One of the joys of youth was spending hours in dingy record stores checking out all the new albums and listening to a few tracks on the headphones that generally hung in a dark corner. Hundreds of artists to choose between and often interest in a new band was awoken by the album cover. Sometimes the artwork was enough to motivate a listening and often a purchase. I confess to being particularly fond of Roger Dean's fantasy art that appeared on the albums of bands like Yes, Uriah Heep and Budgie. I also enjoyed thumbing through friends' album collections looking at the covers and sometimes reading the sleeve notes.
That pleasure has gone now that my entire music collection is stored on a thin little box called an iPod. Admittedly the player downloads a photo to go with the track but it's not much to look at, especially in the small window on the player. I've downloaded plenty of music that I know very little about and sometimes miss the old album covers with artwork to admire and sleeve notes to read. The mp3 format is music stripped bare; just the track and its title.
But wait, help is at hand according to an article on Wired.com, Is the world ready for the successor of the MP3? The mp3 format has been enhanced into musicDNA, a format that allows the automatic downloading of photos, notes and updates on the artist as well as the track itself. The battered and groggy music industry suddenly sees some relief in that there may be a way after all to provide added value for those willing to pay for their music. According to the musicDNA site the format allows legal sites to bundle other services with the format whereas the free mp3 download will be "naked".
Sounds reasonable though it's probably only a matter of time before the new format gets pirated too. Those who want everything for free will always find a way but the developers of this technology are hoping there are enough people out there willing to pay a little for the extra service.