Album cover art
What is album cover art for?
Back when cover art first started (I guess probably the 1950s on any kind of large scale), I’d guess its initial purpose was to catch the eye in the increasingly full racks of vinyl in record shops. The artwork might say something about the artist and where they sat in the pantheon of entertainment gods, how hip they were and which demographic they were targetting. The conscious and subliminal signals of the marketing world were well defined even then.
In particular, the teenager had just been invented, a new demographic with an interest in music as tribal identifier and a steady supply of disposable cash from increasingly affluent parents in a post second world war economy. ‘Buy me instead of that square on the next record sleeve’ was what good cover art would shout.
The 1960s saw cover art develop greatly. Gatefold sleeves, foldouts, booklets – the artwork in many cases outshone the music. Cover art was accepted as an artform in its own right and I can recall many published books of album covers.
The advent of the CD changed things to a fair degree; instead of 12 inches by 12 inches we now had 12 centimetres by 12 centimetres to make our artistic statement. Definitely not as conducive to showing off incredible art. However, it encouraged the use of booklets and I have bought many albums over the years with beautiful and informative (and beautiful and not informative at all!) booklets.
Which brings me to the current digital world. I have friends who do not care one bit about artwork accompanying their mp3s, FLACs, WAVs etc. It’s the music that counts. Others say they still really like having some artwork, even if it is small. I’m in the latter camp…I like to see an image on my phone screen or my PC screen when playing music.
We primarily distribute Broken Drum Records‘s music using Bandcamp, where there is an option to include artwork for each track as well as for an album. There is also an option to include additional files, which can be almost anything. We’ve previously included cover art at 300dpi (print quality) for those who might burn our music to a CD, as well as at 72 dpi (computer screen quality). We have also included Wallpapers at various screen sizes as a bonus. Next time, we’re considering maybe a pdf file with images and an interview or two. There is still scope for creatvity, despite the decline in working area of ‘cover’ art.