Judging An Album By Its Cover

May 10, 2011 Uncategorized Leave a comment

What makes a cover timeless?

One of the most challenging parts of the process of producing an album is deciding on a cover. The cover has to catch the eye, communicate key information, and make a positive, take-out-your-wallet-and-buy-three impression on all who look at it.

A ragtime CD isn’t like your typical album, either. Most of my sales come not off the shelves of a Barnes and Noble but at concerts I give or at a music festivals at which I perform. This is why I made two mistakes with my first album: 1) Not putting my face on the cover, and 2) Making the cover too dark.

Scenario #1: You are at a music festival, you heard a pianist you liked but you can’t remember his name, and you go to the CD table to look for his album. On the table are, literally, 100 different albums. You pick a few up, trying to find the one of the pianist you heard, but what the heck was his name? Without a picture, you have little to no chance.

Scenario #2: You are at the CD table looking over the offerings. Which ones catch your eye? The dark, moody ones, or the bright, inviting ones? Human beings like shiny things. You pick up the shiny ones first, and thus you buy the shiny ones first.

With those two lessons in mind, my producer Bryan and I have been on the search for the right cover for the new album. We wanted something bright, inviting, and featured my picture, but also captured the spirit of the album, the playful and serious sides.

Here are a couple of the options that didn’t make the cut…

This first cover borrows colors from an old Zez Confrey collection from the 1960s. I like the swooping piano keys and the eye-popping colors, but this one was just too "popcorn" and "bubblegum" for this album.

The original album title was "On the Bright Side," so I was attracted to the symbolism of the sunburst. I like the larger picture of me and the piano keys in the background, but between the 1990's-web-design title and the pulp colors, this cover just doesn't quite fit the contents or title of the album.

So what does the final cover look like? That is the subject of another post 😀

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