As a staunch proponent of physical product even 2-3 years ago I would covet CDs for their tangibility, album artwork, and superior sound quality. Now I just view them as a nuisance, items that take up space when there is a more efficient and convenient option available.

But I really don’t wish this to be a debate about the merits of physical product. The Austerity Program’s Justin Foley already covered that. What I’m specifically concerned with here is how modern metal fans value album artwork, a subject which is inextricably tied to the aforementioned debate but can stand somewhat on its own.

When it comes to album artwork I’m kind of over it too. I definitely enjoy cool album covers and associating visuals with bands, but I feel like these days those visual needs are better served by carefully curating an artist’s appearance via their website, MySpace page, merch, posters and their general aesthetic. These mediums are WAY more expressive than a single image on a sleeve anyway, and in the context of digital music the meaning of the word “cover” — something which serves as the face of and protects from damage what’s inside — is rendered meaningless. The concept of an album cover seems kind of quaint in the Internet age; a cover used to serve as something cool to grab your eye on the record shelves in the store, but it definitely doesn’t serve that purpose anymore. Today we have more efficient recommendation tools that hone in on what a band sounds like much more accurately and efficiently than a drawing or photo, and we easily and instantly look up lyrics, album credits and other information online — more than we ever could’ve crammed into an album sleeve.

Again, I want to stress that I’m not anti-visual or anti-art… I’m just saying that the idea of  an album cover and album artwork is outdated.

What do you guys think? And because this argument is surely (at least to some degree) tied to the way in which you were brought up, please also tell us your age.


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