This stage is not something to be glossed over. The artwork on your release can be the difference between somebody scrolling past your release, and somebody taking a listen to your tracks, based on gut-reaction.
Your artwork should try to encapsulate your sound in some way, as well as represent your brand as an artist. It can be a photo, an illustration, or whatever you like really, but here are a few things to remember.
- Make the image at least 1500x1500px square. Ideally aim for 2000x2000px.
- It should probably be a square image – that’s what’s expected when you distribute to places like iTunes, Spotify, Beatport or anywhere else. Other ratios may not be accepted.
- You should have the release title on the cover
- You should have the artist name on the cover
- You should probably have the catalogue number on the cover if you are releasing under a label.
- You may wish to also include the label name, or logo if you have created one.
- You may wish to add a tracklist, but this is not always necessary.
- Some stores like Beatport will not accept artwork if it has URLs on it – so for digital releases, it is wise to leave off that sort of thing.
- Save your artwork as a high quality jpg file – try to avoid compressing the file too much.
- Keep hold of the original source components in Photoshop or Illustrator (or whatever you use) since you can use them to create other branding collateral for the release.
You can always ask a friend or a designer to create the artwork for you if you don’t have the skills or software available. There is no shame in that – make sure to take a note of their details so you can credit them in the relevant places.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that many artists and label owners go by the rule “make sure everyone gets paid”. It is important to be up front about whether someone will get paid for their work or not. If you expect somebody to work for free, then what do they get from the experience?
Your success in the music industry, or even just your local scene is based on reputation and contacts. Make sure you don’t get a bad rep’ by failing to pay someone for their work if they were expecting it.