It’s a love thing
It’s a love thing, thing
The look in your eyes
Is more than enough
To make my poor heart
Burst into flames
— The Whispers
Finding my dad’s old record collection tucked away in the basement brought back a wave of nostalgia. Memories of asking if I could be the one to flip the black saucer to Side B. If I could be the one to set the needle into the tilled surface. Dancing my fingers through the stack I found classics like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and The Whispers. I even found the Little Golden Book & Record collection I used to teach myself to read.
Back then, I was too young to appreciate them, they were just records to me, but at 26 years old I appreciate them so much more. So that same day, I drove to the store and bought a turntable. Sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of the living room. Michael Jackson begins to spin, the needle descends, settling in the grooves. Fire-like crackling emits from the speaker then out bellows an inferno of sound.
You gotta feel that heat!
And we can ride the boogie,
Share that beat of looooove
I wanna rock with you!
— Michael Jackson
Letting the music take you, album cover in hand, you start thumbing the worn heavy card-stock, tracing the lines of the artwork, read and re-read the song titles and fine print.
You grew intimate with the music. You bonded with it.
I let a song go out of my heart
It was the sweetest melody
I know I lost heaven ’cause you were the song
— Duke Ellington
Alex Steinweiss, a 23-year-old kid from Brooklyn, got a gig at Columbia Records as their Art Director. Steinweiss saw opportunity on the blank tan paper sleeves they packaged the records in, and he began illustrating covers for classical and jazz artists.
Once these covers hit the market sales exploded and Steinweiss became a legend.
“I got this idea that the way they were selling these albums was ridiculous. The covers were just brown, tan, or green paper. I said, “Who the hell’s going to buy this stuff? There’s no push to it. There’s no attractiveness. There’s no sales appeal.” So I told them I’d like to start designing covers.”
— Alex Steinweiss
Album covers were Steinweiss’ invention. But there is zero discussion about the byproduct of his invention. You see, instead of portraying the recording artist on the cover, Steinweiss utilized musical and cultural symbology with strong lettering. He wanted to stimulate the audience’s interest. But what he was actually doing was an early example of “be clear but keep some things underwater.” With his unique approach to the artwork Steinweiss unknowingly introduced another form of self-identification to the customer’s buying journey. He was able to give customers something to look at while listening to their music, and by drawing inspiration directly from the music itself gave the customer a tangible conduit to bond with. Enhancing your experience.
My thumb scrolls through the search results. I sigh at the price of vinyl nowadays. Amazon and eBay seem like the best bet but selections are scarce or high-priced. I look at the square covers leaning on the bookshelf and thought about how they belonged to my dad. I try another search. ‘Used record store near me.’ Maybe I can find a small local vendor that has a treasure trove of their own. The search results are disappointing, every hit is located deep in the heart of the city. Too far to travel from the suburbs. But what’s this? There’s a ray of hope. Just on the very outskirts of my region sits one little record store in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little out of the way but perfectly drivable and a much closer alternative than the city. I make the decision I’m going to visit this place.
The drive was a little further than I originally thought and I was now in the countryside. I roll down the road looking back and forth between the road and the passenger window looking for a sign that’ll point me to the right driveway. When I pull into what I think is the right place, I’m a little skeptical. Staring back at me is a shipping container-sized bungalow with a yellow sign that says “Beware of Dog!” I really begin to doubt I’m in the right place. My eyes flick anxiously around when I notice just above the door hung a record. A small reassurance. A man steps out of the door underneath the record and greets me “Hi.“ I say back. “Is this a record store?” The man nods “It sure is.”
Walking inside was like walking into a candy shop. There were dozens upon dozens of milk crates full of records organized by genre. Fingers travel around the world as you dance them over the various LP’s. Picking up various albums and inspecting the prices. Very affordable! Now you just had to figure out which ones you’re going to take home. You circle the room trying to choose.
With the world’s information at our fingertips, we’ve lost the joy of diving into things completely blind and finding surprise and delight. Back then, you had a very limited collection of records which meant you were listening to the same artists repeatedly, and if you liked the artist/band you would buy their records again. Creating a relational customer that repeatedly buys their product.
Nowadays we pay for the privilege of streaming music from anyone, anytime, anywhere. We no longer buy into a specific artist. Instead, we are investing into the service that allows us to consume music for the individual’s enjoyment. With streaming services, you could have an unlimited collection of songs, albums, and artists. And the library is ever-growing meaning people are listening to the same artists and songs less frequently. Making them fickle about what they listen to and the polar opposite of relational customers. Transactional. Transactional customers have no loyalty. They will always move from one thing to the next hot item.
Streaming music, unfortunately, is used to drown out everything around you and make your world smaller. The app will even curate music based on your tastes but once you press play, your phone finds its home in your pocket. My generation has sacrificed tangible intimacy for convenience. Before streaming, when you got a new record you invited your friends over and had a listening party, creating that intimate setting. My generation has a bad habit of fighting over whose music they want to play at a party. It becomes a wrestling match for the aux cord and the party becomes about their music rather than letting it be a party. It becomes transactional.
The simplicity and bulkiness of analog somehow holds its own magic and at Wizard of Ads, we look for this kind of magic. We specialize in it. We try to emulate this intimacy with our clients so we can always successfully grow with our clients or —God forbid— you don’t grow. We fall with you. If what you’re looking for is easy services, fast results, and a convenient yes-man tune, do us a favour. Stay in your little bubble.