It just looks so empty

I have been known to rip stuff at home, slap the MP3s on a flash drive, and then port them into the iTunes install on the work box. (Which at least partially explains how there are 3600 tracks in the collection at the moment, though I have more like 6000 at home and thousands, maybe tens of thousands, yet unripped.)

In this ongoing process, I’ve discovered that whether iTunes feeds me what I think of as the “correct” artwork is pretty much a crapshoot. Then again, what is the “correct” artwork?

It’s a toss up: do you show the CD album cover that the tune belongs to, or do you display an image specific to that song, as though it were a 45 [rpm] single?

If you are trying to sell a full album or EP or maxi-single, then show that image, the cover art.

If you want individual songs to be popular, as the iTune/iPod Generation seems to favor, even not caring who the artist is, just downloading tunes and ringtones based exclusively on the strength of the song itself, which is a revolutionary way of relating to music, then show art specific to each song.

It’s not so revolutionary, really: albums tend to be singles separated by varying amounts of filler. I’ve noticed, though, that iTunes does provide CD-single art for singles, generally, if the album has yet to be released.

Where I draw a lot of blanks is on the singles from the Forties and Fifties, even from the Sixties and Seventies, where the album, had there even been one in the first place, is permanently out of print. And no Beatles or Zeppelin stuff shows up, of course, because iTunes doesn’t vend that sort of thing at the moment. (Of the Beatles solo, I usually get art for George and Ringo, less often John, and hardly ever Paul.) Once in a while, the artwork for a compilation I’ve never heard of will be dropped in simply because the iTunes Store has it. And I’ve seen a few cases where someone somewhere uploaded a scan of a 45 label to Apple, or CDDB, or someplace, and Apple duly sent it to me once I added that track to the playlist. For example: my rip of “Come to Me Softly” by Jimmy James and the Vagabonds yielded up a scan of the Atco 45; as a test, I purchased a copy of the same song from iTunes, which gave me the artwork for the compilation Sock It To ‘Em J.J.: The Soul Years, a UK release I haven’t yet seen Stateside.


  1. Mister Snitch! »

    6 October 2008 · 2:26 pm

    “Where I draw a lot of blanks is on the singles from the Forties and Fifties, even from the Sixties and Seventies, where the album, had there even been one in the first place, is permanently out of print.”

    Ah. How did you know how I was spending my time lately? That’s right – exploring the vast, untamed world of Blogspot vinyl rip sites. Now I know what David Bowman saw when he looked into that monolith in 2001. It’s more than huge – it’s endless. (I’ll send a few links if you want, but they should be fairly easy to find – especially since I’ve linked some here.)

    And guess what – a lot of those 45’s had printed wrappers, or at least interesting (and appealingly retro-looking) labels. (These can be found on the aforementioned Blogspot sites, or on a number of specialty-search sites like this one.) Some of them didn’t, of course, but in such cases there’s plenty of promo artwork for most artists floating around the web. It’s all yours for the Googling. I find that, in many cases, found artwork functions better than album art, for iTunes cover-flow purposes.

    Wikipedia is also good for finding obscure ‘singles’ record label art and other useful info on old tunes. Their interactive search box is really handy in that regard. (To anyone wondering why anything beyond the name of the song is at all necessary: iTunes’ “genius” feature works better the more detailed and accurate your info is.)

    Finally, with iTunes I sometimes create my own “albums”. Know how many versions of “Route 66” are floating around? Well, neither do I really. But I do know I have 15 of ’em. So I grabbed a “Route 66” sign as identifying artwork, assigned it to the group as an album, and there you go. (For my ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ variations, I used some old Green Hornet artwork. Not from the 60’s TV show – the radio version.)

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish cornering the market on rockabilly music. I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Okie” label… perhaps a little Take Me Back to Tulsa is in order?

  2. CGHill »

    6 October 2008 · 6:50 pm

    I’m not above scanning my own art, when I have it. (I have a legal-size scanner from the pre-Cambrian; it’s slower than a lane full of ’87 Buicks, but it will do an LP jacket photo in two passes, versus four for any of the standard-size machines I’ve used.)

    My next compilation CD might be a collection of US hits resung in foreign languages by the original acts. (For instance, I have Terry Stafford’s “Suspicion” in both Spanish and Italian.) Working title for now is “Say what?”

  3. steven e. streight aka pluperfecter »

    16 October 2008 · 5:20 pm

    There was a 45 rpm single that had what I assume to be the record label “Dunlap” and the title of the A and B sides “Pussy Pussy Remember Me” b/w “Man Tit”, very funny slop rock tunes, but no artist name printed on the single.

    To this day, my friends refer to the band as “Dunlap”, hoping that the record label and the band were the same thing (how likely?).

    I recall the really cool 45 rpm single sleeves of The Beatles (there’s a band called The Tape Beatles and one called BEATLESEX, for trivia buffs), the Dave Clark 5, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Herman’s Hermits, etc.

    Much artwork for bands is poorly done, not legible.

    On a related topic, bands should always have a big sign with their name/logo on it, behind or above the band, when they play and when they do videos.

    There’s too much music. Fans need much help in remembering who you are.

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