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View Full Version : When did CDs start having a clear backing behind the actual CD?


bluetoast
04-25-12, 10:01 PM
One more question before I turn in tonight. I only noticed this around '97 and after that I thought all CDs that were just black stripes with no artwork behind the disc were antiquated relics (not the music itself, but the cases). But I never found out when exactly that shift occurred. Was it a change in technology, like slim cases for DVDs or something?

I mean it seems like if the tech. was there then it was an obvious thing to do, considering vinyl records had a ton of space for artwork, so why not replicate that on a CD right off the bat, instead of 15-20 years later. I'm wondering if there was a reason at play.

GuessWho
04-25-12, 11:20 PM
I remember Alice in Chain's Jar of Flies having this in '94

Josh-da-man
04-26-12, 12:38 AM
The first one I remember getting was Laaz Rockit's "Annihilation Principle" from 1989.

Though the case tray was clear, there was no artwork behind it, just plain white paper.

wishbone
04-26-12, 02:10 AM
Other examples in '94

http://i46.tinypic.com/34pl7hz.jpg

http://i50.tinypic.com/rwo01k.jpg
http://i49.tinypic.com/19unmw.jpgThe first one I remember getting was Laaz Rockit's "Annihilation Principle" from 1989.

Though the case tray was clear, there was no artwork behind it, just plain white paper.I put the large green sticker that was on the longbox shrinkwrap behind the opague media tray for my disc. Sacred Reich's Surf Nicaragua had an opague media tray with no artwork behind it as well.

Poink
04-26-12, 03:05 AM
My guess is just that it wasn't until the latter half of the 90's that the CD became just about the 'only' format available. Cassettes were still very common up until at least '95, and vinyl as well (albeit more in actual record stores rather than Target / Wal-Mart / Best Buy / etc).

I'd imagine that most album cover artists and designers still worked with the LP style sleeve in mind since it was the best format to represent the art, despite not being the biggest seller. When the mainstream market for vinyl really vanished in the early 90's, I suppose said designers started to expand the possibilities of the CD case.

Compact Discs took a lot longer to really dominate than one would think. Vinyl was still a cheaper format up until the mid '90s when it all but disappeared from the major label output. An LP would run roughly $8-$10 with a CD being $12-$15 (or more). With the resurgence of vinyl in recent years, it's become more expensive due to various factors such as far less pressing plants, limited editions, custom artwork, and higher grade materials than what was standard in the past.

The Bus
04-26-12, 08:50 AM
Not really related, but I fooled at least one person with the completely clear CD-shaped plastic piece you get when you buy the towers of CD-rs in bulk.

I told them it was a special pressing of the new Everclear single and they believed me. :lol:

TheBang
04-26-12, 08:25 PM
Yeah, I think 94 is about when it started becoming prominent.

My take on it is that they simply didn't realize that it would be cool to have a clear tray and artwork behind it, instead of just a black tray.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with the technology. I mean, the rest of the case is clear plastic, there's no reason the tray couldn't have been from the beginning. And the booklet has printing on both sides of the paper, so why not the back cover also? I think it just came down to someone realizing that it could be done and would look cool.

Applejack
04-26-12, 09:01 PM
I remember when the clear trays first started. Is it just me, but it seemed like the teeth on the center hubs always broke. Now they seem just as sturdy as the old black plastic trays, but in the 90's, all of my clear ones seemed crappy

Poink
04-27-12, 03:17 AM
I remember when the clear trays first started. Is it just me, but it seemed like the teeth on the center hubs always broke. Now they seem just as sturdy as the old black plastic trays, but in the 90's, all of my clear ones seemed crappy

Well damn... I actually think you solved the mystery!

I hadn't really thought of it before reading that. The clear cases used to completely suck at doing their job; if half of the 'teeth' weren't already broken to begin with, they sure as hell would be after a half dozen uses. Guess the old textured brown material is a lot more durable when it comes to the type of hub with an emtpy center. Once they upgraded them with the center buttons or added support, things were ok.

Going through my collection, I honestly can say that nearly everything I bought up until the late 90's with a clear tray is broken to some extent. Radiohead's OK Computer is probably the oldest thing I have that is still completely intact, at least as far as anything I've listened to repeatedly for the past 15+ years.

