Why I Hate Music Downloads

Skull on Computer Window

It’s not the downloading of music itself that I hate. What I hate about it is the missing booklet. When I buy music – especially reissues – I’d like to have some information about it. I want as much credits as possible: musicians, songwriters, arrangers, producers, time and place of recording and so on. And I don’t mind a short biography of the artists and some nice photos.

iTunes for example won’t give you any of these credits. Although theoretically it would be possible. Every iTunes file comes with an “Info” tab where you can edit information about the file such as the artist’s name, album title, name of the songwriter, year of production and there’s also a comment box. Usually they only give you the name of the artist and the album title. That’s it. Sometimes they add the year of production. But if it’s a reissue the year of production often refers to the reissue and not to the original production date.

So you really only get the music and nothing else when you download. No added value. If you buy a CD you have a booklet with at least some information. It’s true, some downloads at iTunes come with a virtual booklet. But it’s a kind of hassle. Either you store it somewhere on your hard drive where you probably will never find it again or you write a CD, print the booklet, take scissors, cut it out and stuff it into a tiny jewel case. So much for the digital age …

Yes, it’s great to have immediate access to music. But it’s not enough for music lovers. Here’s my hint for record labels: allocating well researched background information that comes with a well designed booklet is a market niche for CDs.

Why Did They Make CD Graphics So Ugly?

Back Cover Abbey Road CD

When the first CDs came on the market in the nineteen-eighties, most music lovers were happy. The time of noisy and scratched vinyl LPs was over for good.

And the record companies were happy, too. Very happy. Because they could reissue their back catalogs at low costs and sell them on the then very expensive CDs. It was the last time that record companies made big money before music went on line and the downloading started.

What always troubled me, was the bad art work of the CDs. I’m not talking about the front cover. I’m talking about the back cover. Usually they reprinted the original vinyl art work. But on the back cover and on the CD itself they used ugly small square boxes in order to number the songs.

All companies used these ugly square boxes. Maybe the wanted to express with these boxes, that this sound carrier was digital indeed. Probably the square boxes were used as a symbol for digital, and should have indicated that this new thing is well organized, clean and modern. I don’t know. Over time the ugly boxes started disappearing. But you still can find them on a lot of CDs.

I also wonder why they came up with the ugly plastic cases. But that’s another story.