Soap box: with the streaming and downloading digital music revolution in full swing, it should be EASIER than ever (NOT HARDER THAN EVER) to see the credits for an individual track or an entire album.
I am spending a ridiculous amount of time this afternoon trying to access the "digital booklet" (i.e. a PDF of liner notes) for an album I bought on iTunes. I need these liner notes for my doctoral dissertation research, and I keep hitting roadblocks; in fact, it's been harder than finding and downloading most of the articles I've sought from peer-reviewed publications, downloads which have required the use of an academic institution's proxy server in order to authenticate my way in.
Think about that. In a world where we can link almost any digital asset to almost anything else with a single tap or click online, here is the laughably unhelpful and arcane step-by-step process I finally was forced to look up, describing how Apple wants me to access the liner notes for an album download I BOUGHT from them many months ago: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201306.
The most laughable part of this page is probably the second set of instructions for viewing the digital booklet on a mobile device. I cannot for the life of me understand why I wouldn't be able to do so simply by tapping the cover art, but no. I have to manually (manually!) find and then sync the individual PDF file using iCloud Drive (or, really, any cloud storage solution). How Apple manages to still be the biggest player in the downloadable digital music game is beyond me.
I am guessing the average consumer is not going to bother. Most people who own this album probably have no idea which studio was the location for the recording, which audio engineers worked on it, who the producers were, or which special individuals or organizations the artists wished to thank or acknowledge. And, with all their power and billions of dollars, Apple isn't interested in designing a relatively simple software fix to make it easier to find and appreciate this kind of information. Ridiculous.
When I was a kid, this kind of information made a big difference to me. Now that I am a working musician and I know all sorts of people who work in the industry, it's infuriating how inaccessible it is.
Earlier this year, Spotify finally started to address these concerns, but their solution is pitifully inadequate. Yes, you can now (sometimes) right-click and select "Show credits" or tape "Song credits" to see who wrote and produced an individual tracks... but the information is missing or incomplete for a vast number of tracks, and it still has no information on who recorded, mastered, played as session musicians, etc. ...and the mission information for writers/producers is not just on obscure albums. For example, I just clicked to find the credits for multiple songs from The National's 2017 album Sleep Well Beast, and the producer field was blank every time. I'm guessing The National would like to see their producer(s) credited (or if it was self-produced, that should be credited too).
I spent many hours of my adolescence poring over album liner notes, and the minutiae therein made an impression on me. I learned the names of musicians, producers, audio engineers, and many other contributors whom I would never have heard of. I sometimes saw those people, people like bassist/producer Otto "Sugar Bear" Price, playing in a concert and would be very excited and inspired. Many of my musical heroes and career inspirations were not the headlining artists, songwriters, or composers, but rather the co-writers, producers, session musicians, and more low-profile people. Learning these people's names, seeing the model number of an artist's favorite instrument, or reading their thanks and acknowledgements opened my eyes to career paths in music I had no idea existed. Liner notes also helped me learn lyrics, gain historical perspective, and do the sort of exciting exegesis which unveiled how interconnected the music world can be. That information matters, and it helped shaped my pathways through this profession. I'd hate to see others miss out on that info.
Soap box over. There are lots of petitions to change this state of affairs. Here is one: https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/show-the-album-credits