I get a lot of new CDs, and I rip them to my iTunes library immediately. (Well, sometimes they can pile up…) When I do, I tag them appropriately, and I always add album art. Ideally, I look for 600×600 pixel graphics, as this seems to be a good compromise between quality and size. Album art of this size displays well on my iPhone and iPod touch, and looks okay on my iPad and my TV (when I use my Apple TV). This size is what iTunes offers, and what some other sites, such as eMusic provide.
In addition, as a reviewer for MusicWeb International, I get a lot of CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays for review. When I send my reviews to the site’s editor, I have to attach a cover graphic.
Unfortunately, there are times when I go to a record label’s web site and find only small album art; generally around 200-300 pixels, much too small to use on anything other than a web page. (MusicWeb International uses 300×300 pixel graphics; in many cases I can’t find album art that big.) Displaying a cover graphic this size on an iPad, for example, looks horrendous; even an iPhone makes it look pretty bad.
I was prompted to write this post because, today, I ripped this CD of C.P.E. Bach’s keyboard sonatas. I received this for a MusicWeb review, and the label (Bis, which I discuss below) only provides a 150×150 pixel image, the one you see here. I had to spend a lot of time to find something better, as I need at least 300×300 pixels for my review.
There are many record labels that obstinately refuse to provide album art for download. Not only for download by passers-by, but even when you purchase music from them digitally. I can only be stunned by this refusal to provide these graphics. I assume that labels that don’t provide album art do so because they figure that only people who have illegally downloaded their music will want it. But what about people like me who rip CDs they have bought? It’s much easier – and better quality – to get cover art from a record label than to scan it myself.
There are some exceptions. Hyperion Records provides 700×700 pixel album art for all its releases; just go to their site, click on an album graphic to go to a disc’s page, then click on the graphic that displays on the left sidebar. This will expand to provide a large image on the page, which you can then download.
On the other extreme, a label I appreciate very much, Bis Records, only provides graphics at 150×150 pixels, a horrendously small size. Even on their download site, eclassical, you can’t access album art. You can download a PDF of the album booklet, and extract the first page to get the album art, but this isn’t something that everyone knows how to do. (By the way, I don’t mean to pick on Bis, who releases wonderful music. It was just their CD that irked me today.)
And even the Grateful Dead, whose music I listen to regularly, and whose discs I buy often, makes it really hard to get album art. While you can get zoomed graphics in their music store, these graphics display in a way that prevents easy downloading. You have to know HTML to find the actual URL from a web page’s source to grab the files.
What’s the big deal? What do these labels think they’re protecting? Interestingly, if you look at music you can download illegally, it often has very large album art, well scanned and ready for use. But if you buy CDs legally, you have to work hard to get the same graphics.
Record labels need to wake up. Every hindrance to legal purchases is just going to hurt them more. If there really is one record label that thinks that there is some valid reason for not providing album art, I would love to hear it.