Each time I’ve been to my barber’s on Melrose Ave in recent months I’ve noticed a new album cover mural painted on the wall. Today was no exception with LCD Soundsystem’s forthcoming new album ‘American Dream’ being painted in the same place I saw Calvin Harris’s ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’ album a month before. This latest mural find was painted by the talented folks over at Hattas Public Murals.
LA is known for great murals with huge block-stretching pieces from artists like Retna, Shepard Fairey and D*Face. But the more commercial facing ‘album cover’ murals are somewhat of a new phenomenon, or at least they are getting more prevalent.
With the world turning/already turned into social media addicts, it’s no coincidence that record labels are seeing the potential of Instagram and Snapchat users to help promote their artists.
There is something very tangible about a painted mural, firstly they generally look great, the walls are often textured and painting over drainpipes and electrical boxes adds that layer of authenticity that is difficult to achieve in printed billboards and posters. There is also the physical relation to the sidewalks. They are normally very accessible making those Instagram photos so much easier to take and to place yourself in the frame.
Having said that, I’m not sure how popular this mural will be, the Twitter backlash has already started by those who don’t like the simplistic approach LCD Soundsystem have taken with this album cover.
There is much debate about advertising versus art when it comes to our streets and cities. Street art origins are based around freedom of expression and having a public platform to show work. But there is no denying that street art is now, for the most part, a commercial enterprise and many artists are paid to place their work and ‘brand’ on walls much in the same way an advertiser pays to have their product on a billboard.
For me, the painted commercial murals are a nice balance. They are showing product but also showing talent in the form of those who paint them, while giving fans those Instagram moments they crave.
And I’d rather have a painted mural ‘product advert’ on a street over an ugly roadside billboard any day.