This article, written by music journalist/venue owner/freelance writer, Jhoni Jackson, originally appeared on Sonicbids. We’re excited to be working with them to bring you the best and most relevant content for your business!
Once upon a time, it was pretty uncommon to preview tracks before committing your cash to the whole shebang. Particularly in the heyday of CDs, your best bet was a store’s listening station, and it was typically limited to whatever discs were already loaded, and it always seemed to be occupied anyway. Preexisting knowledge of an artist was usually reliable but, without that, you were kind of shopping blindly — save for the album artwork.
For people who remember browsing aimlessly hoping to discover a new favorite group, this happened often: The coolness of a cover would either lure you in or discourage you from buying. If a foreign-to-you group presented itself with a compelling enough photo or a super-rad design or anything else that caught your eye, it was likely sufficient bait to get you to the register.
These days, of course, we have the luxury of listening before buying. Sometimes, in fact, we don’t even pay — artists often offer singles and even full albums free of charge. All that considered, why should anyone bother with album artwork?
Because your album cover is still a direct representation of your band, that’s why! Covers are still used on most every internet listening medium, from iTunes to Bandcamp to SoundCloud to Spotify. Plus, a lot of labels and distributors use album covers as links to purchase or learn more on their websites or press blasts. Alluring art is still an attention getter, and failing to consider it — or, even worse, not bothering to include a cover at all — is like a giving someone an unwrapped birthday present. It’s glaringly incomplete, and some might even consider it a little lazy.
Here are six different examples of great cover art with tips for making yours just as effective.
Are We There – Sharon Van Etten
Why it works: Heart-wrenching wistfulness is a much-used motif in Sharon Van Etten’s material, and the artwork for her latest LP channels that, but with an added dose of catharsis. Who hasn’t bent their head out of a car window hoping the fresh air will relieve you, at least briefly, of emotional hopelessness? Nostalgia is a seductive tactic, especially if it recalls moments of despair you’ve long since overcome.
How to it make your own: Opt for black-and-white, and capture a simple image that applies to a wide audience. Be careful not to be too cheesy; shots of hand-holding or dead roses are a bit trite. Instead, consider seemingly insignificant moments in your own life — your rain-drenched clothes after a poorly timed jaunt in the city, for instance. What you think is personal minutiae can make for a surprisingly impactful flashback for someone else.
S/T – Sultan Bathery
Why it works: This trippy artwork is mystical, wondrously pretty, and incredibly detailed. It’s one of those images that demands close inspection; it’s captivating. Plus, it’s a spot-on reflection of the Italian trio’s chaotic-yet-melodic brand of garage-psych. Both are instantly mesmerizing.
How to make it your own: Intricacy is the goal here — it doesn’t have to be a mind-melting style like this one. It be accomplished in any medium and in any style, but maintaining a sense of order amid the complexity is paramount, because messiness is unappealing. Get meticulous with the details, and you’ll find yourself in the right realm.