Technological n’ roll was one of the most popular

Technological and social factors work hand in hand
in shaping the way that album covers have evolved. Album covers played a
crucial role in marketing for musicians as well as being a creative outlet for
the designers themselves. Album artwork has always been about recognisable
branding on top of being an expression of the artist. Company logos and album
covers function in a similar way – logos help consumers identify a brand’s
product just as album artwork helps music consumers identify a musician. In the
1960’s and 1970’s, rock n’ roll was one of the most popular genres of music at
the time. Album artwork was an integral part of the identity of most famous
rock bands of the era (Cook, 2013). Record companies utilised album covers as a
way of selling their musicians to the consumer. They added extra information to
the covers such as lyric pages and small photographic inserts of the band
members in order to make a personal connection with fans and buyers (Cook,
2013). This began to fuel fan culture as consumers no longer just wanted to buy
records for the sake of it, they wanted album covers as a form of memorabilia
which in turn helped ensure the longevity of album artwork.


In the digital age, the function of album artwork
serves a different purpose. The focus of album designers seems to have shifted
to being more concerned with creating a successfully recognisable brand.
Needless to say, in the vinyl age artists still wanted a recognisable brand as
with the release of their latest albums it announced the overall tone of the
album and therefore cemented the brand they were trying to convey for certain
eras. These campaigns were usually fully thought out and cohesive whereas
nowadays artists can rely on other elements of branding campaigns to get by
(McKinney, 2015). The internet has changed the way in which musicians promote
their albums. With 4 of the 5 most followed accounts on Twitter being musicians
(Statista, 2018), it is safe to say that the mass followings that artists
gather online are a powerful way to market their albums as it gives them access
to a wider audience. Today, album covers for most mainstream artists are
usually either photographs of the band/singer themselves or a graphic with text
which are usually quite minimalist in nature. This appeals to the medium in
which awareness for new music is spread – the internet. Many albums in the past
few years have managed to go viral which means that a piece of media content
spreads very quickly throughout the internet (Collins English Dictionary,
2017). Album covers that become social media memes on release evoke an instant
response from listeners. For example, rap artist Drake sold 495,000 copies of
his 2015 album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ after releasing it
suddenly without any promotion (The Verge, 2015).

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The evolution of technology has played the most
influential role in the success of the evolution of album covers/artwork.
Without technological advancements such as the creation of CD players and
digital music players, album covers would have remained at their large size and
solely in physical format. Although the majority of music is listened to
online, CD covers still are in production which means that album artwork is
alive in both the physical world and digital. Social factors also play a role
in the evolution of this media form although it is not as prevalent as the
technological aspects, without obsessive fan culture record covers would not
have been as successful and therefore may not have lasted as long. Although the
physicality of album covers is not as common in this day and age, the branding
and marketing techniques of record labels has lead to some controversial yet iconic
album covers being produced.



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