The first thing a fan associated with their favorite album isn’t necessarily the artist but the album art. Album covers were used as a marketing package that set the tone for the body of work from an artist. These covers often conveyed the theme of which the artist would express throughout the entire album.
As technology advanced, so did the ways audiences consume their music. Vinyl, cassette tapes, Compact Discs, and MP3s have all influenced the way audience stream music. Since audiences are receiving their music through various streaming services, the album art imagery has slowly diminished. Designers went from having a 12-inch vinyl covers to 4 inch CD cases to being reduced to simply 2 inches of space on various streaming services. These days album art is easily conveyed through the use of bold letters such as Drake’s If You’re Reading This Your Too Late and Beyoncé surprise self-titled album.
Pat Dolan involved with promotions at CBS in the 1940s said in Martina Schmitz book Facing The Music said, “Albums should be as bold and dashing as we can make them; they should stand out in dealers’ windows screaming for attention, yet always reflecting the spirit of the music inside.” Somewhere between technology and music the album art was lost in limbo, losing the importance of the image before an album.
According to Nielsen Soundscan’s year-end music report, older music outsold new releases by 4.3 million copies. Nielsen considers early music anything that was released more than 18 months ago. This marks the first time that older music has prevailed in the music industry. Nielsen stats show that while newer albums outsold in digital sales, earlier albums remained a leader in physical copies sold. Listeners are feeling nostalgic buying more vinyl for the past ten years. Nielsen states that vinyl LPs sold nearly 12 million units in 2015 alone. Singer-songwriter Adele sold 5.98 million copies of her album 25 which led to fans buying her past albums 21 and 19. Both of her previous albums, 19 and 21, sold a total of 8 million units in 2015.
Over the years, Adele’s album art has consisted of only featuring various angles of her facial features. This conveys to audiences that the album is intimate, focusing on her trials and tribulations through life. Artists are forgetting that the art of the album isn’t just the music but the cover as well.