When Reddit user @simdows shared a digital representation of a Frank Ocean album in the style of a paper receipt in October 2018, the fan art didn’t receive much recognition. But 19 months later, the concept is garnering attention from thousands.
Melody You, who graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication this Spring, was inspired by the original Reddit post to start her own receipt series on Instagram.
Since her first post on May 8, You’s project @albumreceipts has amassed nearly 90,000 followers and caught the attention of several of the musicians she has featured.
The virality of the endeavor, You said, was unexpected. What started as a creative outlet for her advertising studies and an expansion of her portfolio gained notoriety when people began sharing her posts on Twitter, attracting fans of the albums’ artists.
“The first moment where I realized that it was getting pretty viral was after I did ‘Fine Line’ by Harry Styles, which… caught the attention of a lot of popular Harry Styles and One Direction fan pages on Twitter,” You said.
Each receipt contains the album’s artwork, recording information and tracklist, with song lengths listed in place of prices and the album’s total runtime as the receipt’s subtotal. You uses a crumpled paper texture and blends the text and graphics to fit that template, the whole process taking about an hour to complete.
You has since posted 67 unique receipts, her most liked being Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next,” which received more than 82,000 likes and a repost from Grande herself. The account has been shared by other prominent musical acts, including Kacey Musgraves, Conan Gray and Kevin Abstract.
The project began one day after You finished the final semester of her college journey online. She said she saw more people engaging with music content online as they self-isolated amid the pandemic, which inspired her to captivate that audience with @albumreceipts.
“Especially during this time, I’ve noticed that a lot of people love sharing the music that they’re listening to,” You said. “My main goal with this is really just to have fun and learn and grow with this project as a designer.”
Pegeen Ryan, associate professor of advertising in COM, taught You’s Portfolio Development class in the Spring. Her course allows students to explore the different mediums of advertising work.
Ryan advised You when the account rose rapidly to popularity. She said that though viral content is difficult to predict, simple and digestible ideas like album receipts have the potential to grow into online sensations.
“Content is king right now,” Ryan said. “Everybody’s absorbing tons of content. It’s what the internet runs on, so if you produce something that’s simple and interesting and bite-size and relatable and it looks cool, that’s a great start.”
You recently collaborated with digital artist and childhood friend Mariah Ao, who shares her own art on the Instagram account @pinkart.jpg. You and Ao released album receipts for six Asian artists in celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, including K-pop sensations Blackpink and BTS.
You has also collaborated with @doodlesbykaren on three additional Heritage Month receipts.
Ao, who studied economics at the University of California, Berkeley, started creating music-themed art after graduating college in 2019, with many of her drawings centered around Asian artists. She said her upbringing inspires her to showcase Asian performers, who symbolize a sort of success that her parents didn’t initially understand.
“It took a while, honestly, for my parents to accept that I was into music and I wanted to do something related to music business,” Ao said. “I thought it was really important to shine a light on Asian artists, so it was great that I was able to do that. It’s something that Melody and I were both passionate about.”
You said she found it important to share Asian heritage with her now-large audience, whom she hopes will discover and explore more of these featured artists.
“I wanted to pay homage to a lot of these Asian artists that I think are seriously underrated,” You said. “I thought that collabing with another Asian American digital artist in order to celebrate Asian musical artists could be a cool thing.”
In the coming months, You said she plans to continue to post on her feed as well as venture into product prints, such as phone cases and laptop covers with the receipts printed on them. But for now — as her freelance career in advertising is just beginning — You said she is grateful for the praise her work is receiving.
“I kind of threw myself into this space that I just don’t know anything about… I never really expected myself to go into this field,” You said. “It’s been so amazing, and I’m so happy to see that people are really encouraging about this project.”