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View Full Version : Why is "cover" art so important?



ralphpnj
2008-02-22, 02:36
Okay, I've been reading about the new Slim Devices Squeezebox Controller with it's wonderful little 2.4 inch color display and some of the other music streaming devices/systems with their remotes and/or displays which also show cover art and quite frankly I just understand what all the fuss is about.

LPs had a 12" square surface area on which to display "cover" art then CDs came along and the area available for "cover" art had shrunk to a 4-1/2" square. NOw we get the Controller and again the area for "cover" art has shrunk, this time to a 2.4" square. So I guess that means the Controller display of cover art is about equal to that on a video iPod. I don't know about you but I find the cover art display (even the larger version of the cover art display) on the iPod to pretty much useless. Sure it's a nice little, tiny picture but it's still pretty much useless.

Why is it useless? For one thing, aside from the pretty picture, cover art tells my nothing about the recording. How about having the ability to display something useful, like let's see:

1) Complete track listing with running times and total time, composer, etc.

2) Liner notes

3) Recording information, i.e. date and location of recording, personnel, producer, recording engineer, etc.

and just for the hell of it

4) Links on all the of above displays to various items. For example a link on the song title to other versions of the song within one's music library or on each performer to other recordings in one's music library where that performer is present. So when I'm listening to Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" and I click on "Bill Evans" I get a complete list of all of the recordings in my music library on which Bill Evans appears. And not only that but Bill Evans, the pianist and not Bill Evans, the sax player.

Now that would be something worth having.

slimpy
2008-02-22, 03:11
Okay, I've been reading about the new Slim Devices Squeezebox Controller with it's wonderful little 2.4 inch color display and some of the other music streaming devices/systems with their remotes and/or displays which also show cover art and quite frankly I just understand what all the fuss is about.

LPs had a 12" square surface area on which to display "cover" art then CDs came along and the area available for "cover" art had shrunk to a 4-1/2" square. NOw we get the Controller and again the area for "cover" art has shrunk, this time to a 2.4" square. So I guess that means the Controller display of cover art is about equal to that on a video iPod. I don't know about you but I find the cover art display (even the larger version of the cover art display) on the iPod to pretty much useless. Sure it's a nice little, tiny picture but it's still pretty much useless.

Why is it useless? For one thing, aside from the pretty picture, cover art tells my nothing about the recording. How about having the ability to display something useful, like let's see:

1) Complete track listing with running times and total time, composer, etc.

2) Liner notes

3) Recording information, i.e. date and location of recording, personnel, producer, recording engineer, etc.

and just for the hell of it

4) Links on all the of above displays to various items. For example a link on the song title to other versions of the song within one's music library or on each performer to other recordings in one's music library where that performer is present. So when I'm listening to Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" and I click on "Bill Evans" I get a complete list of all of the recordings in my music library on which Bill Evans appears. And not only that but Bill Evans, the pianist and not Bill Evans, the sax player.

Now that would be something worth having.
No offense, but you don't seem to be the visual type of guy.
I find even tiny pictures very useful in recognising an album. More often than not I can identify an album by its cover rather than by name. It's also useful in those moments when you look for an album to play but both the album and artist name have slipped your mind.
The above applies mostly to the album list, but cover art is also helpful on the Now playing screen because you can identify the currently playing album even if you're too far away to read the artist and album name.

Some of what you propose in 4) is already possible today.
When viewing the track details you can navigate from the artist to all albums by that artist, from album to the complete album list, from genre to all albums in that genre and from year to all albums from that year.
Regarding recognition of different artists with the same name (Bill Evans). This is not really feasible. How would a program know if its the one or the other?
The only solution that comes to mind would be to tag the two artists accordingly, eg. "Bill Evans (Piano)" and "Bill Evans (Sax)".
All of the extra information you want to add can go into a comment tag. This way it's only a click or two away.

-s.

PLynas
2008-02-22, 03:14
Some people (myself included) just like it. I also find it easy when browsing lots of albums to identify them quickly by cover art. I don't think a picture is quite worht a thousand words in this case, but they just make things look nice and are easy to identify with quickly.

