The 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.