Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why artists should read Joseph Schumpeter

Album or CD cover art, a victim of progress. Or should artists embrace creative destruction and make way for new media?
Designer Peter Saville, who is responsible for pioneering sleeve designs for Roxy Music and New Order in the Eighties, fears album art has had its day.

Speaking from his studio this weekend, Mr Saville believes that cover art is dead, not just because of technology, but because the youth culture in which albums once operated has changed: "We have a social disaster on our hands," he said. "The things that pop music was there to do for us have all been done... there's nothing to rail against now.

"When I was 15, in the North-west of England.... the record cover to me was like a picture window to another world. Seeing an Andy Warhol illustration on a Velvet Underground album was a revelation.... It was the art of your generation... true pop art."

Veteran keyboard player Rick Wakeman, once of the progressive rock band Yes, and now a DJ on the Planet Rock radio station, said: "With downloads and everything... it's just killing the whole art side of music stone dead. To be quite honest, unless you have 20-20 vision it's very hard to read anything written on a CD cover. There was something very special about [vinyl] albums... it's a great shame."

Record companies set aside up to £50,000 for the design of a leading band's album sleeve. The compact disc, launched in the Eighties, offered artists a much smaller canvas. Now, with the iPod, album design has shrunk to about a square inch, and the budget for its sleeve to about £5,000.

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