Business News Digital

Artwork-focussed app aims to make digital music “better than vinyl”

By | Published on Wednesday 18 May 2016


A new digital music app called Sleevenote is putting artwork up front, describing itself as a ‘post-discovery’ app to improve people’s engagement with albums already in their digital music libraries. Basically it aims to bring the artwork of physical releases properly into the digital music experience, something download and streaming platforms have generally not focused on in the past.

Designed by musician Tom Vek, the app now has over 1000 specially formatted album sleeves in its database, providing both the original cover art and rear tracklist, with plans to include full liner notes. Currently available for iTunes and Apple Music, albums not yet with back covers can still be played and artwork can be requested, which is added daily.

“I’ve been pretty shocked how poorly treated the album as a package has been”, Vek tells CMU of the digital music experience to date. “I think I expected Apple with their tasteful approach to most things to have done it better, perhaps originally with iTunes, or even had a better understanding of the need for accessible formatting with iTunes LP – all these chances to differentiate ‘owned’ music as streaming has grown”.

“I feel like it’s late, but will never be too late to create a compelling digital format that makes something feel more owned, even emotionally more so than literally”, he continues. “I say this freely – the vinyl revival should make digital music feel ashamed of itself. That’s our benchmark, it needs to be better than vinyl”.

“The industry is obsessed with discovery right now, but there are literally no other products for ‘post-discovery’ – products that help fans really get deep into a record, which gives the most rewarding experience and forges the strongest bonds and devotion from fans”.

Of having more than 1000 fully formatted sleeves in the app now, including artists such as Adele, Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, he says this is an important milestone in proving the app’s value.

“It’s felt tangible in the sense that most people who discover the app have at least a few albums [in their collection] with full sleeve artwork, so they can imagine how great it would be to have their whole collection supported”, says Vek. “Ultimately I like to think that it’s made several times that amount of people happy and dote over an album they love”.

As for the future, he explains: “The idea was to build a robust foundation for including artwork but giving music control – ie playing the song – the priority it needs, hence starting with interactive back cover tracklist art. It will mainly grow by getting support from labels, supplying artwork as well as promoting the format, and it will also need support itself so I’m looking out for anyone who sees the potential in growing a great digital music product”.

“The next stage is definitely getting digital booklets in, which will be fairly easy”, he adds. “Adding links to credits and label information is a way that these areas can be pushed into the information age. The vision I have for the ultimate incarnation of Sleevenote, is the idea I had at the very start – a standalone double-sided square ‘virtual vinyl’ sleeve that sits pride of place next to a hi-fi system in the home of the future”.

Download Sleevenote and browse the artwork database here. And read our full interview with Tom Vek here.