Sales of music CDs in the US are in a state of “terminal decline”, and are projected to continue dropping by an average annual rate of 13% from now through 2017 and will probably never see “any kind of sales increase again”. Ironically, as some believe, they could be saved from complete extinction only by consumers who come to see them as a “nostalgia niche product”.
Maybe a day will come, far off in the future, when history will repeat itself and CDs will experience the resurgence that vinyl sales have been experiencing recently. But even with vinyl sales growing, the total physical market for music in the US is already dwarfed by digital sales, and the disparity is only going to get worse. The same trends are happening globally as well.
As physical sales of music have dropped, some observers have worried that album art would also become less and less significant, both as an art form and as a draw for consumers. I used to be one of those people. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t base my optimism on any hard data, just my own observations, and so maybe I’m guilty of wishful thinking. But at least in the world of metal, it sure seems that fans still care about quality album art, and that striking album art draws fans into music they would otherwise never discover — even if they’re only buying digital downloads.
Fewer and fewer people may feel the attraction of holding a physical release in their hands, but at least in metal (and I would guess far more than in any other music genre), most people still like to wear the artwork associated with the bands they love. Maybe that’s one reason I feel optimistic — people still like their band shirts and hoodies, and the artwork that adorns them.
I’m also seeing more and more bands and labels who are giving prominent credit to the artists who create their covers (though, perplexingly, I still see PR announcements of album-cover unveilings that never mention the artist’s name). Getting talented artists who have some name recognition to create eye-catching album art seems to be an increasing source of pride, both for labels and for bands. And to be clear, I’m not just talking about veterans such as Travis Smith, Dan Seagrave, and Necrolord. A lot of younger metal artists are making names for themselves, too. And in my book, that’s a very good thing.
I was thinking these thoughts last night because of the attention being given in the interhole to two album-art announcements by two of my favorite artists (and I have a shitload of favorites, as regular readers well know). In neither case did the announcements accompany the premiere of any music. In both cases, the albums’ release dates are still far off and no music is yet available for streaming. These are two more cases, in other words, where the artwork itself is being used to build interest in the music.
The first example is the one you saw at the top of this post. Let’s make it even bigger:
The artist is Paolo Girardi, and this killer creation will appear on the cover of the debut album by Articifial Brain, which is entitled Labyrinth Constellation. I believe this marks the Madman’s first album art for the Profound Lore label, who will be releasing Labyrinth Constellation in early 2014.
I’m especially happy to see this because Artificial Brain are a band I’ve been following for more than two years, writing about their first three-song EP, their first music video, their latest two-song offering that appeared last spring, and finally their signing by PL. Seeing that PL has hooked up with the Madman for the album cover just makes this little Cinderella story all the more sweet.
Now let’s gaze upon the other piece of artwork that was unveiled late yesterday (and you can make the image even larger by clicking on it):
The creator in this case is Denver-based artist Ken Sarafin (Sarafin Concepts), and in my humble opinion this is one of the best things he’s ever done. The artwork will appear on the cover of the second album by Sacramento’s The Kennedy Veil, which is entitled Trinity of Falsehood. It will be released worldwide on January 21, 2014 by Unique Leader Records. We haven’t written about The Kennedy Veil as much at NCS as Artificial Brain, but our Sacramento-based writer DGR has been high on them for a while, and this album is definitely one we’re highly anticipating.
Okay, as much as I love good metal album art, I also hate to post anything on this site that doesn’t come with music to hear. So, I’ll wrap this up with a stream of Artificial Brain’s latest two-song release, Butchering Cosmic Giants, and the full-album stream of The Kennedy Veil’s first full-length, The Sentence of Their Conqueror.