Robert Ellis is running his thumbs over the case of his new CD, “Photographs.” Ornately framed vintage pictures of his parents adorn the cover, and the 22-year-old from Houston is trying to demonstrate that each frame is finely embossed. Mr. Ellis is particularly proud of the ultraviolet ink that makes what would be the glass parts of the frames look more like actual glass. The effect is understated, but it adds up to decidedly intricate packaging at a time when most CD covers are only seen as thumbnail JPEGs in online music stores. “Little things are important to me, whether it’s the packaging or in the presentation of the songs themselves,” said Mr. Ellis, sitting in a room at Hotel San José in Austin, paid for by his new label, New West Records, a well-regarded independent with a roster that includes John Hiatt, Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle. “Why shouldn’t the CD look like something people might want to actually have and hold onto? I’m pretty obsessive about having this all mean something.”
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