Tuesday, August 25, 2009

art vs. commerce

Over the last few months, I have had casual conversations with various artists - some you know and others you might not have heard of. Most of those discussion usually wound their way toward the artist's dissatisfaction with their label and its staff. It's a complaint as old as time itself. One of the things that sticks in their collective craws is the lack of attention paid to their artistic vision, especially when it comes down to the subject of cover art.

I've always been a sucker for great packaging and inspired artwork. With the advent of digital files and the disappearance of CDs and, before them, vinyl LPs, most creative departments at the labels slap together any old designs. And I use that term loosely.

So let's compare and contrast. Shall we?

Here is the original cover art for the album, "Complete Me", by Frankmusik.

Gorgeous! Really interesting, deep and layered. A work of art, if you will. This was the visual theme for the album and its attendant singles.

However, after several singles didn't exactly light the UK charts on fire, Island, the label to which Frankmusik is signed, decided this would be a better choice for the album sleeve.

Dull. Boring. Average. But hey! It's got a shot of his face on it. People will make the connection. Right? He doesn't look like a happy kitten.

Here's the proposed cover artwork for Annie's new album, "Don't Stop", which isn't terribly new since it has been well over a year since many of the songs on it originally appeared on an advance sampler.

Stunning! Who doesn't love a bit of flash and some light trickery? This release of this album has been wrestled away from the corporate hands of a major label and lovingly placed back in the domain of the artist.

The first single from the album, "I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me", was a pop masterpiece. Then artistic differences with Island, the label to which she was signed, prevented any further singles from being released and Annie, subsequently, parted ways with the company.

Here's the sleeve for the album as it was intended to be released on Island toward the end of 2008.

Yawn! Nothing that screams "star quality". Rather average. I bet the designer thought the off center, spilt image was edgy. Note to artists, especially those signed to Island. Stick to your guns on the artwork tip.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes artists don't have their best intentions in mind. At that point, an intervention is necessary. But it's important the artwork somehow convey the mood, feeling and emotion of the music contained within.

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