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What Does Your Music Look Like?

Have you ever decided to purchase a CD solely because of the cover? Even in this digital age, many sales can still be attributed to the energy, style, essence or visual message captured in an image that attracts someone to take a chance.

The cover is often the first impression people have of your music, and it should reflect the theme and quality of the sound. It is the visual representation and an extension of your music. Album covers function not only to sell music, but to present the concepts and images behind and inside the music. It sets the mood and theme for the entire packaging.

While it’s true that browsing for CDs in stores is almost a thing of the past, cover images are still used to identify music on web sites, catalogs and at gigs. Can you imagine Jay Lenno introducing a band without a CD to hold up?

Sound creates mental imagery, and imagery affects how we perceive sound. While it will be different for each listener, the emotions music evokes are undeniable. The cover and packaging should capture that. You want to draw your listeners in. It should be an invitation, a tease, a temptation, an connection to a total experience.

Your cover should be distinctive and memorable, even bold and graphic.

On the other hand, it must still function to inform. Don’t make people guess too much about what your music is about. And don’t make them work to read the artist name and album title.

Look at other covers and ask yourself:

  • Can you tell just from the cover what kind of music it is?
  • Is the name of the artist clearly readable? Is it distinguishable from the title?
  • Does it communicate something about the artist or the music?


If Design is like making music, layout is like reading music and hitting the right notes on the keyboard.

Layout is more about the technical aspects of manifesting the concept and design. It consists of typography, software and crop marks. It is not enough to have a great concept and an amazing design. If you can’t produce a printable file, it is worthless. Having the right tools and technical expertise is as critical as having creativity and vision.

Function over form

This is the final challenge – making the concept and design FUNCTIONAL & CORRECT. If you can’t read it, why bother? If the printer can’t use the files or the factory can’t fit the insert into the jewelcase….

It is the designer’s job to know the industry, the terminology and the standards. For example, the barcode has to be a certain size and always knocked out, the artist name is often best put at the top. They need to know that DJs want the times on the traycard – and, by the way, what a traycard is.

Designers must also be organized and efficient. Most projects are on a tight time schedule, and are composed of many pieces that must be compiled and organized. The designer’s job is to literally bring and keep it all together.

This article excerpted from my CD Project Planner Ebook. Download Here


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