Why Print Matters: Vinyl Edition

October 12, 2016 | by Joshua P. Ferguson

We care a lot about print at BatesMeron. It’s one of the ways that we help set our clients apart in a world dominated by digital. We feel there’s still a lot to love about the paper, texture, color and the myriad unique ways we can make a design stand out. And our clients agree. It helps make their print pieces more than marketing. It makes them a creative statement. It makes them something worth holding on to.

We’re not the only ones using print to enhance their creative output. The record industry has turned to the vinyl resurgence as a way to draw in consumers at a time when many are otherwise favoring YouTube, Spotify and Pandora to buying and playing music in its traditional formats.

According to a Forbes article from this spring, vinyl sales are up 32%—a 28-year high. Not only that, but the revenues associated with this sales spike are higher than the advertising revenue for the free versions of YouTube, VEVO and Spotify combined. With facts like that, it’s clear vinyl has graduated from its status as hipster obsession to one of mainstream favorability.

Vinyl as Objet D’Art

Since its inception in 2008, Record Store Day has long been seen as the genesis point for our current love affair with vinyl. If you’re not familiar, one Saturday every April, bands release limited edition and often wonderfully packaged releases that are only available from independent record stores that day. But recently, it feels like every day is Record Store Day. Just look at the design that’s gone into some of this year’s vinyl releases,.

Radiohead vinyl 3

Take Radiohead. To extend the life of their latest, A Moon Shaped Pool, the band released a case-bound deluxe edition of the record inspired by antique 78 rpm record packaging. It features a 32-page full-color booklet with variations on the album’s art. The music itself comes on two LPs, 2 CDs and as a digital download. For diehard Radiohead fans, this is so much more than just a record—it’s a also a book and a must-have collector’s item.

Radiohead vinyl 1 Smaller labels have turned to vinyl sales as their bread and butter at a time when flagging sales in other formats—streaming included—aren’t enough to keep the doors open. The ones that are having the greatest success, understand the power of the medium and its ability to draw in even casual listeners in a way that an mp3 cannot.

L.A. imprint Italians Do It Better is a great example of this. They don’t just pull out all the stops on their printed packaging, which often features full-color photography, embossed lettering and metallic inks. They do limited-edition vinyl pressings on colored vinyl, including ones dipped in a second color to create a striking handmade effect.

Italians Do It Better Vinyl GIF

Vinyl album design has reached such heights that artists are even tapping the “unboxing” video trend and releasing teaser trailers that unveil all the different print elements you can look forward to. Local Natives did this for their new LP, Sunlit Youth, which comes on clear vinyl with 15 additional 12″ x 12″ cardboard prints.

Each print is flooded with saturated imagery of, appropriately, sunlit L.A. They’re beautiful. And they’re more than album art. They may just end up being someone’s wall art, too. That’s the wonder of print. When it’s done well, it can take on a life of its own. When’s the last time an mp3—or a banner ad—did that?

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