Does Your CD Cover $ell (Or Suck)?

Oh, I know the last part of the title (Suck) isn't a very pleasant description to apply to anyone's CD cover. But, in the interest of plain old honesty, and to face our demons head on, I wanted to (again) utilize a worst case scenario that we can only improve from.

And, having said that, think of the average (and not so average) recording artist's CD cover, and I'll bet you will agree that 9 out of 10 CD covers present the artist simply posing while staring straight into the camera.

And, the few artists who want to appear different, unique and diverse, simply either turn sideways, stare into deep space, or gaze downward or backward for their photo sessions.

If you happen to be among the aforementioned guilty, you should realize that by *not* becoming more proactive and aggressive with the visual aspect and design of your CD cover, you are shortchanging the potential of your release from the onset, and not giving it its best possible chance for maximum success.

I first began noticing this overall trend when CDs began replacing albums. And, I believe that the difference was due, in part, to the dramatic reduction in the cover size.

Consequently, I felt that both labels and artists, perhaps, decided (consciously or unconsciously) that the reduction in size did not allow enough room for visual creativity, which is not the case.

But, those are only two reasons. For, I also believe that, while they may be decent to great professional music producers, I have found that most recording artists whom I encounter are amateurs, at best, in respect to marketing their releases from a visual perspective.

And, it's not their fault, because 'visual' just doesn't happen to be the medium in which they work. However, this isn't to say that they can't learn to become much better at pre-selling their releases visually.

But, as an artist, perhaps, your argument is that your music is, primarily, based on the "sonic" aspect...that it will mainly be "heard" and not "seen."

This is, in part, true but also consider that, generally, before your music is HEARD, it is first SEEN (unless you are sending 'plain vanilla' promotion singles to radio or handing them out at will to friends, associates, etc.). And, here is how:


Due to added expense, most independent labels forego manufacturing 'singles' and, thus, usually send their complete retail releases out as promotion copies to the media. Hence, the radio music directors and program directors will SEE your release before they open your case to HEAR your music.

And, as the MD/PD takes your CD out of its package, does it, *POW!*, hit him with a bang visually, and immediately instill deeper interest *BEFORE* he hears your music?

Or does your, possibly, average to boring cover instill a blasé feeling that causes the MD/PD to presume that your music is, yet, another below average release, and is a further waste of his valuable time without giving it, at least, a listen?

* Press

The same thing applies to press music editors, reviewers and calendar editors as with radio personnel. Will the press personnel see a boring, posing cover and get that "Geez, here we go again" feeling, or will they assume that your lackadaisical cover will be accompanied by even more boring content, such as your bio, press release, fact sheet, etc.?

* Retail Consumers

While many potential retail consumers will, indeed, "hear" your music first (on radio or in nightclubs), there are also many more potential retail consumers who will not.

And, these particular consumers are the ones who either go to music retailers weekly for new releases and spend additional time browsing, or they may be consumers who are simply weekly browsers seeking the new, unique and creative 'next big thing'.

In either case, for the consumers who espy your CD in their favorite music retail stores...does your cover jump out at them visually, make an immediate impact, and cause them to do a 'double take'?

Does it then make them pick up a copy of your release, maintain their interest and force them to read your credits and song titles?

Subsequently, does it then drive them to a listening station for further review and, hopefully, purchasing it?

Or, will they simply look at, yet, another boring cover and go, "Eh," and replace it for your competitor's that is far more visually attractive, and your competitor's who may also have read this particular article, with one exception...he acted on this information while you did not? :-)


Now, get a copy of your CD and take a look at it...I mean take a *really* good look at it. Then, using the radio, press and consumer theoretical perspectives above, honestly ask yourself if your cover has visually maximized its full potential.

Does it readily subscribe to the old U. S. Army slogan, "Be all you can be?" Is it, truly, all that it can be? Is it the best possible cover that you could ever hope for with this release?

Or, do you realize for the first time that you have both shortchanged yourself and your release, and that your cover is probably causing you to lose some significant sales, as it could, indeed, be presented to both the media and consumers much better?

If you now harbor the slightest inkling of doubt, after having given your cover another look, it is also safe to assume that your cover may be a bit questionable to others and, particularly, media professionals as well.

So, let's say that you now realize that your cover is below par, and could be much better...that you can now admit that you truly did not give it your absolute best shot...that, in fact, your cover was an afterthought, at best. How do you get started on "conceptualizing" it from a visual standpoint?

Well, one way is to first consider your title...

If this is your debut release, can you make something unusually funny or witty out of your first or last name? Can either your first or last name present a double meaning, such as Byrd, Love, Green, Wolf, Young?

While those of us with such names are often ridiculed in our early school days, we have the advantage of our "weird" last names standing out and benefiting us in our professional careers. :-)

If your release has a subtitle, or this is your second or additional release, can you put a twist on its title?

The same goes for your songs. I'm betting that you have, at least, one song, regardless of your genre, that can be selected as the title and used as the basis for a very attractive cover and graphic depiction of your music.

For even more information and assistance on making your CD cover a $ales $uccess story, please visit the below link.

Kenny Love is president of,a radio promotion and media publicity service that also provides business and career services to musicians. See the company's corresponding website at

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