While Mac blog TUAW calls on Apple to kill optical drives (does Apple need that kind of encouragement?), the shiny digital compact disc and the album in general still have their devotees. Sure, album sales are down. Sure, digital downloads are in. But look beyond business or practicality for a moment at these exotic hand-constructed musical objects, and what you see is sheer love. A hand-constructed CD or vinyl album is a gesture of making music for someone, not for the ether.

I raised the issue early last month, and readers responded with lots of examples of handmade records, which I round up here. (And yes, practical, it’s not – a number of you complained that hand-construction is a lot of work. It’s clearly best kept to small runs, but then, I think that’s part of the point.)

Also, last month at NYC’s wonderful Culturefix, a handful of us got together and constructed some handmade discs. It’s definitely something you could do at an album swap meet with other artists and DJs in an afternoon or evening, and it makes the swap feel more meaningful. Pics at top; I hope we do more of these.

If this is the way the CD goes out, I think it’ll go out with style. And whatever the trends in the larger world, who’s to deny you your tangible album, really?

(About the end of the CD – I can tell you that demos, album reviews, music bought at shows, and the like are still very much tangible. Until flash memory is cheaper than CDs, I expect that’ll remain the case.)

First off, a vinyl album – but the process of hand-making these vinyl jackets is already lovely. moni writes:

We hand sprayed album covers for Ruoho Ruotsi’s Hmmm … album (De’fchild Productions release 003) Different colors were used to make each one a little bit different. Hard work, but rewarding. These came out nicely!

The electro-pop band Miaoux Miaoux did a custom run of 100 hand-knitted CDs to benefit Cancer Research and Maggie’s, available for a donation. They also included full-color artwork:


My favorite of the round-up is the work of Atlanta-based artist magicicada, who makes handmade boxes full of “surprises” – exquisite photography and unspecified collections of nine songs, packaged in a box made of mud. He also performs music live. (Thanks for the tip, tender vittles!) More images on his site:


Mugison makes his own CDs, as viewed in this lovely timelapse. (Thanks, Derrida! I assume not that Derrida, but…)

Hey, they’re flat, they’re round, they’re absurdly cheap, they store a good hour of lossless audio, and you can actually hand them to someone. There’s something to be said for that. Now I hope someone takes on the idea of using generative algorithms to make one-of-a-kind album covers en masse.

Previously: Reclaim the Album’s Soul: Tips for Handmade CD Artwork, Make One Sunday

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  • http://www.theemoths.co,uk Alex Botten

    I've been releasing my stuff this way for a while now, you can see a load of it at http://www.theemoths.co.uk (click on SuperLimited at the bottom of the screen to get to photos)

  • http://cflickster.createdigitalmusic.com/ Flick

    not only is a handmade album extra meaningful, but there is also the issue of it being a tangible thing at all. That whole iTunes LP thing is kinda cool cause you are getting more than what you got buying mp3s before, but I would much rather hold my CD/LP insert and flip through the physical pages much more than click a mouse. I guess that kinda combines the other end of this kind of discussion with ebooks/real books. (taking that a bit further, a handwritten book?!? thats a whole lot of love and devotion put into that i tell ya).

  • http://soundcloud.com/defchild Ruoho Ruotsi

    Hey Peter,
    As a regular reader of CDM, thanks so much Peter, for the DIY vinyl spray-painting feature!!

    Here are flickr sets of more of our silk-screened, spray-painted, letter-pressed & hand-stickered 12" record jackets!



    Ruoho Ruotsi

  • http://www.chromatouch.wordpress.com Leon Trimble

    I've always hated cd covers, and threw them all away to put them all in a wallet that never gets looked at cos i rip them all anyway.
    If they finally get rid of the cd it'll pave the way for more records to be made n'est pas? well maybe not now there aren't any record players…
    at least there'll never be that horrid splitting of the LPs when you break up with your girlfriend, you can just both have a copy of the music collection as a going away present…

  • rosa
  • http://regend.com REGEND

    i want to add, until a better way to listen to music in a moving vehicle exists, the CD won't go away. i made a track and threw it up on soundcloud and wanted to listen to it in my friend's brand new 2010 Infinity G37. it was easier to burn a CD and pop it into her car. yes, the car had a slot for ipods and what not but i would have had to sync her ipod in order to do that. at the end of the night i gave that CD to someone else. had the MP3 been on the iPod , i would have not been able to transfer it while we were having dinner at a restaurant.

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