That's not to criticise your points by the way, just to try and point out that cover art does still have its place.

peter
2008-02-22, 03:22
ralphpnj wrote:
> Okay, I've been reading about the new Slim Devices Squeezebox Controller
> with it's wonderful little 2.4 inch color display and some of the other
> music streaming devices/systems with their remotes and/or displays
> which also show cover art and quite frankly I just understand what all
> the fuss is about.
>
> LPs had a 12" square surface area on which to display "cover" art then
> CDs came along and the area available for "cover" art had shrunk to a
> 4-1/2" square. NOw we get the Controller and again the area for "cover"
> art has shrunk, this time to a 2.4" square. So I guess that means the
> Controller display of cover art is about equal to that on a video iPod.
> I don't know about you but I find the cover art display (even the larger
> version of the cover art display) on the iPod to pretty much useless.
> Sure it's a nice little, tiny picture but it's still pretty much
> useless.
>
> Why is it useless? For one thing, aside from the pretty picture, cover
> art tells my nothing about the recording. How about having the ability
> to display something useful, like let's see:
>
>

I agree, I would trade the cover art for more screen real estate to show
more info. I really hate song titles that scroll on my Controller
screen. If the cover art could be disabled more text would fit on the
screen without scrolling. I'd vote to make it optiona which shouldn't be
too hard.

Regards,
Peter

ralphpnj
2008-02-22, 03:42
No offense, but you don't seem to be the visual type of guy.
.....

Some of what you propose in 4) is already possible today.
When viewing the track details you can navigate from the artist to all albums by that artist, from album to the complete album list, from genre to all albums in that genre and from year to all albums from that year.
Regarding recognition of different artists with the same name (Bill Evans). This is not really feasible. How would a program know if its the one or the other?
The only solution that comes to mind would be to tag the two artists accordingly, eg. "Bill Evans (Piano)" and "Bill Evans (Sax)".
All of the extra information you want to add can go into a comment tag. This way it's only a click or two away.

-s.

I don't think that I'm not "the visual type of guy", it's just that I'm more of jazz fan than anything else and in the world of jazz it's things like personnel and recording dates that are truly important and not the tiny little cover art. Except of course for those Miles Davis album like "Bitches Brew" and "Live Evil".

As for your reference to using the remote to navigate through artist/album/genre/year/etc - yes it works but in a very crude way. For example say that you're listening to a recording by one artist and you navigate to that artist's album listing and one of the albums on that list is a recording featuring various artists. Well when you select that recording you only get the track on which that artist appears and no the entire recording. Or say that you're listen to an recording by "Prince and the Revolution" and you want to go an recording by "Prince" (without "the Revolution"), it's just not possible. Or you're listening to a Keith Jarrett Trio recording and you want to find out who is in the trio and maybe navigate to a recording on which one of the other members of the trio also appears, again not possible. And I haven't even touched on how useless most of these navigation features are when it comes to classical music.

As for the comment tag, again useful for information but not for further navigation. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd like something that:

1) gives me complete information about the recording and not just a tiny picture

2) enables me to explore my music library much the same that I have in the past - going from one recording to another recording related to the first in some way, be it by personnel, recording date, producer, composer, etc.

And here's something that I almost forgot. What about all the recordings in one's music library with no official "cover" art, such as that Grateful Dead concert from 1972, that Dylan bootleg from 1987 or a live show downloaded from archive.org?

cliveb
2008-02-22, 04:28
Just because lots of people like cover art doesn't mean it should be imposed on everyone. By all means include the capability, but please allow those users who don't want it to switch it off.

Some of us requested such an option a long time ago: http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=5376. You might want to add your comment and/or vote for it.

peter
2008-02-22, 04:37
cliveb wrote:
> Just because lots of people like cover art doesn't mean it should be
> imposed on everyone. By all means include the capability, but please
> allow those users who don't want it to switch it off.
>
> Some of us requested such an option a long time ago:
> http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=5376. You might want to add
> your comment and/or vote for it.
>

The request is for an option to hide cover art on the Controller when
there is none. Personally, I'd like to be able to hide it even when
there is cover art.

