Spreading The Art

In a recent post, I’ve talked about the rebuild of my Plex database and one of the things that process exposed was the poor quality of my CD cover art.  Long past are the days where a 500×500 cover image would be sufficient, and you could even get by with 240×240.  After all, MP3 player screens didn’t have any significant resolution.  But now, the “MP3 player” in my house is a 60” television screen, with a beautiful “now playing” screen.  And it’s not all the beautiful when the album picture looks like crap.  So it’s time to remedy that.

For a large part of my collection, I was able to rely on a utility called Album Art Downloader, which is a pretty descriptive name as that’s all it does.  It searches a large variety of websites and lets you pick the picture you want to download in whatever resolution is available.  Initially it’s very overwhelming, but once you get it scaled back to a reasonable number of art sources, it’s quite workable.

I settled on a minimum size of 950×950 for my art.  I wanted to have a nice round number like 1000×1000, but one of the album art sites has a default of 953×953 (how odd), so that’s a lot of what I ended up with.  Ridiculously, iTunes and Google Music both have images up to 4000×4000.  Why so many pixels?!  But anyway, I got the best of what I could, and the rest I would have to handle myself.

It was way back in 2008 that I made a post saying I was scanning my less-accessible albums and posting them online.  Of course, back then, I was posting images at 500×500, which was fair over 10 years ago.  In 2014, I made another run at it.  But now, I’m continuing again, but posting the images online at 1500×1500.  This sharing is all well and good, but it doesn’t have the reach I feel it deserves.  Not many people are going to go to Flickr to search for album art, and also, the Album Art Downloader does not search Flickr for artwork, so that should be a sign.

So, where should I upload my contributions?  There’s one website that is pretty highly respected, Album Art Exchange, and I found them many years ago.  But I was immediately turned off by many factors, primarily the site owner’s terrible behavior and the site’s draconian policies.  For a long time, I stayed with Flickr, primarily for the independence, but also because nothing else out there seemed as organized.  Recently, I learned about Fanart.tv and I’m very hopeful that can be my new home for my efforts.

Of course every site has rules and guides to preserve the quality of their content, but it doesn’t seem to be as toxic as Album Art Exchange.  The site is a little rough around the edges, but on the plus side, they have an integration API, so they are open to sharing their content, unlike AAX, who wants to retain complete control over everything.  Fanart ties their entries to MusicBrainz, which is another site I have a little experience with.  I chose Discogs over MusicBrainz for my collection tracking, but I don’t have animosity for them like I do with AAX.  The point is that their artist and album entries are based on an authoritative source, instead of AAX’s free-for-all text entry is a clear positive.

So right now, I have 200 CD covers on Flickr that I can contribute, excluding any dupes of course.  But then again, I’ve pretty much only uploaded covers I can’t find anywhere else, so that’s promising.  In my collection, I am down to 37 albums under 950px where I can’t find any better source of artwork.  Some of the albums I’ve been scanning I am really surprised don’t have a high-quality image online already.  I have some obscure albums, but Eddie Money’s Greatest Hits?  Surely that would be on iTunes or Google Music, right? Nope.  You can’t find a good image anywhere.  I was also surprised I couldn’t find Styx – Return To Paradise.  On the other hand, I am also amazed at how a lot of classical albums can have different covers for the same album, sometimes with different working, sometimes different pictures.  It’s very strange.  “That’s the album, but that’s not the cover.”

Entering any new community is always scary, especially on the Internet.  Wish me luck.

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