Written by Kyle Kraft of Krafty Entertainment
Krafty Entertainment is a music business development coaching company dedicated to providing guidance to musicians (and their teams) on how best to nurture supporters and profit from doing so. Krafty Entertainment’s founder Kyle Kraft has over 20 years experience in assisting both developing and established artists in substantially growing their net income from their music. Interested in working with us? Let’s talk!
ENSURE YOUR NAME IS THE MOST PROMINENT TEXT ON THE COVER
Your name is the most important text on your cover artwork since it is what you are trying to get people to remember and support, and therefore you should ensure that it stands out at least as much as any other text on the cover (and on pretty much any other artwork its on as well). Really, unless the title is the name of a song that has already gotten you A LOT of exposure your name should stand out more than any other text on the cover.
By ensuring your name is as prominent as is possible you will maximize the amount of people who are already interested in your music recognizing that the music this artwork is for is also yours, and therefore increase the likelihood of them listening to it. It will also help you maximize the likelihood of getting your name in the heads of as many potential supporters as is possible.
In order to insure that your name is as prominent as or more prominent than any other text you should be paying attention to both its size (and particularly the height of the letters) relative to any other text, and also how much it stands out relative to the background around it. Ideally your name should stand out as much as possible from the background by being a colour that contrasts with the background, and perhaps also having an outline or shading of some kind around it if the background image is particularly busy.
MAKE FEATURED GUEST NAMES PROMINENT ON THE BACK COVER
If you have well known (even if its only amongst your own immediate music community) guests on your release, featured guests' names are arguably more important (and therefore should arguably higher contrast/ stand out more) than the track titles since the features help sell the project. As such at the very least those guests’ names should be as prominent as track titles, but arguably should be even more so by making them a colour that is higher contrasting from the background than the color of the track names, making them in a bolder font, etc. Definitely make guest names a different color than the track titles so they stand out from those.
INCLUDE YOUR WEB ADDRESS ON THE BACK COVER AND THE CD FACE
Add your website address to the back cover (so that people can see it without having to open the CD), as well as to the CD face (very important, since CDs often get separated from their packages). Even if you don’t have a website set up yet (which you definitely should, but that’s a separate topic), you should have a domain name registered and pointing to a key social media profile of yours.
In most instances it would be wise to only list your domain name on the artwork, as opposed to listing the addresses of all of your social media sites you currently use. By doing that you control the flow of visitors to exactly where you want them to go (your website or main social media page if you don’t have a website set up yet), and in what they see first when they follow your link. That way if a social media site loses popularity or changes to the point that you don’t want to direct traffic to it, you aren’t still sending people there when you distribute your CDs. You should have all of your active social media pages linked from your website as well as each other, so if someone is interested in seeing a specific social media page of yours they can easily get to it within a single click of the page they land on when they type in your domain name.
CHOOSE A PACKAGE TYPE THAT HAS A SPINE
Having a CD package with a spine can make you more money than just having a flat sleeve-style package in multiple ways. Not only do CDs with spines sell better (since the thickness gives the perception of value), but the spine is critical for music supervisors, college radio show hosts, other industry people, etc to find your music amidst a bunch of other CDs. Spines are pretty much required if you are hoping to get physical distribution for your CDs or get them in chain stores as well.
ONLY INCLUDE INFO ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ALBUM THAT HELPS SELL IT
In general the outside of the CD package should be considered a marketing tool and anything that is on the outside that doesn’t need to be there takes away attention from the things that help sell the package, making those things less effective at helping you sell the CD. Assuming you are going with a package type that has a spine (and therefore room for at least one panel of artwork on the inside of the package), you should only include info on the outside of the package that actually helps sell it.
In most cases the writing, recording, session players’, mixing, mastering, artwork, and manufacturing credits should be on the inside of the package, along with any additional contact info (other than your web address), and shout outs. If you have (a) prominent producer(s) involved in your project it might make sense to put production credits on the outside, but if not include production credits on the inside as well. Even executive production credits should be moved to the inside if possible. Avoid unnecessary logos on the back, as well as fine print like "all rights reserved", "unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws", and so on. That sort of fine print doesn’t help you sell CDs, and only detracts from the information on the back that does.
