Beyoncé's visual album, Beck's "make your own songbook," and more

By Julia Edelman
Updated December 03, 2015 03:15 PM
Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

In an age where music is so ubiquitous and accessible, it can be hard to stand out. So we’re looking at the five most innovative and creative ways artists have shared their music over the past few years, ranging from coded t-shirts to delicious, yet disturbing jelly skulls.

1. Animal Collective
If you were traveling out of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport over this past Thanksgiving, you weren’t just spotting families in matching sweaters, or buying an extensive selection of snacks before the plane ride. You were also listening to Animal Collective’s new album, which happened to play over the airport’s loudspeakers. Eventually, the album Painting With will be out on Feb. 19, but to tide us over until then, they released their first single, “FloriDada.”

2. Beck

If you don’t play an instrument, then Song Reader might not be for you. Released in 2012, the album contains sheet music for 20 songs, so fans can interpret the music in their own way. It allowed for some incredible participation from Beck’s audience, and encouraged fans to create their own versions of songs. McSweeney’s, the book’s publisher, even had versions of the songs performed by other musicians published on their website. In 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it 50th on their “Best Albums of 2013” list.

3. Mos Def
The Ecstatic, Most Def’s album released in 2009, was the first to be available in Music Tee format. You could find the album’s cover art on the front, the tracklist on the back, and a download code for the album on the hang tag. The shirt cost $39, and the record ended up reaching number nine on the Billboard 200 chart. Finally, a chance to listen to your music, and wear it, too.

4. The Flaming Lips

In 2011, you could only listen to the four-track EP Gummy Skull Song by finding a USB drive hidden inside a brain-shaped gummy itself further encased in a larger gummy skull. The asking price for a gummy skull was $150.

5. Beyoncé

When your grandchildren ask you what you were doing on Dec. 13, 2013, you can probably tell them you were watching Beyoncé‘s self-titled visual album. After it was dropped at midnight, it was the fastest-selling release of her solo career and marked the largest debut sales week for a female artist in 2013.