Voted for it anyway, space is tight...

Regards,
Peter

PLynas
2008-02-22, 05:03
I am one of many who likes to see the cover art. But I guess people should have the choice.

slimpy
2008-02-22, 05:07
I don't think that I'm not "the visual type of guy", it's just that I'm more of jazz fan than anything else and in the world of jazz it's things like personnel and recording dates that are truly important and not the tiny little cover art. Except of course for those Miles Davis album like "Bitches Brew" and "Live Evil".
and I always thought it's all about the music... ;-)



As for your reference to using the remote to navigate through artist/album/genre/year/etc - yes it works but in a very crude way. For example say that you're listening to a recording by one artist and you navigate to that artist's album listing and one of the albums on that list is a recording featuring various artists. Well when you select that recording you only get the track on which that artist appears and no the entire recording.
Just two more clicks and you have the whole album list (track details - album).

Or say that you're listen to an recording by "Prince and the Revolution" and you want to go an recording by "Prince" (without "the Revolution"), it's just not possible.
Add "Prince" as albumartist. You can then browse from albumartist just like you would from artist.

Or you're listening to a Keith Jarrett Trio recording and you want to find out who is in the trio and maybe navigate to a recording on which one of the other members of the trio also appears, again not possible. And I haven't even touched on how useless most of these navigation features are when it comes to classical music.
If you add artist tags for each member of the group you will be able to navigate the way you want. Add "Keith Jarret Trio" as albumartist. It's not the perfect solution as the album will be listed as "<album> by Keith Jarret,<artist2>, <artist3>".

Also check out Erland's plugins like CustomScan and CustomBrowse if you want Slimserver to be more flexible.
http://wiki.erland.homeip.net/index.php/Category:SlimServer

As for the comment tag, again useful for information but not for further navigation. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd like something that:

1) gives me complete information about the recording and not just a tiny picture

2) enables me to explore my music library much the same that I have in the past - going from one recording to another recording related to the first in some way, be it by personnel, recording date, producer, composer, etc.
Don't get me wrong, I think most what you want would be a very welcome enhancement.
I don't think this will become reality in the near or not so near future. I've got the impression that these things are not very high on Slimdevices/Logitech's prioritiy list.
I just try to give you some hints on what can be done with what's at hand today.

And here's something that I almost forgot. What about all the recordings in one's music library with no official "cover" art, such as that Grateful Dead concert from 1972, that Dylan bootleg from 1987 or a live show downloaded from archive.org?
A silly idea, but I post it anyway:
Create an image yourself with all the text information you want to see.

-s.

cliveb
2008-02-22, 06:39
The request is for an option to hide cover art on the Controller when there is none. Personally, I'd like to be able to hide it even when there is cover art.
Yes, that was the original purpose of the request, but if you read some of the comments, I think it's been expanded to suggest there should be a global "no artwork" option.

maggior
2008-02-22, 08:34
Okay, I've been reading about the new Slim Devices Squeezebox Controller with it's wonderful little 2.4 inch color display and some of the other music streaming devices/systems with their remotes and/or displays which also show cover art and quite frankly I just understand what all the fuss is about.

LPs had a 12" square surface area on which to display "cover" art then CDs came along and the area available for "cover" art had shrunk to a 4-1/2" square. NOw we get the Controller and again the area for "cover" art has shrunk, this time to a 2.4"

At this rate, we'll be viewing artwork on a pinhead in 20 years :-).

I don't get really hung up on artwork either. I don't miss it on my squeezebox. I played with it for my iPod, but never pursued it. I perfer to use the screen real estate for title information.