Oddly enough, I remember when R.E.M's 'Monster' came out; I bought it and I think I actually exchanged it because the tabs were completely demolished. It only took the replacement about one day for them to all break. It used a material that feels just like the 'brown' type, except that it's orange. Maybe there was some corporate sabotage regarding alternate tray colors...

Josh-da-man
04-27-12, 05:02 AM
The teeth on the clear trays would break because the plastic they were made out of was brittle and didn't have as much as 'give' as the black/gray plastic.

Once they started making the hubs different from the black cases, they held up much better.

Rocketdog2000
04-27-12, 11:47 AM
My guess is just that it wasn't until the latter half of the 90's that the CD became just about the 'only' format available. Cassettes were still very common up until at least '95, and vinyl as well (albeit more in actual record stores rather than Target / Wal-Mart / Best Buy / etc).

I'd imagine that most album cover artists and designers still worked with the LP style sleeve in mind since it was the best format to represent the art, despite not being the biggest seller. When the mainstream market for vinyl really vanished in the early 90's, I suppose said designers started to expand the possibilities of the CD case.

Compact Discs took a lot longer to really dominate than one would think. Vinyl was still a cheaper format up until the mid '90s when it all but disappeared from the major label output. An LP would run roughly $8-$10 with a CD being $12-$15 (or more). With the resurgence of vinyl in recent years, it's become more expensive due to various factors such as far less pressing plants, limited editions, custom artwork, and higher grade materials than what was standard in the past.

You pretty much nailed it, with one slight exception that puts it into a bit more perspective - the longbox. And depending on the average age of the folks posting, I wouldn't expect everyone to remember them.

When CD's first came on to the marketplace, they were packaged in "longboxes". Sometimes these were clear pieces of plastic that separated the CD's booklet from the actual case, but more often than not, they were cardboard cases that houses the disc, sort of mimicking an album cover. This was primarily done for two reasons - 1) to more easily have them occupy the same shelf space that vinyl LPs had been taking up, and 2) to display more artwork and have a greater visual appeal. (Also, if was a bit of a theft deterrent.)

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-9KtF5E5qB_c/TZSERGg3lGI/AAAAAAAAAPE/l2c1RuoS6SQ/s320/clarkgenetwosides.jpghttps://encrypted-tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQjjUoW1pc9Ftm109-ai39Un2t2w0Cq0PhF7U4bAIrgh8tBThR5

Once vinyl as a format was out of the picture, retailers realized they could stock twice as much CD product in the same space if the longbox was eliminated. Having more product meant having more options for customers, thereby translating to more sales. So, around 1992-93, the CD longbox went bye-bye.

Somewhere along the line, however, the record companies realized that they lost some of marketing aspects via artwork on the longboxes. To remedy this, somebody had the genius idea to utilize the back tray of the CD - as up until now, it had just been wasted space. Using a clear, instead of standard black/gray tray, opened up that much more space to included extra info, liner notes, or eye-catching graphics. And so, most companies switched over to using this style, instead - depending on what the artist wanted.

The reason the early clear cases weren't as strong, was because they hadn't quite worked out a satisfactory polymer blend on them - something else they would fix in later years. Other colored plastic could often suffer the same issue.

Rocketdog2000
04-27-12, 12:15 PM
I remember Alice in Chain's Jar of Flies having this in '94

The cool thing about that CD was that early pressings actually had plastic flies in the spine side of the jewel case. (Tried finding a picture, but couldn't) Alice In Chains were big proponents of utilizing cool jewel cases for their discs, be it colored cases or what not.

http://991.com/newGallery/Alice-In-Chains-Alice-In-Chains--425087.jpg http://listia.s3.amazonaws.com/photos/1f2180caaed77cd1a13e/medium.JPG?1325724414

Alan Smithee
04-27-12, 02:50 PM
All the labels used those 'blister packs' on their first CDs except for Warner, which used longboxes which were a bit wider and had a plastic tray the CD sat in, with a cut-out on the front of the box for the disc cover to show through. I have Madonna's Like A Virgin and Van Halen's 1984 in these.

