The Making of the Two Wildest Grammy-Nominated Box Sets

ISSUE 2 2019 - DO NOT REUSE THIS!!!
Courtesy of Sony Entertainment
"Weird Al" Yankovic box set.

For decades, most box sets were just that: CDs in boxes. But now, as streaming continues to take over and normal CD sales decline, box sets and collectors’ editions account for a growing share of the revenue from physical music, and labels are tapping into the creative potential of tactile accoutrements. Of the five nominated for best boxed or special limited edition package at this year’s Grammys, two stand out for their elaborate presentation: Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic (Annie Stoll, Meghan Foley and Yankovic are up for the award) and the 19-CD Grateful Dead set Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: The Complete Recordings (Lisa Glines, Doran Tyson and Roy Henry Vickers).

1. Though unplayable, the instrument’s details are realistic. Even the typography for “Yankovic” pays “homage to accordion brand names,” says Foley.

2. The idea of collecting Yankovic’s work in a box designed like an accordion came from Legacy head of A&R John Jackson. Says art director/designer Foley: “It’s the embodiment of him as an artist.” 

3. The straps that keep the accordion closed are as decorative as they are practical: They hold the book of liner notes and help balance the box.

4. The set was designed to carry vinyl albums or CDs, for which Foley and Sony art director Stoll designed album-size cardboard sleeves. “The design challenge was to make it work for either one,” says Foley. “It had to hold a certain amount of weight.”

5. Just like the accordion Yankovic plays himself, the “bass” button appears upside-down. $450-$650, weirdal.com

1. A book with liner notes is wrapped in a folding cardboard fish, “so you can take the book out of the box without damaging it,” says Tyson. “This way, we didn’t have to put a notch in the box.”

2. The First Nations culture of the Pacific Northwest has four crests -- whale, eagle, wolf and raven -- and Vickers put one on each side of the box. The eagle represents “the vision of the skies.”

3. The skull is Grateful Dead iconography, but “it also represents the stories and songs and dances that connect us to our ancestors, those who are dead,” says Vickers.

4. The palette of traditional First Nations colors, made using local materials, “gets brighter as you open the box and your joy and excitement increase,” says Tyson.

5. Rhino Records designer Glines and Grateful Dead global brand manager Tyson commissioned First Nations artist Vickers, who modeled the box on the traditional cedar bentwood box used by the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest to store valuable keepsakes. $190, store.dead.net

2019 Grammy Awards

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of Billboard.