Venus Cupid Folly & Time: Thirty Years of The Divine Comedy

The Bespoke Approach to CD Packaging

Collectors are always on the lookout for limited edition extras that can only be found in a bespoke set. On a recent visit to the Key Production London office, several such extraordinary eye-catching CD releases were impossible not to admire. From a comprehensive glittery Kylie release to an overarching vibrant Sparks piece, what is the process to creating a finished compilation artifact?

What became clear through talking to experienced colleagues is the bespoke approach brought to the individual projects. Each release brings slightly different requirements which the expertise at Key is ready for, whether that be a creative brief needing to be transformed from mere idea into physical entity or a price point allowing maximum access to the most material from an artist.

When Strategy and Sustainability Director John Service began working with The Divine Comedy on what was to become their stunning 2020 release Venus Cupid Folly & Time: Thirty Years of The Divine Comedy, band leader Neil Hanon only had one clear idea. ‘He wanted to put together a box set containing deluxe editions of all The Divine Comedy albums in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the band,’ Service says. ‘Other than that, he was unsure of what the completed item would be.’ To help generate ideas, Service ‘brought out a lot of samples and examples of things that we might consider’.

The material on the compilation is exciting, especially for the completist fan, consisting of ‘every album presented as a two-disc set…full of bonus rarities, unreleased tracks, remixes, demos, and other things.’ The challenge was how to create packaging that reflected the unique offering housed inside, capturing the band’s evolution over their three-decade career. ‘Neil liked the idea of [the set] having a literary bent to it,’ Service recalls. ‘We started playing with making the release look like a set of books you might see in traditional libraries, gold embossed and beautiful’. Various possibilities were explored, though fitting all of the individual artwork from the different albums into one comprehensive piece became very complicated. After formatting actual hardback books was rejected, a solution was finally found. ‘We eventually came up with the idea of putting the albums into slipcases with the original artwork. The slipcases then have new artwork that was made to resemble a book and look uniform, with a spine and text,’ says Service. The finished impact of the set would not be remiss in any scholarly reading establishment, the elegant lettering, classy muted colours, and overall aesthetic representing the character of the band while being a fitting homage to an important landmark anniversary in their career.

Alternatively, a client may come to Key with a brief already well-defined, looking for a cost-effective way to make the most appealing product. Key’s extensive supply chain provides the unique opportunity for even the most imaginative briefs to be brought into existence in the most cost-effective manner for a customer based on their project requirements. This was the case when Joint Head of Sales Kath Summersgill recently worked on T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened To The Teenage Dream? Demon Music Group release. ‘They are a very long-standing catalogue label’, Kath says. ‘They know what they're doing; they come with a very specific brief of what they want. It's less about me helping decide a direction or giving ideas. They will come to me with a number of specs and different ideas on what they want. I have to give them a quote based on various factors, such as quantities, bonus material, and those sorts of things. They then go back and see what works into the budget.’ Packed with previously unpublished photos, ephemera, a 44-page booklet, and 20 tracks across the 4-CD set, 1973 is gorgeous to look at, underscoring Key’s dedication to visually glorious packaging. ‘People don't want to pay a fortune even if it is a box set,’ Kath argues. ‘The T-Rex set shows you can get a beautiful product that is bespoke and reasonably priced’.