Despoiling CD artwork

Tuesday, May 03, 2005 | 06:28 AM
in Music

Who are the warning labels on CDs geared to?  Consider this for a moment, if you will:  Isn't warning the people who actually buy CDs counter-productive?

There is the marketing aspect of it: While the main reason I purchase CDs is the superior recording quality -- CDs simply sound much better than MP3s.  But the other reason to actually make a purchase (versus download) is the physical disc's artwork, lyrics, etc. 

That space is on the jewel case is a marketer's delight, handled repeatedly by the consumer while enjoying the product. Recall the lament when Albums went the way of the dodo about the much smaller CD disc and packaging. The industry would have been better off putting the 5 inch disc in an album sized sleeve, along with a little travel envelope. Why give up that massive adverising space?  Its a way for an artist to develop his or her "brand," and establish a relationship with the fan.       

This subject came up again recently when I came across something wrtitten by Francis Heaney. (He's the author of Holy Tango of Literature). Heaney is rather annoyed. "I predict a riot," Heaney recently wrote, using the title of a Kaiser Chiefs song.

The source of his ire?  These very same Piracy warnings on CDs:

Kaiser2_1"It really annoyed me when CD companies starting putting FBI anti-piracy messages on the back of CDs. I was all like, shut up! I bought the CD. I'm contributing my goddamn money to your dark satanic mills! Get off my back!

The first such warning I remember seeing was on the back of Elvis Costello's "The Delivery Man." Elvis clearly wasn't pleased about it being there, adding this disclaimer above it: "This artist does not endorse the following warning. The FBI doesn't have his home phone number and he hopes that they don't have yours."

Well, I just bought the new Kaiser Chiefs CD -- which, I feel I should point out, I downloaded in its entirety before purchasing. You know, I was dubious about the album because I felt like, oh god, another cheeky young British band coming in on the heels of the Futureheads and their ilk, it can't be that good, can it? But I liked it quite a bit, so I threw it in the shopping cart the next time I went on one of my periodic CD binges (also buying all the Go-Betweens reissues that I did not already have, the new live Los Lobos album, and the new Beck).

When it arrived, I was mildly annoyed to see the back cover defaced with FBI chiding

Yes! They had stuck an anti-piracy warning smack in the middle of the CD itself! On top of a pretty spiffy design! unacceptable.

This all seems like the dumbest fucking idea in the world. I just want to shake every single moron who works for the RIAA by the lapels and say to them, "Do you understand? The thing that makes me want to buy CDs is that I am a geek who enjoys having physical objects around. If you go around stamping ugly text directly on the artwork in a CD's packaging, you are decreasing my incentive to want to buy it, because you are making it objectively less attractive as an object."

Put another way, it actually reveals how little the RIAA (and by extension, the recording industry) understand about marketing and product sales. That they are willing to sacrifice an extremely limited piece of real estate to make a hollow point is unacceptable foolish and wasteful, from a business perspective.

Why prosletyze to people who CD buyers? Preaching to the choir is a totally ineffective strategy to win converts.

While Heaney doesn't offer a solution to this issue, he does note: "Thank god I've got a big stockpile of cheeky British post-punk music to listen to when I've worked myself up into such a state."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005 | 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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good article. it's pointless for the FBI warning to be on the CD. i agree: they should send CDs in a album-sized case. i'd love to hang on to the artwork & display it, as i do with all my vinyl. at least make it optional.

Posted by: nwistheone | May 3, 2005 11:14:52 AM

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