Every year the Gospel Music Association has an award for "Best Music Packaging". At least half the years, the winner is an album which had absolutely no cool stuff about their packaging. Apparently everybody in the GMA just votes for their own album, and the people who don't have an album just pick one out of a hat. For some reason, that WOW album gets one more vote than the others and wins. Yipee.
In this day and age, though, we know that the innovation is not at the major label but at the independent publishers. For example, delirious? has always had some of the most innovative packaging. Live and in the Can came in a circular tin can. Glo had a sightly different fold out. Access:d also came in a tin can and came in slipcases that looked like confidential information folders. Touch came with heat-sensitive packaging. Archive:d came in a DVD case that was clear. And the limited edition of World Service unfolded like a large sattelite dish. Of course, some of these didn't make it over to the states because they're on a major-label here. You can still import all of 'em from the UK still, though.
The best example is from one of our favorite independent artists, Jeremy Casella. (Jeremy, incidentally, also has one of my favorite CDs that will never be released.) This past spring he released RCVRY, also known as Recovery. It's a brilliant album and fills out the folk sound with a bit of electronic loops. Maybe I'll do a review sometime, but it's more about the packaging right now. When I opened up the mailer, I found this:
That's right, it's his indie label's really awesome stamped logo on a paper bag. Gotta love that look. As the label says, this truly is "hand-crafted music". This just makes you want to support the little guy, really. After carefully opening the paper so that I could keep it in there later, I got the album out. It's a nice, sturdy paper folder case with a beautiful booklet of song lyrics:
Another great way to give it to them right as they get it. For both Jeremy Casella's RCVRY and Derek Webb's The Ringing Bell, purchasers of the album could immediately download MP3 files of the album. I love the MP3s, but as someone who likes quality audio, I enjoy having the CD as well, especially when opening the package is such an enjoyable experience.