Now I know who to blame …

Appetite for Self-Destruction

For years, my pet peeve was that darned packaging around CDs. First of all, it would tear at my fingers trying to get it open. Second, I was left with more plastic and cardboard than CD case, and so every purchase of music felt as if I were germinating the local landfill.

This week, I finally found the name of the guy credited with this entire packaging idea. It is Jerry Shulman, who was director of marketing at CBS at the time. In the book Appetite for Self-Destruction by Steve Knopper (an excellent look at how the music industry has again and again shot itself in the foot as the digital revolution took hold …. Napster, anyone? Or now bit torrent?), Shuman admits to the idea. “It was me,” Shulman is quoted saying by Knopper. “It cut everyone’s fingers to shreds when you cut it open.”

Yep. That’s probably why they were known as blister boxes in the industry.

Now, Shulman did not invent this contraption just to cause pain to music customers (although Knopper does an excellent job of showing how us music lovers are often farthest from the minds of the record company executives at so many turns in the road over the last 30 years). The tomb-like plastic and cardboard casing was invented so that record store owners would not have to build new shelves for CDs; they could just use the old LP shelves and fit two CDs in the spot where one LP used to go.

Now, who is the hero of this story of the old CD cases? Raffi. That’s right. Raffi — the children’s singer who has always earned my respect for refusing to license any of his recordings for marketing that might influence a child to buy a product. He just wants kids to love music.

According to Knopper, Raffi refused to put out CDs in the so-called longbox. Good for you, Raffi.

Meanwhile, the industry realized they could save a bundle of money by eliminating all of that packaging, and appease other artists like U2, Peter Gabriel and others who were worried about the environmental impact of the packaging. It is nice to see that CDs (if you still buy them) are mostly without the plastic sleeves.

Of course, the digital versions require no packaging at all.

Peace (in laying the blame),
Kevin

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