By the end of 1985 most labels had started using standard longboxes. They were re-closable until 1987 when they were just glued shut. I've kept my CDs in the re-closable ones, and have the glued ones stacked up in a closet. I was the only one I knew who saved those. The Polygram labels kept using blister packs for a long time, but started putting the booklet in the CD case and having a long sheet with album art taking up the size of the package. I saved all of those too.

Don't remember too much about the clear cases, as that was around the same time labels had started raising their CD prices and I lost interest in collecting as a result of that.

wishbone
04-27-12, 03:06 PM
I forgot about the blister packs. I have quite a few longboxes albeit cut up -- I used to hang them up on the wall; a couple of longboxes are still intact like Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti though.

I found this old EW article.Music Article
Trash the longbox? What's with the CD longbox? -- We look into the wasteful packaging of CDs
By Ron Givens | Apr 20, 1990

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, how about a clean thought: The music industry could eliminate more than 18.5 million pounds of trash each year if it only would change the way it packages compact discs. That is, roughly, the same amount of garbage created daily by a population the size of Missouri's.

Right now, nearly every compact disc sold in this country comes in a 6-by-12-inch package. Most often this is a cardboard container called a longbox, which is about twice as big as the CD it holds; in some cases the oversize package is a hard-to-open plastic contrivance called a blister pack. Each 6-by-12-inch CD package creates about 1.5 ounces of waste while providing nothing of use to the music consumer. With very few exceptions, these containers go straight to wastebaskets. Last year that happened about 200 million times.

Since April 1, when Canada stopped using longboxes, Americans have been the only people in the world who have to pollute for their music. The United States is unlikely to follow Canada's lead in the near future. None of the major forces in the American retail market for music, the world's largest, want to bear the costs of changing the way CDs are sold.

The music industry sees longbox and blister pack waste as the unfortunate ecological cost of doing business. ''We don't want to do anything that will cause damage to the environment, but we don't see any other way to merchandise,'' says Patricia Moreland, president of City One Stop, a Los Angeles wholesaling business that sells music to independent retailers.

Disposable packaging even places a financial burden on the music consumer. Longboxes cost 20 to 50 cents at the manufacturing level and, after markups by wholesalers and retailers, add as much as $1 to the price of each compact disc. The extra cost also applies to those few retailers that sell CDs in their unwrapped, hard plastic containers, known as jewel boxes. Until recently, no record company distributed compact discs without longboxes or blister packs. If a store wanted to sell CDs in jewel boxes only, it had to pay for the 6-by-12-inch packaging, then rip it open and throw it away.

In January, one American record label dared to be different. Rykodisc, a 6-year-old independent company, started selling CDs without longbox packaging to distributors at a lower price. That won't make much of a dent in CD-related waste, however, since Rykodisc is a small label that has only begun to receive widespread attention because of its David Bowie reissues. And Rykodisc's customers still can order compact discs in disposable packaging.

Other record companies probably won't emulate Rykodisc. Stores simply are unwilling to accept CDs without 6-by-12-inch packaging, and record labels are unwilling to challenge them. ''Our retailers are very vehement on the subject,'' says Henry Droz, president of WEA Corp., the No. 1 prerecorded-music distributor in the country.

Retailers cling to longboxes because they're seen as the best way to sell a smaller-size format of music in the same old store. First, there is the shelving problem. Without longboxes, compact discs get lost in displays created for 12-by-12-inch albums. With the 6-by-12-inch packaging, a retailer can fit two CDs side by side in existing shelves. Of course, stores could be remodeled for CDs, but retailers are afraid that some other technology — laserdiscs, digital audio tape — might supplant the compact disc.

The CD's smaller size also creates a greater security problem. The compact disc in its shiny, 5-by-51/2-inch jewel box can be stashed easily in a thief's pocket. There is no single security system that works in all kinds of stores. The 6-by-12-inch package is seen by many as a feeble way to slow shoplifting, but it's the best compromise for varied retail situations. It's equally as effective for the music section of a department store as for a full-service record store.

Some people in the music industry want retailers to shelve CDs in reusable 6-by-12-inch plastic frames, or keepers, similar to the devices used in many stores for cassettes, the best-selling music format by far. But retailers don't want to foot the bill for keepers, and some don't want the hassle of taking the frames off at the cash register.

The record industry would like to hold on to the longbox for a third reason: eye appeal. As the LP fades from view, so does its great visual impact. Retailers say that music buyers now browse among LPs — if they can find them — before buying cassettes and CDs. Again, marketers see the CD longbox as a weak substitute, but the only one they have-3-by-4-inch cassette graphics are even less impressive than those on a jewel box.

In a December 1989 Billboard commentary, EMI president and CEO Sal Licata wrote, ''If we choose to eliminate the 6-by-12 CD package from our marketplace, we will not only reduce our presence there, but with it, our punch.'' Robert Simonds, chief financial officer of Rykodisc, disagrees: ''When a consumer wants to buy an R.E.M. cassette, he doesn't say, 'Let's go look at the R.E.M. records to see which one to buy.'''

Consumers themselves have mixed feelings about longboxes. Ninety-three percent of CD buyers consider them to be of no value, according to a survey by Soundata, a Connecticut music-research company. Ninety-one percent said they would buy the same number of CDs if they came only in a shrink-wrapped jewel box, and 5 percent said they would actually buy more. At the same time, 44 percent said they neither liked nor disliked longboxes, 38 percent said they liked them, and only 18 percent said they disliked them. In other words, most consumers see CD packaging as worthless, but they also don't think much about it. As Chris Morrison, a broadcaster in Stillwater, Okla., puts it, ''It doesn't bother me. What I'm interested in is what is inside the box.''

Unfortunately for the environment, as long as consumers don't have strong opinions, retailers will keep CD packaging the way it is. And as long as retailers want it that way, American record companies will stay put as well.
Originally posted Apr 20, 1990 Published in issue #10 Apr 20, 1990http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,317185,00.html...but retailers are afraid that some other technology — laserdiscs, digital audio tape — might supplant the compact disc.:lol:

clckworang
04-27-12, 03:11 PM
I remember those longboxes! I never had any of them because I was a cassette guy until probably 1994 or so, but I remember looking at them at the store and wondering why they were so damn expensive! :lol:

Rocketdog2000
04-27-12, 03:21 PM
I've kept my CDs in the re-closable ones, and have the glued ones stacked up in a closet. I was the only one I knew who saved those. The Polygram labels kept using blister packs for a long time, but started putting the booklet in the CD case and having a long sheet with album art taking up the size of the package. I saved all of those too.

I forgot about the blister packs. I have quite a few longboxes albeit cut up -- I used to hang them up on the wall; a couple of longboxes are still intact like Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti though.

I used to save all mine, too. At one time, I had a whole closet full of them - and that's not an exaggeration, either - but eventually got rid of them when I moved. One great use I often found for them was to cut them up and make my own cassette cases with (for mixes and copies).

wishbone
04-27-12, 03:23 PM
One great use I often found for them was to cut them up and make my own cassette cases with (for mixes and copies).I did that as well. :D

TheBang
04-27-12, 08:18 PM
Oh man, great article. I'm glad the labels and retailers were finally able to come to their senses and get rid of the long boxes.

Spiderbite
04-27-12, 09:22 PM
The cool thing about that CD was that early pressings actually had plastic flies in the spine side of the jewel case. (Tried finding a picture, but couldn't) Alice In Chains were big proponents of utilizing cool jewel cases for their discs, be it colored cases or what not.



It was the first thing I thought about when I was reading this thread and then I saw your post. Ask and you shall receive. This is my copy.

I worked in a music store when this was released and we only got a couple of copies with the flies in them so since I was a manager at the time, I of course snatched one. I always thought it was pretty cool and was surprised so one else really ever did anything else like this that I can remember.

Kinda like the backwards song cuts that were popular for two minutes. Remember those? Put the cd in the tray and then rewind backwards from track one and listen to the hidden track.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y170/robbrism/001.jpg

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y170/robbrism/002.jpg

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y170/robbrism/003.jpg

Those of us in the music store despised the long boxes and and were really happy when the word came down from corporate to destroy them all. We tore through so much unnecessary cardboard it was ridiculous. But most of the cds were still sealed even the cardboard. The plastic long boxes were the biggest pain in the ass. They were heavy dust collectors especially since most of the cds released in those were cut-outs and cheapy releases.

Remember when they tried to put cassettes in long boxes? There were several of those. And those long plastic cases you would put a cassette in to display it like a cd. Those could be a pain in the ass to open. We always had to have one of those plastic 3 fingered keys in our pockets at all times. Wish I still had mine. :(

Rocketdog2000
04-27-12, 11:00 PM
It was the first thing I thought about when I was reading this thread and then I saw your post. Ask and you shall receive. This is my copy.

I worked in a music store when this was released and we only got a couple of copies with the flies in them so since I was a manager at the time, I of course snatched one. I always thought it was pretty cool and was surprised so one else really ever did anything else like this that I can remember.

Kinda like the backwards song cuts that were popular for two minutes. Remember those? Put the cd in the tray and then rewind backwards from track one and listen to the hidden track.

http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y170/robbrism/001.jpg



Those of us in the music store despised the long boxes and and were really happy when the word came down from corporate to destroy them all. We tore through so much unnecessary cardboard it was ridiculous. But most of the cds were still sealed even the cardboard. The plastic long boxes were the biggest pain in the ass. They were heavy dust collectors especially since most of the cds released in those were cut-outs and cheapy releases.

Remember when they tried to put cassettes in long boxes? There were several of those. And those long plastic cases you would put a cassette in to display it like a cd. Those could be a pain in the ass to open. We always had to have one of those plastic 3 fingered keys in our pockets at all times. Wish I still had mine. :(

Thanks for the pics!

So you worked in the biz, too. Yeah, so did I. I recall going through the same thing when it came time to get rid of the longboxes. As a matter of fact, if you see that little red and yellow square logo on the bottom left corner of the one pictured below, that was a code telling retailers that the CD inside was already sealed.

https://encrypted-tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQjjUoW1pc9Ftm109-ai39Un2t2w0Cq0PhF7U4bAIrgh8tBThR5

Oh, and yes, I remember the hidden backwards song cuts too.

Spiderbite
04-28-12, 01:20 AM
So you worked in the biz, too. Yeah, so did I.

I started at a Turtles while a college sophomore in 1992 and quit after I graduated college in 1995. Turtles was bought by Blockbuster and we became Blockbuster Music. They really fucked things up unfortunately. I could probably fill a book with all the mistakes they made.

What sucks is that it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had thought I certainly didn't realize it or appreciate it at the time. I could also fill a thread with all the fun stories, cool concerts, neat promos, etc. that I saw in those few years. And I wasn't even at a big store in a big city.

Not to derail too much but where and when for you?

walletboyniac
04-28-12, 08:25 AM
I worked at an independent record store for over 5 years, as well. Working customer service of any sort blows, but this was the most fun job I've ever had. Always worked with cool and fun people. Even the temporary Christmas help was good. Of course the perks were great, too. I spent a large portion of my paychecks on music. After a couple years, I got stuff at cost, and things really got out of control. Add to that, loads of cool promos, getting on any guest list I wanted, listening to music and farting around all day, etc. It was the best.

Alan Smithee
04-28-12, 04:34 PM
Don't know how I could've forgotten this, but I quit buying stuff at Tower Records around 1993 because they had decided they were going to dump longboxes whether the record companies liked it or not, so they started taking in-stock discs out of the longboxes and putting the jewel cases in little plastic bag things they had used for import CDs which didn't come shrinkwrapped. Being an obsessive collector, I took this as a big "fuck you," and thought Tower of all places would have understood this. I went to one of their stores with a friend when they were doing that, and I mentioned within hearing of an employee "Yeah, I want to get that, but I won't buy merchandise that's been tampered with!" He spoke up and said "This hasn't been tampered with!" "You took them out of the boxes!" "The longboxes, yeah." "Well, I save them." "Do you look at them?" "I keep them stacked up in my closet." "But do you LOOK at them?" Attempting to convince me that I didn't really need them and it was OK for them to do this in other words.

Back then I bought just about everything I had the least bit of interest in, but had to boycott Tower for that. I eventually started buying from them again after CDs stopped coming in longboxes, but that was about the same time labels had started jacking up the prices and I refused to go along with that. $15 was my absolute limit for a CD, and it was assumed in 1985 that prices would eventually drop as they became cheaper to manufacture and instead they went up. And THAT'S why music sales eventually went into the toilet, free downloads just gave people all the more reason not to get financially raped by the greedy record companies.

I ended up working at Tower's main office in West Sacramento the last 5 years they were in business, nobody there remembered the longbox-dumping when I mentioned it.

Next time I'm at my parents' house I'll take some pictures of the more interesting longboxes I have.

walletboyniac
04-28-12, 07:17 PM
I eventually started buying from them again after CDs stopped coming in longboxes, but that was about the same time labels had started jacking up the prices and I refused to go along with that. $15 was my absolute limit for a CD, and it was assumed in 1985 that prices would eventually drop as they became cheaper to manufacture and instead they went up. And THAT'S why music sales eventually went into the toilet, free downloads just gave people all the more reason not to get financially raped by the greedy record companies.

I totally agree. I remember the "industry" promised that CD prices would drop to LP price level once it became cheaper to manufacture them. It was a sort of incentive to support the CD. Of course, the cheaper it got, the more CD prices rose.

Also, at least in my experience, indie stores could only buy from "one-stops" (which were expensive), while chains would cut deals directly with the major record companies. Another downfall.

Spiderbite
04-28-12, 07:21 PM
I know we lost a lot of sales at Blockbuster Music when they had the bright idea of "music listening stations." When they first came up with this idea, we were commanded by corporate to open any and every CD that any person wanted to listen to. No limit. No matter if we only had one copy, if a person wanted to listen to it, open up the factory sealed cd and then plop it in their listening station. Then when the person decided not to pay the crazy sum of $20 bucks for said cd, we then had little baggies we were provided with to "reseal" the cd and slap the same price sticker on this now, used, cd. Corporate also wanted us to argue with people who stated that it was a "used" cd and they wanted us to explain to the customer how it was still a "new" disc.

We all hated it and thought that Blockbuster had lost their minds. It didn't take to long for some of the listening rules to change but they still never fixed all the issues with this process before I left in 1995.

fuzzbox
04-28-12, 07:51 PM
The earliest CD I have with a clear backing tray is "Rock Hard" by the Pandoras from '89. It is just blank underneath. And yes, half the teeth are broken.

I think it just honestly never occurred to early CD package designers that they could use that space. Wasn't there a big uproar when Sonic Youth put a crazy picture behind a black tray? After that, it seemed that designers started using that space a lot.

-jason

Dr. Phibes
04-29-12, 11:13 AM
I always thought it was pretty cool and was surprised so one else really ever did anything else like this that I can remember.


The only thing I ever saw like this was Century Media released a black metal compilation called Firestarter that had a match in the spine - you know, for setting a church on fire. I can't find a picture of this one either, but I have it, just not sure where it's at.

Mabuse
04-30-12, 05:01 PM
Automatic For the People in 1992 is the first BIG album I can remember that had a clear media holder. It was clear yellow and broke very easily. Maybe there were a few before Automatic for the People, but not by that big an artist released in that many units.

I always repected Pet Shop Boys for the album Very which had an all opaque orange box, media holder, everything. AND IT DIDN'T BREAK. It was actually well engineered and I have it to this day. Held up perfectly.

I love all you people's record store stories. I bought my first CD in a Music Plus in 1990 when I was 12 and I collected a lot of music from then through college, petering out around 2000. What a transformative time for record stores! I can remember spending hours in record stores because every time you went to one so much had changed. I remember long boxes and tapes in those long white theft deterent cases. I can remember browsing aisles of laserdiscs, then seeing them shrink, then disapearing altogether. I can remember going to a Tower for the first time in 1993 and it being the first record store I'd ever been in that didn't have the long boxes. I can remember Blockbuster Music coming to town and taking over Music Plus and implementing their "listening bars". Oh good times.