CD Booklets – now online

Teddy Thompson's online liner notesThe New York Times ran a story yesterday about the demise of CD inserts. Using Teddy Thompson (son of English folk-rocker Richard Thompson who wrote the Del McCoury hit 1952 Vincent Black Lightning) as an example, the article relates that Thompson’s newest CD has one line of liner notes which refers readers to the artist’s website for details.

Thompson did indicate that he had jumped the gun a bit by not including the liner notes, and the British version of the CD, due out next month, will include them. Even so, he still thinks this is the eventual direction the industry is taking.

With downloads comprising a larger and larger percentage of overall sales, there will be both less demand for printed liner notes, and less incentive for labels to lay out the cash for that printing. The internet does provide a less expensive channel for distributing this information, but there is a downside.

For all the frivolity to be found in album notes, they can also provide a valuable education. Credits don’t merely inform listeners of the names of musicians, producers, songwriters and recording studio employees toiling behind the scenes; they teach listeners music history and allow them to make connections.

The same can all be communicated via the internet, but will it? And will people take the time to find it and read it? If it’s in their hand after purchasing a CD they’ll likely read them, at least while listening for the first time.

This also presents a problem for radio DJs who rely on the liner notes for information while spinning a CD. They’re busy folks and many won’t have the time to go online searching for info. If a band did effective and thorough radio service with full liner notes, included as much of that information as possible embedded in the MP3 ID tags, along with a PDF file downloaded with the album, then maybe they could forgo the printed version with the retail CD.

I know as a consumer, I would read the notes if they were easily found online while listening the CD for the first time, as it’s being imported into iTunes.

  • I used to read liner notes, but the print has become so small, the layout so bad, and the information so sketchy it’s no longer worth the effort. I save the liner notes for band signatures. If I want information, I try to get it from web sites, but they often treat me like an idiot, too. Liner notes are even worse than most MySpace sites. – Ted

  • David Conner

    Even though I’ve become a fan of online music via iTunes or ZuneMarketPlace, my chief complaint is the lack of liner notes. I just got the new Dan Tyminski CD “Wheels” and it states in the liner notes which track Ron played banjo or fiddle on, and which ones Justin played banjo or fiddle on. If I had bought the CD from iTunes, I wouldn’t have that information. I also realize I am in the minority of those who care about such information, but, it is only rational that if you’re downloading the music, that sort of information should be included.

  • aburtch

    Liner notes are very important to me. As a former bluegrass DJ, it was essential to know who was playing the instruments on each track. Having the songwriters listed allowed you to make connections between bands or spot a standout track from a well known writer. More than once I have purchased an album from an unknown bluegrass artist solely based on the backing or guest musicians. It works the same way with producers. If I see a new band with an established producer, I’m more inclined to purchase the album. And where does all this information reside…in the printed liner notes. Hopefully more artists will start to include digital versions of their liner notes on iTunes and other sites.