Country California

Country music. Seriously.

How to Get Liner Notes Wrong

As liner notes teeter on the brink of extinction, they’re actually more important than ever. In the past, poor liner notes were a minor inconvenience; nobody could care too much since the accompanying CD was pretty much the only way of getting the music anyway. Now that most albums can be downloaded in a few seconds, liner notes are a major part of the music purchasing decision.

When I go to the trouble of getting a physical copy of a CD only to find that the liner notes are mostly worthless, I feel foolish for having not downloaded the album in the first place. If there’s no added value in the physical package, why did I bother acquiring it? I could have had the music almost instantaneously rather than driving across town for it or waiting a week for it to come from Amazon. My reluctant road to the digital download format is paved with poor liner notes.

Here are 10 ways to get liner notes wrong:

1. Don’t include them

2. Print them on digipak cardboard

3. Flimsy two-page booklet without lyrics

4. Elaborate multi-panel booklet with 20 pictures of artist in various hunky or seductive poses, but no lyrics

5. Include Lyrics, But Capitalize Every Word In The Most Distracting Manner Possible (see Population Me by Dwight Yoakam)

6. Incorrect song order (see Heart of Stone by Chris Knight)

7. Make the background so busy that words cannot be read without severe eyestrain

8. Font size: 1pt (see above)

9. Missing/incomplete musician credits

10. Type them up in five minutes; don’t bother spell-checking

Any other ways to screw up liner notes? Examples of any of the above that you’ve encountered? (I was going to find an example for each, but got lazy and only did #5 and #6.) Particularly bad liner notes that haunt you? Let’s hear your liner note related woes.

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  1. You are my kind of music geek, sir.

    I’m annoyed when an artist does two or three pages of thank-yous to everyone they’ve ever met. And I’d like musician credits for each individual song, please.

  2. Terrific post. I’m in full agreement.

    I’m a stickler for color scheme and font to match the tone of the album. In addition the cold, hard facts of the music, I want a pleasurable visual experince, too.

  3. Good list. I would add liner notes where the lyrics are formatted horizontally with slashes or dots in between lines. I think it makes them harder to read than when they are formatted vertically.

    I also agree with Chris that musician credits are needed for each song.

  4. Nice additions so far. I agree with all of them.

    Here’s a new one I encountered with Sleepless Nights today: an internal page of the liner notes had a crease as though it had previously been dog-eared. It made me very sad.

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