Good news music lovers! This Saturday is Record Store Day 2016. We want you to go out and support your local record store, like we will be doing here in Music City. For us, physical copies of music will always be meaningful, no matter how prevalent digital music has become. In honor of RSD16, we wanted to propose a question. What makes a record cover great?
Before we can answer this question, it’s important to understand from where album covers came. Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover in 1938. He was working for Columbia Records in New York after studying at Parsons School of Design. The first album covers were designed on brown paper wrappers and were thought of as miniature posters. His covers were colorful and represented the music they represented. Want to know more about the man who invented the cover?
Steinweiss was the first, but here are a few of the most influential album cover designer’s notable works. It would be impossible to ‘cover’ everything that’s important, so please comment below if we missed your favorite! From the surrealist visionary Storm Thorgerson, to the New Wave legend Peter Saville, to the big hitters of today like Joe Perez and Brian Roettinger—here are a few names to remember:
Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, T Rex, Muse
Boston, Eric Gale, Bob James and Earl Klugh, Bob James
Joy Division, New Order, Pulp
Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Off, Foo Fighters
Givers, Florence and the Machine, Jay Z, Mark Ronson
Pusha T, Tyga, ASAP Rocky
So, what makes a great album cover? The cover must be memorable, deliver an appropriate tone that reflects or enhances the music it represents and be engaging within the space that it lives. The physical album cover allows for experimentation, layering and various print processes. For example, the foil stamping on this Glass Animals cover, or the layering of their EP, wouldn’t be possible in the digital realm. However, digital consumption of music is evolving, and it will be exciting to see what becomes of digital album packaging in the future. (Virtual high-fives from your favorite artists? One could only hope.)
Above all else, album artwork serves as a promotional tool to help market an album. Some of the best album covers make unexpected connections to the music.
Love album covers as much as we do?! Support your local record store this Saturday! Find out more about RSD16 in Nashville.
Celebrate Record Store Day 2015 in Nashville at one of these stores.
Third Man Records
Phonoluxe Records Music
Alison’s Record Shop
Because I couldn’t resist, here are a few of my personal favorite album covers. Check ’em out, then go support your local record store! Rock on.
Follow along with us tomorrow on Instagram (@st8mnt) for our Designer Album Cover Roundup!