Friday, August 01, 2008

CD Reading List

From a recent NYT article, a quote:
"I don’t think that many people are buying CDs, and they aren’t looking at the booklets," Mr. (Teddy) Thompson, 32, said. "I love reading that stuff, but the days of booklets are over."" I'm glad someone forgot to tell Nonesuch Records that. On a consistent basis, their CD envelope/container presentation is tops. Interesting pictures, printed lyrics, full production detail, perhaps even a quirky story or liner notes. It's all here! Perfect examples include Ry Cooder's I, Flathead, Nicholas Payton's Into the Blue, Bill Frisell's History, Mystery, Brad Mehldau Trio's latest. While I agree with Mr. Thompson on the ever-decreasing CD sales trend, I totally disagree with him as far as the CD booklets are concerned. I think that a major reason for folks to continue to buy CD's is because of the booklets. When I'm playing some music, I don't want to have to be accessing the internet each time for the album information. A well put together booklet makes the whole CD buying/listening thing much more enjoyable. Do I use the Internet for other album information? Absolutely! But, if I'm putting out money for a CD (and they certainly don't seem to be getting cheaper..yeah, yeah, yeah, the cost of CD's are affected by the price of a few cents), I don't expect to have to dig up info on the basics of the CD production. Who's playing, who's playing what, song lyrics, some discussion as to how this CD project got going. I think Teddy Thompson is not getting it, especially if you consider that he's a singer/songwriter kind of guy. His listeners absolutely need to see the lyrics if they're putting out the cash for CD's. If he truly thinks CD buyers don't pay attention to the booklet why is he even bothering putting out a CD? Why just not go the complete downloadable route?

Maybe as CD buyers we should unite and refuse to buy any CD issued that doesn't have a minimum of:
1) Playlist and credits for the songs' composers.
2) Players' names & instruments
3) Production staff & recording studio info
4) Complete lyrics to songs
5) Photo or two of (at least) main artist
6) Some verbiage on what the main artist's intent was on the recording (and NO, I don't mean a Mission Statement)
7) Minimally short "Thank You" list. God is only allowed to be mentioned once.

Am I asking too much for my $16.99-$18.99?


By now the quality of sound files has become good enough that I believe the only reason to buy a CD is for the booklet. Something precious is surely lost when an artist doesn't bother with such consumer-oriented niceties. First of all I wonder if a musical artist doesn't gain some inspiration from interaction with a visual artist. Secondly, I can't help but think a musical artist has a better chance of hooking a listener for life if she doesn't put together a snazzy-looking package packed with visual clues to some larger, mysterious aesthetic. Novellas like Cooder's remind me just how much I miss poring over the details of gate-fold LPs. With his LA Trilogy I'm one consumer who is very glad he committed himself to the extent he did.
While thinking about this subject, I realized there were albums I've purchase solely for the package art, 10,000 Days by Tool being the most recent example (Wiki). I can't really get into their style of music, but the package alone is worth the $16 I dropped for it. A trippy treat for those of us who think fondly of the Pink Floyd past.
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