’t include 8-tracks above because they usually had cheap-looking stickers with 3″ x 3″ photos of the LP cover….wait a minute….kinda like looking at an album cover on a smartphone. HOLY SMOKE, 8-TRACKS PREDICTED THE FUTURE OF MUSIC!!!