Radiohead's 'newspaper album'

The King of Limbs shows the record industry's determination to sell music in every format, says Elisa Bray

What do you do when people buy fewer albums on CD? Create a more extravagant and exclusive product and put up the price. It may not sound like the best business model but it is working for Radiohead. Their latest release, The King of Limbs, went into the chart at No 7.

Containing large sheets of newspaper and 625 tiny pieces of artwork, alongside the CD, vinyl and digital code for downloading, Radiohead's "newspaper album" is one of the most elaborate recent releases - and a £30 price tag does not seem to have put people off.

Across rock and pop, the use of elaborate packaging and content is growing. A plastic case costs only a few pence but with increasing numbers of fans eschewing physical albums for their digital equivalents, bands and record labels have figured out that people will spend money on music if they see it as a product of worth or a collector's item.

Companies which produce album packages – such as Clear Sound & Vision Ltd, the maker of The King of Limbs – have been receiving ever more intriguing demands from their clients.

"Today, fans demand more than just a bonus disc, poster, stickers or a badge with their box-set purchase", says Will Appleyard, CSV's sales director. "Labels and artists are competing with the digital world too: therefore real 'added value' must be achieved in order to do so successfully."

Items added to recent album packages include digital download vouchers, T-shirts, art prints, signed items – even belt buckles and coffee-table books. There is also a developing demand for more innovative packages, such as the compressed T-shirt album, in which a T-shirt is packed to the size of a CD and offered with a digital download.

Box sets, which used to be created in time for Christmas, have crept into the rest of the calendar. And record labels are no longer just offering special editions of albums, months after initial release, in a cynical bid to re-sell the same product. Special editions are now released as alternatives to the plastic-cased version of an album. Current releases include a special edition of Mogwai's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will which is an elaborate three-LP box set complete with art prints and stencil. It costs £40. If you're looking to buy Jamie xx's remix album of Gil Scott Heron's We're New Here, a deluxe edition box set, containing two LPs, two CDs and prints, was released alongside the standard edition.

Not all bands expect their fans to shell out. Some, such as Explosions in the Sky, have maintained an ethos of giving something extra. Their new album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, comes with quadruple gate-fold packaging, a huge poster and a postcard, whether you buy it on CD or vinyl.

As part of a stance against the impersonal nature of releasing music, especially digital downloads, some artists have been creating their own artwork. Last September, recognising a lack of connection with his fans, DJ Shadow released two songs on limited 12" vinyl, featuring his own drawings, each one different. Going a step further, he delivered the discs to record shops in eastern Europe, where he was touring.

He explained: "I'd rather give away free vinyl than a download, because to me downloads are so impersonal and soulless. It has become akin to sending your Dad an e-card on his birthday – no personality, no class. And from an artistic point of view, I think it sends a negative message about the worth of the music."

The singer-songwriter Luke Haines made a similar point when he offered just 50 copies of Outsider Music on CD. Each included a hand-numbered canvas cover, signed by the artist, and cost £75.

Elaborate artwork and packaging injects a restored sense of worth into music. The connection between the artist and the fan remains the best way of competing with the digital market, and it will ensure the longevity of the CD.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate