Liner notes

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Handwritten inscription by Gustav Holst on Adrian Boult's copy of the score of The Planets (from liner note to EMI CD 5 66934 2)

Liner notes (also sleeve notes or album notes) are the writings found on the sleeves of LP record albums and in booklets which come inserted into the compact disc jewel case or the equivalent packaging for cassettes.[1]


Liner notes are descended from the program notes for musical concerts, and developed into notes that were printed on the inner sleeve used to protect a traditional 12-inch vinyl record, i.e., long playing or gramophone record album. The term descends from the name "record liner" or "album liner". Album liner notes survived format changes from vinyl LP to cassette to CD.[2] These notes can be sources of information about the contents of the recording as well as broader cultural topics.[3]


Common material[]

Such notes often contained a mix of factual and anecdotal material, and occasionally a discography for the artist or the issuing record label. Liner notes were also an occasion for thoughtful signed essays on the artist by another party, often a sympathetic music journalist, a custom that has largely died out. However, the liner note essay has survived in retrospective compilations, particularly in box sets. It is also a tradition in Japan, especially for foreign artist releases. Liner notes often include complete song lyrics for the album.[4]


Liner notes now usually include information about the musician, lyrics, a personnel list, and other credits to people the musicians want to thank and people or companies involved in the production of the music.[5] They also can give details on the extent of each musical piece, and sometimes place them in historical or social context. Liner notes for classical music recordings often provide information in several languages; if the piece includes vocal parts, they will often include a libretto, possibly also translated into several languages.

Label Copy[]

The factual information in liner notes comes from the Label Copy. Label Copy is the record label's official info sheet for the published release.[6][7] It contains information that accompanies a musical work, including artist name, song title, song length, ISRC code, catalogue number, composer, publisher, rights holder, technical and artistic credits, A&R and producer credits, recording dates and locations. In digital music, the label copy is contained within what’s known as metadata.[8]


Liner notes sometimes provide metadata that can help when cataloguing private or public collections of sound recordings.[4][9] However, the information provided on liner notes varies considerably depending on the studio or label which produced the record. It also varies how much of the metadata digital media services such as Spotify and iTunes make public.[5] In 2019 Australian company Jaxsta launched a database of official music credits and liner notes. The database is made up of content-owner supplied metadata rather than crowd-sourced data, making previous hidden metadata more widely available to the music industry as well as the public domain.[10][11]

Digital liner notes[]

Increasingly and due to the rise of digital downloads, a digital booklet is being introduced to compensate for the lack of a physical booklet. Apple Inc. also introduced iTunes LP which features interactive menus instead of simple pages.[12] Spotify also has songwriter and producer credits available for individual tracks.[13] Lyrics are also available on certain tracks, in collaboration with Genius.[14]


A Grammy Award for Best Album Notes has been given annually since the 6th Annual Grammy Awards, May 12, 1964.[15]

See also[]

External links[]


  1. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (2004). Hoffmann, Frank (ed.). Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound. Taylor & Francis. p. 1001. doi:10.4324/9780203484272. ISBN 9780203484272.
  2. ^ Dean Biron, Writing and Music: Album Liner Notes, Portal: International Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies (Vol 8, No 1), 2011.
  3. ^ Borgerson, Janet; Schroeder, Jonathan (2017). Designed for Hi-Fi LIving: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262036238.
  4. ^ a b Reneé, Tonia (2020-04-30). "Music Industry Innovation: Meta Data". Medium. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  5. ^ a b "The sad death of liner note credits [op-ed]". The Music Network. 2020-02-03. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  6. ^ Sheehan, Coreen; Paris, Anika; Borg, Bobby; Corne, Eric; Eames, Michael (2016-03-01). Five Star Music Makeover: The Independent Artist's Guide for Singers, Songwriters, Bands, Producers, and Self-Publishers. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-4950-6359-6.
  7. ^ Henslee, William D.; Henslee, Elizabeth (2018-09-14). Entertainment Law and Business. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business. p. 815. ISBN 978-1-4548-8155-1.
  8. ^ "Credit Where Credit's Due". Mixonline. 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  9. ^ Morris, Jeremy Wade (2015-09-01). Selling Digital Music, Formatting Culture. Univ of California Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-520-28794-5.
  10. ^ Mayfield, Geoff (2020-05-19). "Jaxsta Aims to Bring Back Liner Notes, and Create an IMDB for Music". Variety. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  11. ^ "Jaxsta has launched the public beta of its massive music credits database". The Industry Observer. 2019-06-13. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  12. ^ Bruno, Antony (2009-08-01). "Apple, labels stir up deluxe digital Cocktail". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  13. ^ "Spotify Now Displays Songwriter Credits". Spotify. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  14. ^ "View lyrics". Spotify. 28 January 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  15. ^ "6th Annual GRAMMY Awards". 2017-11-28. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
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