The Liner Notes

The following comment was submitted yesterday to this column regarding a prior editorial on the Digital Downloading of albums in their entirety:

“…..there was mention of the great advantages to purchasing and downloading an album online. While I am, personally, split on the issue for reasons I will momentarily explain, I have to question one of your listed "Advantages". It was said that (in addition to saving gas and money, both things that I love about the downloading system) you saved on wasted packaging.

As a fan, regardless of musical type, this immediately struck a chord. At first I just assumed that I disagreed. After all, the packaging is part of the relic, it is part of the complete offering associated with an album. As with most rabid music fans, I associate the first listening of an album with a deep read of the liner notes. Where and when the album was recorded, lyrics, and original artwork from the musicians themselves even, the information that makes an album complete.

Then I began to think, "Is all of this part of the album?". With so much music and so many personalities out there, it is impossible to say that all packaging and liner notes are compliments to the album or are even thought of heavily by the artists themselves. But it is also impossible to say that all are not. I was wondering your thoughts as this is an issue I guess I had taken for granted for years and years…”
– Joel A.


I don’t want to appear as if I am tossing the baby out with the bathwater when I mention the excessive problems of packaging that are plaguing this world and the beloved liner notes of any album. Just as I have said before, in agreement with Thom Yorke of Radiohead and others, that the way we are experiencing music is constantly evolving and we should be aware of those changes, especially if the impact on the environment is negative.

I’m not suggesting the elimination of liner notes and art that a musician feels necessary to send to its fans. Maybe we can offer a solution to the packaging issue by making the liner notes and art an optional download with the digital music files: Something that I’m not aware of any digital vendor offering at this time.

Bands like Radiohead and Phish are going far beyond the liner notes and offering web casts, streaming audio, live performance recordings and anything else they can think of to push the envelope. I think these forms of interactive media can be equally and sometimes much more powerful than the several sheets of liner notes, print art, and plastic to wrap them.

Like you, I still sit down with the liner notes for a long read and I suppose I always will. Evolving our musical experiences should never include the elimination of nostalgia and artifacts from music past. My vinyl collection will sleep well tonight knowing I feel this way.

S. Remington – Editor
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