Back in my younger years, I'd sit on my bed and study the album cover (yes, I'm from the lp days) and liner notes as I listened. As an adult, I'm lucky I have time to listen to music while doing other tasks - no time to lie around and look at the artwork or liner notes. If I do have time to lie around and listen to music, I usually have my laptop out and will go to allmusic.com for more info on an artist/album or read a wiki about the performer.

I can understand why some like it, but I don't really miss not having it.

ralphpnj
2008-02-22, 09:35
and I always thought it's all about the music... ;-)

It IS about the music but a nice picture or two is always welcome.


Just two more clicks and you have the whole album list (track details - album).

And exactly what "two clicks" with those be?


Add "Prince" as albumartist. You can then browse from albumartist just like you would from artist.

If you add artist tags for each member of the group you will be able to navigate the way you want. Add "Keith Jarret Trio" as albumartist. It's not the perfect solution as the album will be listed as "<album> by Keith Jarret,<artist2>, <artist3>".

Also check out Erland's plugins like CustomScan and CustomBrowse if you want Slimserver to be more flexible.
http://wiki.erland.homeip.net/index.php/Category:SlimServer

Both are workable stop gap solutions but somewhat labor intense and require a fair amount of computer know how. What I'm thinking of would require less work on the user side of things.


Don't get me wrong, I think most what you want would be a very welcome enhancement.
I don't think this will become reality in the near or not so near future. I've got the impression that these things are not very high on Slimdevices/Logitech's prioritiy list.
I just try to give you some hints on what can be done with what's at hand today.

And I thank you for pointing these things out for me.


A silly idea, but I post it anyway:
Create an image yourself with all the text information you want to see.

It's really not that silly of an idea - simply replace the cover art with liner notes or something else.

It still seems that I'm not getting my point across or rather that my "point" keeps on evolving just as this thread keeps on evolving. There are two sides to the music server concept - the hardware (and it's operating software) and the digital music files. I suppose that it's really not up to Slim Devices provide all the meta-data that a good music server system should be able to use but rather up to the digital music provider or ripper. It just that the whole concept of meta-data and how to work with it is still evolving and I don't believe that a tiny little display of "cover" art should be the be-all and end-all of meta-data.

With that in mind I'm just trying to open up the discussion up to some other areas where meta-data might be of use.

slimpy
2008-02-22, 10:11
And exactly what "two clicks" with those be?
What it says in my previous post: Click on the single song, this displays the track details, then scroll to the album line and click again - and voilą, you have all album tracks listed.

Both are workable stop gap solutions but somewhat labor intense and require a fair amount of computer know how. What I'm thinking of would require less work on the user side of things.
Of course it's less work intensive if the software can guess these things - it's just not possible. Maybe some time in the future when machines have adopted our way of thinking.
Until then we have to deliver the information in a way the machine can deal with.

It still seems that I'm not getting my point across or rather that my "point" keeps on evolving just as this thread keeps on evolving. There are two sides to the music server concept - the hardware (and it's operating software) and the digital music files. I suppose that it's really not up to Slim Devices provide all the meta-data that a good music server system should be able to use but rather up to the digital music provider or ripper. It just that the whole concept of meta-data and how to work with it is still evolving and I don't believe that a tiny little display of "cover" art should be the be-all and end-all of meta-data.

With that in mind I'm just trying to open up the discussion up to some other areas where meta-data might be of use.
Cover art is certainly not the end-all of metadata. But I think it does sell players and is therefore a must-have for Slimdevices/Logitech. Most people who just start using devices such as the Squeezebox are either used to viewing their CD covers or cover art on their iPods. It's something they are familiar with. It's reassuring for them to see that some "physical" part of their CDs is preserved when the music collection gets crammed onto a tiny harddrive and the audio medium becomes obsolete.

-s.

Zten
2008-02-22, 10:40
I love the cover art. I think it is in fact one (maybe the only?) negative aspect of the conversion to all digital. It is a lost art. I use the nokia as a controller and really enjoy seeing the cover art of the song I am plying. In fact, since Color TFTs are so cheap these days, I'd love a SB with a huge TFT display (like as big as the old 12"x 12" album would be so cool). Then the cover art would sit there, huge for all to see, and change as each new song gets played.