DON’T INCLUDE A COPYRIGHT YEAR ON THE OUTSIDE
Including a copyright year on the back of the CD only serves to make the CD seem dated (and therefore potentially less desirable to purchase) once that year is over. You should be selling your CDs for years to come, why make it harder to sell your older releases?
INCLUDE A BAR CODE ON THE BACK AND A CATALOG NUMBER ON THE SPINE
Include a bar code (which you can get created by searching online for "bar code generator") on the back of the package using the same UPC number that you are using for the digital distribution of your project, as well as a catalog number (which you can make up or even just use the UPC code again) on the spine. Not only is this required for your CDs to be sold in physical chain stores, but even if you don’t have your CDs available for sale in those stores or even have formal physical distribution (which most developing artists don’t even need) including the bar code and catalog number gives people the impression that you potentially have enough of a fan base to warrant having physical distribution for your project and that you may have your CDs available for sale in chain stores, which may in turn result in you getting more support from people.
IF THERE AREN’T MANY TRACKS ON THE ALBUM DON’T INCLUDE TRACK NUMBERS
If there aren’t a lot of tracks on your CD including the track numbers next to each track name on the back highlights how few tracks there on it, and therefore how little value someone is getting if they are paying for the CD. Leaving the track numbers off is a wise move if you aren’t including a lot of tracks on the CD. While it is ideal to provide as much value as is possible (and therefore including alternate versions of the same songs such as instrumentals, live versions, acoustic versions, acapellas, etc might make sense), artists who don’t already have a substantial fan base established would be wise to maximize the momentum of their careers by releasing less music more frequently.
IF YOU’RE A DEVELOPING CANADIAN ARTIST INCLUDE A MAPL LOGO
If you are a developing Canadian artist that makes music that could get supported by college, commercial, or CBC radio, you should include the MAPL logo on the back cover as well as on the face of the CD. The MAPL logo signifies to Canadian radio personnel that your CD meets full CANCON requirements and could help result in more plays of your music. Make sure this logo contrasts with the background as much as is possible.
IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED FACTOR FUNDING INCLUDE FACTOR AND CANADA LOGOS, AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT LINE
If you are a Canadian artist that has been fortunate enough to get funding for your project from FACTOR you are required to add the FACTOR and Canada logos (which you can download from the FACTOR website) to the back of the CD package. Not only does this provide the funding sources with the acknowledgement that they require in order to remain in good standing with them, but it will let Canadian industry people that see your CD know that you've already received FACTOR funding. This could result in some industry people that aren’t familiar with you taking you more seriously and being more inclined to open doors for you that could further your career development. Make sure these logos contrast with the background as much as is possible.
In addition to needing the FACTOR and Canada logos on the back of the package if you have received FACTOR funding towards the recording of the project, you also need to include a sentence acknowledging the financial contribution somewhere on the artwork (though the inside of the booklet is fine) which varies depending upon the FACTOR program you received the funding from. You can find the appropriate acknowledgement line in the logos and credits document on the FACTOR website, which will start with “We acknowledge the financial support of…”
INCLUDE PHOTOS INSIDE THE PACKAGE
Having photos of yourself inside your CD package (especially if you don’t have any on the cover) is a great way to help people develop a closer connection with you as an artist, that way they are better able to put a face to the music they are listening to. Including photos of you rocking crowds (showing you AND the crowds, not just close-ups of you performing live) has the added benefit of helping sell or reminding people what a good time your live performances are, which can help with getting people out to see you live. In general photos have a high perceived value to fans as well, which may result in people being more interested in buying a physical copy of your album as opposed to just listening to your music in digital form.
SKIP THE SHRINK WRAP UNLESS YOU ARE SELLING ALBUMS IN STORES
Shrink wrap is a barrier to getting people to listen to your music. While its needed to prevent CDs from falling out of some cases in stores or when they are being handled by physical distributors, shrink wrap is a pain to get open for supporters and industry people. You would be wise to not have shrink wrap on the CDs you give to supporters and industry people, that way your CD is more likely to be listened to sooner!
This information was compiled by Kyle Kraft of Krafty Entertainment. Whether you are an artist who is in the early stages of building your career and have next to no money to invest into it looking for the best paths to generating income, are an artist that has established a following and are interested in getting assistance with securing tens of thousands of dollars in funding to further your career, or are an artist or collective with an extensive fan base that would like assistance with increasing the efficiency of your business development, we can help you.
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