We're living in a digital age where actually going to the store and purchasing an album is pretty unusual. Even when we were buying albums, music is audio, so why bother putting a lot of effort into what goes on the front cover?
Album art has always been critical, and it still is. Here are a few of the reasons why an album cover is a key to your music marketing plan.
Just as people walking down the aisle at the local music store are attracted by the images on album covers, today’s shoppers scroll through the options in their music store, often looking at suggested artists. Great album art is one of the features that can set you apart from other newly emerging artists in a feed and make it more likely that someone will consider listening to your album.
When someone hears your music and finds it compelling, they will likely glance at the screen of their smart device or computer to see who is playing. In general, the artist, album title, and song are displaced, as well as a thumbnail of the album cover.
Having a distinctive name is important, but so is having a compelling album cover that customers are more likely to remember. Album covers that draw a connection between the name of your band or album, and the image may make it more likely that a listener will remember the name of your band.
Your album cover is an important place for you to make statements about what your album and your band are all about. The album cover is often a visual representation of the primary theme of an album.
This makes it more likely that your fans will take you seriously and understand the meaning behind your songs. Furthermore, the album cover helps to tie your entire album together, making it seem more coherent and easier for fans to fall in love with.
There are a few things that album covers typically have in common, regardless of the type of music or the subject matter. Here are a few of the basics that will likely be true:
If you are trying to release your own album for the first time, you probably have a lot of expenses and not much money to spare. Therefore, when you are looking for ways to cut costs, you may decide that a graphic designer is one of the areas worth cutting. However, there are some very good reasons to use a graphic designer for your album artwork rather than trying to do it all yourself:
You may not even get an opportunity to be heard before your potential fans decide that you aren't worth listening to if your album looks unprofessional. You may think that you can produce a great-looking album cover using tools you find affordably online and utilizing free stock photos, but the truth is that people are accustomed to a very high degree of quality in graphics, and they can tell when something is homemade rather than professionally designed. If your album cover fails to deliver, they are likely to form a less positive opinion of your band.
Fans are always on the lookout for indications that a band isn't serious. The saying may go “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do this every day, especially when it comes to the music that we choose to listen to. Nobody wants to put effort into following a band that is likely to dry up in the next couple of years. An album cover is one way that your potential fans will judge your band when they are deciding whether they want to listen to your albums or not.
As a musician, you are surely very close to the music that you make. The same goes for your fans. Being so close to the music can make it harder for you to form a good opinion about the album art that you are making.
The meaning behind the images may seem perfectly clear to you and your fans, but a quality graphic designer who has done extensive research into the industry is likely to see problems with clarity that may not come across to you but will be apparent to prospective new fans. This outside perspective can be absolutely invaluable in helping you to craft the perfect album cover.
You may know someone with great artistic skills who could design an album for you, but if they can't get it done quickly enough to give you time to promote the album, it won't do you much good.
A professional graphic designer can get you results much quicker, and they will stand by those results. The comfort of knowing that your album will be ready and will look great when you need it makes the price tag more than worthwhile to most musicians.
Even if you are using a quality graphic designer, you will need to inform a lot of decisions about how the finished album cover should look. You will need to communicate your likes and dislikes and what your major goals are in the album cover to your graphic designer. Here are a few ways to help you choose how your album art should look:
Every artist has a number of bands that they turn to for inspiration. Looking at the album art of bands that have inspired you is a superb way to choose album art that communicates your message well.
You don't want to mimic another artist’s album, but getting a sense of commonalities and key features in some of your favorite bands is a great way to help you tailor your album cover perfectly.
Most forms of music have at least a few lyrics that form imagery or create metaphors. Choosing one of these lines from your music is a superb way to be sure that your album cover identifies with the lyrics and make a connection with your listeners. Listen to your music and write down any lyrics that may be able to accomplish your goals.
The right graphic designer can make a huge difference in how successful your album cover is and how effective it can be in marketing your album and attracting attention to your music. It can be hard to make an investment into a graphic designer when you are operating under a tight budget, but without great album art, you are unlikely to get your music off the ground. This is an investment that most musicians find well worth making.