Have you ever heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Of course you have, and if you’re like me, you have definitely, 100% judged a book by its cover more than once in your life, and odds are, you’ve also judged a band’s album art more than a few times. We’re only human.
The truth is that for as important as album art is, it doesn’t get the kind of attention and consideration it deserves. I understand the inclination to spend tons of time and money on recording an album because it seems like that’s the most important piece of the product, but without properly prepping for everything else that comes with a release (including album art), making an impact on both current and future fans is going to be a lot more difficult.
Simply put: don’t throw in the towel when it comes to creating stunning album art. You shouldn’t assume that the music will carry itself just like you can’t make a habit of the music being the only high-quality thing you produce.
So, whether you’re getting ready to release a new album, or you’re just preparing for future releases, we’ve put together a few tips to help you be sure that your next piece of album art captures your fans attention just as much as the music itself.
Be true to your brand
First thing’s first, you want to be sure that your album art is an accurate and clear reflection of your brand. One of the first things I’d suggest doing when you’re still in the brainstorming phase of album art creation is to think about who you are and what you represent, and how you can convey that to fans through this one image.
If you’re a band that does everything in black and white, make sure your album art is in black and white. If you’re a band that embraces colorful geometric shapes in all your merch and graphics, your album art should follow that same color scheme and feel. Be creative and offer fans something new, but don’t forget to be consistent with your existing brand.
Think about how you want people to feel
It sounds simple, but asking yourself at the start what you want people to feel when they look at your art is one of the first things you need to consider. There are a ton of color and shape studies out there that will tell you exactly what to go for depending on what mood you’re looking to elicit, so if you feel stuck you can always look to those, but the first step is just understanding how you want others to feel.
Should they feel passionate? Maybe red is your color. Sad? Try blues and black & white. Hopeful? Try yellows, purples, and greens. Think about what the theme of your brand is but also what the overall feel of the album itself is—is it an album about loss and heartbreak? Then you probably want that reflected in the imagery.
Think about your album title
Your art doesn’t necessarily need to correlate with your title, but depending on how specific the title is (and how much that ties into the message you want to convey) matching your album art with that might make the most sense. Again, consider your overall brand and feel of the album itself, and then if it makes sense, tie that into the album title. Odds are you’ve put a lot of thought into what you want to call your latest work, and using the album art to further illustrate that can really help drive the message home and even give it new depths and meaning, as people respond strongly to imagery.
If you or someone in your circle is a creative genius with skills in photoshop, photography, or whatever else you’re thinking of using to make your album art, then have at it. But don’t forgo hiring a professional just because you want to save money or you’ll end up with a really boring album art to show for it.
Like anything in the industry, the expenses of an album don’t end with the recording itself. There’s a lot you’ll want to budget for with any release, including public relations, playing shows, and yes, even album art. Make a budget before you even start recording, and if necessary, include a spot for your album art. If you plan for it from the beginning, there aren’t any surprises when it comes time to hire out.
Depending on your brand and the feel you’re going for, it may not always be appropriate to include faces on your album art. However, there have been a lot of studies over the years that say images with human faces on them get more attention. Of course, this is a helpful statistic to keep in mind for all your online interactions—social media, mailing lists, etc., but if it feels like a fit for your album art as well—go for it!
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.