Back to 1939, the first album cover was invented by American graphic design artist Alex Steinweiss. Before that time, all music was released on 78 RPM shellac and sold in either paper or card covers, with a circular cutout allowing just a record label to be seen. Since most 78 RPM discs were on sale in paper sleeves without any additional materials, relatively limited information was provided by the items themselves.
In 1939, while Alex Steinweiss was designing ads for Columbia Records, he suggested to add art components to the company’s 78 releases, which afterwards were sold in heavy paper and, for multiple-record sets, packaged in book-binding format. This new approach in visualisation helped to increase sales tremendously and earned Alex a position of Columbia’s art director.
Artworks for music albums, where choosing right graphics, colours, images and headers became crucial, it made the sale of music a blooming market. Art components in music covers became a fundamental part of each release not only in terms of sales, but also in terms of the artists’ recognition.
The music digitisation with arrival of such format as MP3 and invasion of streaming music services on the market shacked the music industry not only from business point of view, but also we are currently facing a question how to provide users with digital experience equal to what we used to have with physical records. I previously wrote “What drives vinyl sales”, where I mentioned the huge increase in vinyl sales which might be related to this lack of ownership feelings in digital age.
So is it enough for music fans to have just a playlist now? Apparently, that was the question founders of Whitestone, the first platform for interactive music experiences, asked themselves. Created by a team of designers, artists and programmers, Whitestone will offer to producers and labels to create “interactive versions” of albums and EPs, not just streaming, tracklists and image properties, but a real interactive digital artwork, including hidden commands and touch controls.
After 3 years of researching, the platform is about to see the light. The project has initially arrived on Thunderclap, and on the 30th of August will start its way on Kickstarter in order to have a chance to become the first streaming portal which will go “beyond the playlist”.