Expert Advice: Photography and Cover Art for Musicians

by Liz Moy on April 22, 2014

This post is written by Sam Logan, frontman of Lilac Shadows and ReverbNation team member. In our Guide to Photography and Cover Art for Musicians series, Sam will provide helpful advice and ideas for artists who are ready to take their image to the next level. Not sure why this is important? Check out our post on why visual elements are important for musicians and read on below.

It’s no coincidence that tastemaker sites like Pitchfork still release year-end “best album artwork” lists, not to mention sales of older formats like vinyl and cassettes, which rely on engaging covers, are on the rise.

BestAlbums

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Sam Logan

Is it surprising that in a world that revolves around what people are listening to, visuals carry so much weight? Not to me. [Tweet This]

Maybe it’s because I’m a musician, but the intersection of music and visual art seems like a no-brainer. And yet I’ve seen plenty of bands underestimate (or completely ignore) the power of photos and cover art. Big mistake in my book. Over the next few posts I hope to offer some simple advice, along with insight from some veteran industry minds, that can help you present yourself and your band as professionals with a clearly developed sound, image, and brand.

Great visuals can strengthen your brand and get you recognition [Tweet This]

Halfway through the recording of my band’s most recent album, No Dark/No Light, our guitar player came to me with an idea for our record release show: a multimedia exhibit featuring unique album artwork from as many visual artists as we could find.

Fast forward four busy months, and the exhibit/release show was an overwhelming success. We displayed 40 different album covers from 27 different local and national artists. We also made individual cassettes based off of each artist’s work so that people could buy their favorite design. Check some of them out here.

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“The marriage between artists will stand the test of time,” said Buddy Ruski in his write up about the Lilac Shadows release show.
Photo Credit: Toriano Fredericks

Our unique use of artwork and photography got us press coverage, and caught the attention of other artists and musicians who heard about what we were doing.

Graphic Success: Inside tips from three industry pros

Top promoters we work with agree that creative use of artwork and photography can round out an artist’s image and catch the attention of industry professionals — as long as you stay true to your band’s image.

John Sepetys, Senior Director of Artists & Repertoire of North Star Media

From an art direction standpoint, I like when the feel and vibe of the visual matches the music. And with this in mind, contextual relevance is everything. What could look totally cheap and amateurish for a polished pop artist, could be dead-on for an indie folk group.

Victor Alfieri, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of wordkrapht.com

Unless you are actually going for that specific vibe, the artist shouldn’t look like they are uncomfortable in their own skin. In many cases, this photo is their first shot at making an impression on a fan, promoter, booking agent or label. It has to make sense to them before it will ever make sense to us.

Vaughn Lowery, President of 360 Magazine

Captivating artwork is everything, Because we live in a visual world, artists should have photos that express the message points of their band. However, there is a clear distinction between quality and quantity.

So when it comes to your album art, not only do you have to place importance on it, but it also has to be done right. Creativity is key.

Have you used art with your music in a creative way? Show and tell us in the comments below.

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