When Digital Distribution Becomes Art

You know what’s too cool? This is.

In an exploration of digital content delivery, record label Ghostly International is debuting a new label format: the Totem. Looking more like an otherworldly obelisk, this monolithic object serves as much more than a simple sculptural keepsake. Each Totem is embossed with its own three-character code that grants the listener access to a unique, private page where they can stream or download the album.

Check out what Ghostly has to say about the debut Totem, for Matthew Dear’s Black City:

The MDBC Totem is both a sculptural representation of the themes explored in Black City and a symbolic conduit to the music itself. Vaguely reminiscent of one of the soot-blackened skyscrapers that might populate Dear’s creeping, nameless city, the stacks upon the totem also call to mind the many shaped prongs of a universal power adaptor. In this sense, the totem is not simply a miniature building, but an abstract key to an unknown door. The branding of the totem has been purposefully reduced to its bare essentials—only the letters MDBC and unique three-digit suffixes are included—so that the totem’s meaning remains discernible only to its beholder.

Is this sounding like a stupid idea to you? Then it’s a good thing you’re not an artist. To me, this Totem concept represents a beautiful merging of true art with digital content. If you’re still not swayed, though, maybe you’ll appreciate the idea a bit better after this making of video.

Written by Ty Dunitz

Ty is an illustrator who stays up too late, and has to wear glasses. You can follow him on Twitter if you want to (@glitchritual), but he's just gonna throw your stupid PR crap in the garbage, so don't email him.

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  • What a cool idea – doesn’t make for a bad decoration either.I definitely think gadgets can be art if they’re designed well.

  • Jason Lawson

    This is a little too artsy fartsy for me. I think I will stick with buying my music on iTunes.

  • A bit pointless.. they already tried this with USB keys and that didn’t catch on either!