Your CD Cover is Your Best Ad For Your Music

Your cover is your calling card to the record industry and to the well you design it and the other graphics for your release could well determine your success or failure as a musician.

Now that I have your attention, I have put together the following guidelines to help you realize the importance of the graphic design stage in preparing your music for the marketplace. A well designed and attractive cover, along with other detailed information you have included in the packaging, may well determine if the gatekeepers in the music business ever bother to listen to the music contained on the record, and if a music consumer is turned off or on by your graphics. It is the best advertisement for your music.

So, go through the following questions and evaluate the design, graphic images, text (title, credits, etc.) and concept of your release by answering the following questions thoroughly and carefully. Then critique your cover in a professional manner, suggesting any improvements you think would help make the graphic design a more effective introduction of your music to the industry and your fan/customers.

1. Front Cover: Is the name of the artist clearly visible?
Is the name written with a unique Logo design?
Is the name of the artist in the "top third" of the cover?
Is the title of the release distinguishable from the artist's name?
Is the genre of music hinted at by the cover art?
2. Back Cover: What specific type of information is included on the back cover? (Label name, catalog number, barcode, song titles/ times, contact information, production credits, more?)
Are the graphic images and text and colors used clearly readable?
3. Label: Is the artist's name (logo) present and clearly visible?
What specific information is on the disc itself? (Many artists leave the disc blank for 'artistic' reasons, do you wish to make such a statement, or are there more important considerations that should be addressed?)
4. Booklet/Tray Card: Describe the type of Booklet/Tray Card used in your packaging.
What specific images, and text information is included? (More credits, thank you's, lyrics, pictures, etc.)
Is the artwork and design consistent with the rest of the artwork and design of the front and back covers?
5. Spine: What specific information is on the spine of the CD? (Label name/logo, catalog number, artist name, release name?)

You have spent a long time writing, rehearsing, performing, and recording your music. Please take some time to consciously consider all the issues listed above, subtle and not so subtle, that go into creating your CD, tape, or vinyl release. Once approved and sent to the manufacturer/printer it will be too late to correct any second thoughts you may have had. (Will you still be proud of your cover 10 years from now?)

Once released, your record will take its place in a retail store next to the thousands of other artists and bands that made it to the shopping arena where a consumer may or may not be attracted to your music by the artwork you have created. Never forget... the career you save by learning the craft of cover design... may be yours!

Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab