Album Art – Have you thought about this?

album art - dirty vertebrae

So the Album is sounding great, it is kicking ass and breaking speakers in the most delightful way. The sounds oozing, the creativity is flowing and bang…. it is time to work the album art, the one image that sums up the audio contents of your works. The image you choose or develop needs to represent the collective thoughts. After all the time, money energy poured into your creation so not come as an afterthought when creating the art. Now I say that with gritted teeth as I view album art as a lost art form a sometimes forgotten step in creativity.

Now cash flow for independent artists can be tight (trust me there have been many occasions where I have happily accepted a bottle of Jack Daniels as payment :-). But it is most important not to overlook the album art process, in the current modern world, technology in everyone’s pockets that one little square image will forever represent your collective music, there is a lot to squeeze in, Long gone are the days of those big ass LP’s with huge amounts of space to fill.

This is in no way a sales pitch but more of a thought process to keep in mind and maybe some of the mentions below will help you render the perfect piece for your music.

So here are various thoughts to make your next album art design the best ever.

1. Just say “No” to social profile links

Yep step 1, super easy 🙂 Social media is ever changing, platforms go and platforms grow, don’t run the risk of out-dating your work by adding profile links or icons onto your artwork. Back in the day Myspace was the musicians go to playground and made a huge impact very fast, then in a flash it was gone to dust, still active in a way but nobody really likes to admit that 🙂

Now with the above in mind I would highly recommend that you put your website URL address on your art, this will never out date nor be taken over by a new publishing platform, it is yours and yours only. Remember the world is a rather technical place and your audience are rather clever and will know how to find your social accounts from your website.

2. Oh it is so tiny

A very high percentage of fans will discover your music and releases online, so digital preparation is a must. In most cases the best size thumbnail you are looking at will be around a 1″ Inch square.

Can you see your design working on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon? Can you still make out what the design represents? Are the important elements still understandable? Shrink your design down before any commitment see how it looks, if your socks do indeed fly off then it is a keeper 🙂 If not consider where the loss is occurring and re-approach the design it is important that it still conveys to your audience at all times.

3. Let’s get Minimal album art… Maybe

Look at some of the most memorable, iconic album covers go through your collection and pick your top 5, how many are simple but striking? Many won’t have much to them or are a very simple yet powerful photo. Minimal can be the most powerful representation. Every song doesn’t always suit a 13 minute face melting guitar solo and not every album cover needs to be a re-enactment from “Lord of the Rings”.

In fact homework, search through the discography of any artists that have a good decade or three under their belts. I’m going with Red Hot Chili Peppers

Okay so the above is from the Red Hot chili Peppers first self-titled album even though I love the above design for all its Crayola anarchy it also will not work well squished down really, really small (See step 2)

“I’m with you” the 2011 album release is uber minimal, clean and carries a strong message which is not forced in any way. Now I know you’re thinking I have maybe cheated a little grabbing a piece from the Eighties and Comparing it to a piece almost 30 years later, yeah okay I did a little the main point here is the style between the 2 images. So to make this right how about a great example of minimal, simple and photographic in the one piece that is dated? … I present you Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” (yes the one where it looks like a set of testicles 🙂

4. Hey, can I see your EPK?

An EPK (electronic press kit) is the online package you send to booking agents, press, radio etc. I have seen many awesome websites that are linking there EPK file out to quite simply the worst looking vomit inducing third party EPK websites (not all but a large majority).

This poses way too many problems, as a marketer I feel it is my duty to tell you this

They have gone! Your potential interest as well and truly buggered off to another website! Great, who wants that? You want them to stay on your website, learn more about your music, contact you, buy some sweet merchandise, or book tickets to your next gig. This inconsistency can hurt your brand (Sorry to say this but your creative is a brand, and does need to be recognized as one).

It is important to ensure your EPK file not only represents your latest release but is also linked to a section on your website (not someone else’s)

5. Marketing & Branding for your album art

Phew it is time for me to address the potential elephant… Now this might scare some artists, but it is OK for you to think about it in response to your artwork. It doesn’t mean you’re selling out at all, or designing a new product for Apple.

Not only is your artwork going to be stretched or shrunk it is going to be shared by your awesome fans, Sweet 🙂 We want this outcome when they share your album or EP socially make it stand out among the social feeds so there friends will be clicking through back to your website, (you know better by now everything always goes back to your website ;-).

Since your album art is so kick ass and works across numerous sizes, it’s being shared and loved socially, what’s next?

The second profit window merchandise 🙂 extra cash flow and promotion lets have some of that too, at the end of the day you have poured your soul into this recording and more than likely excited to tour or get back in the studio to do it all again, so let’s sell some merchandise to help fill the bands piggy bank.

This shouldn’t really be an afterthought when settling for your design this should be included in your tick list before signing off on the final design. Ask yourself, Does this work on a T-Shirt? How about a Hat? What elements can we keep to get this to fit on a mug? Can we super-size this to make a full size poster?

Thank you Goodnight

If you have read this far, then kudos, and thank you for taking the time to read through this and hey I hope it has maybe gave you some food for thought as you venture into the final stages before releasing your music. There is plenty to take in when it comes to design and appearance and this is in no way intended as a tutorial or a step by step, but more a “Have you considered this?” option I want to ensure you get what you need for your project.

If you have any designs to share by all means I would be stoked to see them, feel free to share them here or contact me privately.

Best of luck my hard rockin’ amigos


ps. The EP art at the top of this post is for a Independant band called Dirty Vertebrae and the EP is available to order online now for a excellent fee of £3, Check them out and I hope you like the artwork because This is a Black Label design…cool eh 🙂

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