Super Bowl Sunday started off with a huge bang with the overnight surprise release of My Bloody Valentine’s long-overdue (22 years overdue) new album. The news popped on my phone during the night and by 6:00am I was watching the MP3s download onto my computer. For the next 12 hours, my ears were filled with the fuzzed-out, shoegazing drone of joy.
My Bloody Valentine “mbv”
This procedure of downloading files to receive new tunes is commonplace now. Most of us tend to download or stream for our recorded music as needed. The days of going to the store to purchase music in physical formats seems eons ago. But what made my download experience so much different on Sunday morning was I not only purchased the MP3s—I also purchased the vinyl release (and hopefully will get it in a month).
For those around the BMSD office, it is not surprise that I am a huge fan of the vinyl music format—I get at least two records in the mail each week. But many casual music fans don’t realize that the physical format is still alive and selling. Sure, CDs keeping diving in sales (down 13% in 2012), but vinyl records keep making sales leaps (up almost 18% in 2012) after taking much of the first decade in the 2000’s off.
Vinyl is part of my music listening experience. Holding something. Looking at the artwork. Reading the liner notes. Spreading out all of the extras that the download did not bring you (postcards, stickers, photos, etc.). (And for those of you that don’t know, almost all vinyl records come with a download code for the MP3s, or a CD version is included.)
The tactile, immersive vinyl experience reminds me why I chose to write this blog post. (What, we still have not gotten to the point here?) The 55th Grammys will be airing this coming Sunday, February 10. I am sure you will see some lip-syncing during the broadcast, but you will not see the nomination or winners announced for the packaging awards. Yep, the Grammys hand out two awards for packaging: BEST RECORDING PACKAGE and BEST BOXED OR SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION PACKAGE. This is one category that reminds us that the physical format is alive—and that designers are still being allowed to show off their skills coming up with amazing concepts (rather than just being confined to a square downloadable album cover).
I worked in the music industry for most of my career, and I spent a majority of the time working with packaging design concepts. I was even lucky enough to be associated with some of the nominations for the packaging Grammy. And those 10 nominees are just a peek at the hundreds of creative packaging concepts that ship out each year.
My favorite vinyl packaging design is from Barsuk Records in Seattle. Their “Houdini 7″” record release from the band Jessamine was so well designed, it actually frustrated some people to no end. The record label finally had to post a how-to in their FAQ section so people could open it:
How the ?&#! do you open the Jessamine Houdini 7″ ? : This single comes with a padlock and key; the key, however, is kept in a small pouch inside the packaging. In true Houdini fashion, you must pick the lock in order to get at the contents. I recommend bending a paper clip into an ‘S’ shape and using the smaller, rounded end to pick the lock. Usually works like a charm.
Here’s some other packaging designs I dig:
Teen Beat’s 2012 reissue for Unrest’s epic “Perfect Teeth” came with stellar packaging design and lots of fun things.
Menomena “Friend And Foe” – nominated in 2008 for the Best Packaging Grammy.
Light in the Attic’s reissue of the last six years of Stax Record singles. Comes with a book, record box, and of course—the MP3 downloads.
Radiohead’s vinyl packaging for “King of Limbs” made all who purchased it feel like they got a great value…and then there was the music.
Not sure who could afford this monstrosity…but Pearl Jam outdid themselves with the reissue of their first album.
And finally, some concepts for a Nada Surf packaging project that I worked on, including some of the band’s original ideas, and the final product. This gives you a look at the (long) process of packaging design, from idea to execution.
This weekend, grab a cup of coffee and visit your local record store. (If you head over to Reckless Records, you might run into me.) Browse through the records and check out the cool packaging concepts. If you’re a creative-type person, this is a great source of inspiration. (And even if you don’t have a creative job, every brain deserves a dose of cool.) Maybe even buy a record and dig through the liner notes and neat extras. You’ll get the full music experience—and you just might become a vinyl convert.
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