It would be just like the old vinyl days (except now the music is flawless and immediately retrievable!). Ever go to a radio station back in the day and watch a DJ doing his thing? Or go to a dance club with the DJ spinning vinyl? They always prop up the album cover for the few people watching and they can mentally link the art with the song. Its cool.

Music for me goes hand in hand with memories. The cover art is part of what brings back the memories....

slimkid
2008-02-22, 10:49
...
With that in mind I'm just trying to open up the discussion up to some other areas where meta-data might be of use.

There are info type plugins available to provide some of that data. They connect to music database on the Internet and, assuming that your music is tagged right and the info is available, will provide nice reading about the album or artists.

Now, they don't work well all the time - the worst example, Mozart isn't recognised artist - but IMO, that is a way to get the info one might want. The question is who is going to provide that info through the open type interface for free?

K

Pale Blue Ego
2008-02-22, 11:54
And here's something that I almost forgot. What about all the recordings in one's music library with no official "cover" art, such as that Grateful Dead concert from 1972, that Dylan bootleg from 1987 or a live show downloaded from archive.org?

For stuff like this, I create my own covers. It's kinda fun, actually. I'll go to Google Images and look for photos of the artist, or an image of the band playing live. I recently made a cover for a collection of old radio shows by using an image of an old radio. A good cover image can convey a lot about the content.

Skunk
2008-02-22, 14:29
For me cover art is important for the same reason icons on the desktop are, speed of recognition. When I had my cd cases sitting out, the color of the spine was usually my first filter for quickly finding one, but that's when they were actually in the cases. Usually they were in stacks of 50-100 bare discs (yeah, the horror), which would have taken forever to find the right one if the only information printed on them was metadata.

When browsing by album on the graphical remote the cover thumbs don't take up much space, so I'm not sure what kind of metadata you could possibly replace them with, although someone noted the scrolling annoyance factor, which would be reduced.

Another bonus for me is showing covers in screensaver mode allows passive use of the remote, i.e. while docked five feet away where you can't actually read anything anyway. It would be nice, however, to have an option to show some track/artist details (no bitrate/file length please!) as a 'when playing' screensaver while it's in my hand.

Skunk
2008-02-22, 16:09
Also, because the covers help me remember which songs go with these Led Zeppelin albums!

Pale Blue Ego
2008-02-22, 23:11
I'm sure we will eventually be able to select exactly what information we'd like on the "Now Playing" screen. That kind of customization is at the heart of what makes the Slim products so special.

But since the Jive platform is so new, the focus should be on stability and usability during the initial rollout.

Zten
2008-02-25, 10:01
Also, because the covers help me remember which songs go with these Led Zeppelin albums!

SWEET! The Zeppelin 3 vinyl album cover has that rotating disc so that you can get different images to appear in the holes in the cover. Or like on Physical Graffitti, where you can reassemble the album sleeves to get different images to show in the windows. Zep has some of the BEST album art.

So my next request will be to do VIDEO in album art so we can see the disc as it moves and changes the art..... Just kidding :o)

schatzy
2008-02-25, 11:06
So my next request will be to do VIDEO in album art so we can see the disc as it moves and changes the art..... Just kidding :o)

This could be done with animated .gif files if they were supported, although not the best solution but probably a lot easier.


such as that Grateful Dead concert from 1972, that Dylan bootleg from 1987 or a live show downloaded from archive.org?

I have found that if you search the net then you can find many others who have already made cover art for many of the Grateful Dead live shows. As for the Dylan bootleg or other live shows, as has been stated make your own art that will make you remember being there if you were, as I was.

Edit: http://www.toddalbert.com/cover_art or probably the best for Grateful Dead covers http://www.gdcdcovers.com/annex.html

Also i find the cover art will bring back memories that can and do not come back just from the artist name or track title.

But then again if you do not like the cover art then just remove it and then there is no problem.