In the thousands of artists we’ve listened to so far, we’ve also always paid attention to their cover artworks as well. Seems that some are a hit and some are a miss. But honestly, it does not have to be that way. We’ve pieced together 10 easy questions, with examples, for you to answer to when determining your cover artwork for your next release, because believe us, you can delay your success just by being uneducated on this matter.
10. How large is your fanbase?
If you’re fresh on the scene, most likely you’ve got thousands, or tens of thousands at best, of fans. Pay attention to FANS, not followers. You could have 100k followers but only 1k real fans. We’ve already covered what a fan truly is, so how many of these high-quality music lovers do you have on your side? Once you answer that, follow this rule: anything under 100k fans – you must show YOUR FACE. If you’ve got over 100k fans, you can start playing around and choose images that don’t necessarily include you. You need to display who you are when you’re not famous. You’re constantly building that brand image and confusing people about who you are, will NOT help you.
9. Does the image fit the message?
I need to be able to look at that image and understand right away what the song is gonna be about, the mood, the style. In the above example, you have Miss Fluid’s Neo Trap EP Cover Artwork. Her clothes, makeup, pose, accessories, even font and colors, ooze off those early 2000s RnB and the project is EXACTLY THAT! An RnB compilation of 5 songs that include steamy lyrics and adult references, thus the Parental Advisory sticker. It is done by the book.
8. Did time and effort go into it?
Although unspoken, people do take notes of the effort you’re putting into creating that one image that will forever be associated with your song. If we analyze the above artwork, we observe that the artist’s t-shirt has the same color as the title, the name on the lower left corner, and even the knife laying on the ground. Also the chosen font is eery in its style and meshes perfectly with the dark mood of the song AND the image itself. If you didn’t think through every single detail of your cover artwork, DON’T publicize it. It will work against you.
7. Has anyone else already seen this photo?
You don’t get many tries as an upcoming artist. Every photo you put out is either directly building OR taking away from your credibility as a brand. So please, for your own sake and for the respect of your fans, DO NOT use photos already seen by everyone else. Use an image of yourself that is brand new, or at least that has never been shared with another soul. You need to give that novelty to your fans continuously, otherwise you risk being labeled as lazy and as an artist that recycles his material instead of creating new one.
6. Is the font commercially free?
Before you get to pay a team to do the boring work for you, you’ll have to do most of it yourself. That means you got to do your homework when it comes to copyrights and extended usage. When you use a font, any font for that matter, on your cover artwork, it may be copyrighted and you might be infringing someone else’s legal rights. You know what that means? If the author finds your artwork and proves he’s the legit owner and that you did neither pay nor ask for permission, he/she can sue you for a whole lot of money. So search for commercially free fonts. There are plenty out there. And better yet, if you can afford it, go BUY one that you can use for a long time. It might cost you some serious money but you’ll have all the paperwork and legal rights to use that text commercially as well.
5. Is it clear and HD?
Very few are the artists and instances where one can use some fuzzy, unclear image as the representative artwork of the single. So go the safe, recommended route: HD photos only! Think of the fans you want to attract to your music, and almost certainly you want to be liked by people ready to spend money on you and your product. So BE that quality product! Feed your listeners with HD music, photos, videos, and text. Anything else, is subpar and won’t make any impression on anyone. Not in 2020.
4. Can you get it in different formats?
Pay special attention to this one! Even if you have followed all the other 6 guideline questions so far, it can all be for nothing if it doesn’t comply with the following: do you have the text file and photo file separately? Why? Because you will need a horizontal version of the same cover artwork for timelines (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud), a square version for the single itself on streaming platforms (ALL platforms feature a square format: iTunes, Amazon, Google, Deezer, Pandora, Tidal, etc.), and a vertical version for featuring your song on stories (Snapchat, IG stories, FB stories, WhatsApp stories). So what happens when you only have ONE format? you will have to sacrifice from the quality of the image every time a different format is needed. In case you hire someone else to edit your cover artwork, give them the following checklist: 1600 x 1600 pixels, 1920 x 1080 pixels, and 1080 x 1920 pixels (also known as the 9:16 aspect ratio).
3. In case it becomes viral, are you proud of it?
Imagine that overnight, some big radio station stumbles upon your song on Spotify, adds it to their own playlist with over 200k followers and your song finally goes BIG! Now look at that cover artwork: if that becomes the most famous song you’ll ever get to do in your lifetime, are you okay with THAT being what people will remember you by? if the answer’s no, scratch the whole visual and put together an image that will speak of your legacy.
2. Is it infringing any possible community policies?
Unlikely some of you will go that far as to put something explicit or violent on the cover BUT… if you do, you’ve just cut a lot of visual opportunities to promote your song. Nudity, violence, pornography, self-injury and other uncomfortable topics are NOT tolerated by most websites. So double check with common online policies before being too edgy and having your artwork removed from everywhere.
1. Can you picture it on a vinyl?
You know you’ve got a good one on your hands when you can easily imagine that artwork being sold in stores on vinyls. Not on CDs, VINYLS. Those are huge and if your image doesn’t do justice to a physical copy of your song, then you’re not ready. Go for an artwork that would stand the test of time and would come out beautifully on those vinyls. That’s the ultimate winner.