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Selling Your Music Visually, How to give it identity - Music Gateway

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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The packaging for your music has to be more creative than the packaging of most products. This is because music has no physical appearance. You cannot see the content of your music. and the logo or album cover you use should parallel the personality of your music.

Album covers as advertising.

There is no denying that album covers are, essentially, a commercial product. In today’s X Factor society, the majority of album sleeves simply feature a photograph of the artist; in short, you are buying the product based on the performer rather than the performance. This fixation with fame and celebrity culture is not restricted to music; nowadays, you can buy a book or an item of clothing or even a perfume bottle of your favourite famous person. Is it fair to say that the designers of all album cover art have simply become aware of  society’s desire to buy a celebrity?

Album covers as identity.

when a band is photographed and featured on the cover, they are usually placed within a unique role. For example, Madness would often be depicted on the front of their album covers; in One Step Beyond, the band clearly were focused on creating an image to match their sound. The six men took on a physical pose, encapsulating their cheeky and fun Ska roots, creating an iconic snapshot which is instantly recognizable and takes us “one step beyond” what would otherwise be considered a commercial package.

Album covers as message / Poetic medum

The year was 1966 and The Beatles were left to their own devices in a studio on Old Kings Road with Bob Whitaker; what ensued was, perhaps, the most controversial shoot of all time. The foursome posed as butchers, covered with chunks of meat and the parts of two decapitated dolls. Here, we have a strong example of how one scene can mean something very different to each person involved. For the band, the shot was ‘inspired by our boredom and resentment at having to do another Beatles thing. For the record label, it was a sign of protest against the Vietnam War. For the photographer, the image used on the album cover was unfinished and failed to represent the band as “flesh and blood” as he had intended. For the fans, however, this butchering scene has been considered as a form of protest against the record label itself, with the visual dismemberment ‘meaning that Capitol had dismembered the group’s previous albums.

How have digital platforms changed the way album covers are perceived?

While digital music platforms, such as iTunes or Spotify, and digital hardware, such as iPods, may have eroded the ‘brick and mortar’ music shop they have made album covers and artwork more visible than ever before. The art for music albums has to be approached in a different way as digital platforms require more than just a straightforward cover. Artists will need to deliver a range of ‘key art’ that all follow the same aesthetic; these are new pieces of art that will be used as banners and advertisements. Each of these pieces of art promotes the album, and will remain an important part of it.

One example of this art is found on iTunes and spotify. an album has to carry a very definite art style which is copied throughout their banner, smaller buttons and even the background of their landing page:

Artwork that is intrinsically tied to albums is easier than ever to see. One huge factor in this is the fact that some of the more popular audio file formats, like MP3, allow imagery to be embedded into each individual file – forever tying an image and the audio together. Rather than just an album cover, and possibly a billboard, the audience is now seeing much more artwork for a single album. This continues as we look at the different platforms people are using to listen to music too. Current generation iPods and iPhones, the most ubiquitous digital music listening devices on the planet, prominently display the album cover every time the user plays a song. Apple’s “Cover Flow” interface allows listeners to flip through a seamless virtual album collection, each album displaying its cover.This persistent exposure to artwork is just a simple example of how digital platforms are changing the perception of album covers.

hiring the right graphic designer is a critical step towards finding the image that represents your music. its wise to always be on the hunt for new talent. 

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