A good music cover – why it is important

What you'll learn in this post:
  • What Spotify and Apple Music requirements are for artworks
  • Our tips for a great cover

Who has already delivered some releases to the shops via iGroove may have already received a message from us regarding the music cover quality. Even if one or the other might have felt so: No, we don’t do this for fun or for sadistic or other dark motives. The reason why we regularly have to reject cover images is simple: the shops have defined rules that we have to follow.

Cover up: Streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify are picky

One of these rules says that the music cover image must be delivered in the size 3000 x 3000 (see iTunes under point 17, similar to Spotify). Especially because of this admittedly quite opulent size many of the submitted music covers fail as they are pixelated.

Our tips for a good cover image

Here are some tips from our in-house graphic designer on how to avoid this:

  • It makes no sense to artificially extrapolate the images. Even the starting material must have the right size and quality.
  • Take care not to distort the album or single images (e.g. to turn a 4000×2000 image into a 3000×3000 image).
  • If an image is to be blurred as a stylistic device, make sure that all other elements (typography, logos, etc.) are sharp.
  • Many problems start with the image material. Take the pictures with a good camera and in optimal quality.
  • If you scan these images then also in the highest possible resolution / quality.
  • Note that cover images can be compressed when sent (e.g. via Skype), so there is a loss of quality.
  • In programs as for example Photoshop use the colour mode RGB (for screen) and not CMYK (for print).
  • Save the cover image in jpg format.

Album cover as an art form

That was all a bit regulatory and technical, because actually a cover is (or at least could be) one thing above all: art. A nice album cover is part of the whole artwork and ideally completes your music. Unfortunately, in our daily work we also encounter many lovelessly designed cover images. These artists seem to forget that in most cases a consumer – whether in a record store, at Spotify or iTunes – first sees the cover of your work before checking out the music.

I don’t know about you but I’ve already listened to many releases just because I liked the cover although I’ve never heard of the artist before. The opposite can also be the case; an ugly album cover or one that doesn’t fit with the music can keep many people from giving your songs a chance in the first place.        

Artwork als Teil des Releases
Artwork als Teil des Releases

An artwork is part of the release

As mentioned above, it can be that your release doesn’t even make it so far that consumers can decide whether to listen to it or not. Specifically, when the shops (or we as a stopover to them) reject the artwork.

As said before, many cover images fail because of the quality. But there are also some other points you have to consider:

  • The information on the cover must match the information you provide to us in the system. If you enter “Cats On The Street” as album title, the cover should not say “Cats”.
  • If you release a single, you may not simply use the album cover again. Each release needs a separate cover image.
  • All the information about the artists and features must match. If there is a feature on the cover, this must also be specified in the metadata.
  • If you cover the Beatles (basically covers are a tricky topic – but let’s talk about that later) you can’t simply put the faces of Paul, John, Ringo and whatever the fourth one was called on the cover of your work.
  • Anything you don’t own the rights to has no place on the album or single cover. This is especially true for logos of brands. You’re the proud owner of a Gucci purse or Yeezy sneakers – we’re happy for you, but it doesn’t belong on the cover. The borrowed Bentley doesn’t belong on the cover either nor does your beloved Hennessy bottle and just because you claim to have founded the Wu-Tang-Chapter of Plymouth doesn’t give you the right to plant the Wu logo on your artwork. If you are unsure, ask us first if it is possible (in most cases the answer is: No).
  • It is important that you also mark the explicit songs as such in the metadata, but the “Parental Advisory” note on the cover image is not mandatory. It can of course only be used if at least one song of the release is marked as “explicit”.
  • Contact information has nothing to do on the cover picture. You can store these in your artist profiles.
  • Advertising messages belong on banners but not on covers. So don’t post messages like “buy my album now” or messages like “available now”.
  • Also the product format must not be mentioned, e.g. CD, vinyl or digital.
  • Exept your own and your label’s, logos don’t belong on the cover. Especially not those of shops like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon etc.. It must also not be mentioned in the text (e.g. Now available at Spotify).
  • Barcodes: These belong on the back of a physical product and not on the cover of a digital release.
  • It’s also not allowed to put the price of the release on the cover picture (now only 1 Euro). Also forbidden are references like “Free”.
  • Pornographic images and other obscenities will also be rejected.
  • Right-wing extremist artworks will not only be rejected, the artist will also be banned for life at iGroove.

After these many prohibitions now some things you may do, to loosen up the situation:

  • There are also various rules for album and song titles (e.g. not everything may be written in capital letters). “But Kendrick is allowed to do that too! – You are not Kendrick”). The good news is: On the cover you can write everything as you like.
  • As mentioned above, each release needs a separate cover. However, it is allowed to use the same image several times as long as the text change (e.g. for singles).
  • It is also possible to upload a cover without any text. This image must not be used a second time unless text is added.
  • Under certain conditions it’s allowed to put the name of the artist you cover (the cover topic is tricky but we already had that…) on the cover if: :
  • – It’s a tribute release and not just a one-off cover
  • – Your artist name is noted larger than the one you cover
  • – The note “Tribute to” is larger written than the name of the covered artist
  • If you want to release a karaoke release (our tip: don’t do it) you have to add following to the cover: “Originally performed by ….”.

Our last tip: Don’t just tinker something on any programs yourself but get a professional! Not only for creative reasons it is worth working with a graphic designer, but also to avoid unnecessary delays due to poor quality of the artwork.