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.
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.
You don’t have a graphic designer in your circle of acquaintances? No problem: iGroove also offers to create your artwork.
Do you have questions about the music cover picture?
Musicians have been hit hard by the pandemic, and not just financially, but also in matters pertaining to mental health. On top of the lack of income, there is also a loss of perspective and a huge feeling of insecurity which lie heavily on the mind. According to a British study, 87% of respondents reported a decline of their mental health over the course of the pandemic.
Lack of perspective and financial worries
91% think the reason for this is the current and continuing uncertainty surrounding their music careers. 96% wonder how they can keep making a living in the future, 70% of those don’t even know how to financially survive the next 6 months, and 24% are considering a career change. This research is consistent with a survey conducted among musicians in Berlin, of which a third responded that they will have to find a different job or have already done so.
Considering that the business is generally very competitive, mental health problems have always been prevalent among musicians. Now, corona has only made it worse. A similar study has already shown in 2016 that 71% of musicians suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, while 68% have or had depression.
How to deal with the situation
Here are some suggestions that might help you cope with the situation:
Talk about it – whether with friends, with other musicians, or with a professional. That way, you might also gain some different perspectives.
You are not alone – if nothing else, this study has demonstrated that many others are fighting the same problems.
Maintain your routine or develop a new one. Make sure your daily schedule includes different activities.
Pay attention to your physical health: Go outside, exercise, get enough sleep but not too much, try to eat healthy, and don’t overdo it with the alcohol. Listen to what your body is telling you!
Make plans. It certainly won’t be easy, but try to draft up and take on new projects. Set realistic goals for yourself.
Remind yourself that things will go back to normal in the foreseeable future. You are still a musician and soon enough you will be able to show that on stage, as well.
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In the first part of this post, we talked about how you can pitch your music to blogs and media outlets. In this second part, we’ll show you all the things that go into a so-called Electronic Press Kit (EPK). When you’re writing to journalists and bloggers, you should never send attachments, only links. Or better yet: one link. The goal should always be that the journalist can find everything right away and doesn’t have to ask again or look for themselves.
The EPK can be set up as part of your website (artiswebsite.com/press) or you can use many other tools like iGroove’s free PR page. But let’s get to the content:
The core of the EPK, since it talks up the music release. It includes all the information about the release, how it came about, as well as once again a few highlights of your career so far. Try to use the press release to tell a story. Especially when it comes to media outlets that don’t necessarily specialize in music, there needs to be a story that they can pick up.
The text should already have the quality of an article, not least because some lazy journalists will just copy your press release verbatim. If you don’t feel like you would be good at this, hire someone who can do it for you. Many artists write really good songs, but the same can’t necessarily be said about their press releases or bios. When someone is reading that text, they need to get the feeling they would miss out on something if they don’t give your music a listen. The text should be no longer than an A4 page and answer the 5 W and 1 H questions.
While the press release focuses on your current release, the bio talks about your background and career so far. You should limit yourself to the real highlights only and not write more than a page. If you can upload a short version, as well – even better. Tell your story, your influences, your milestones (releases, tours, festivals, awards, etc.). and include, if possible, some quotes from the media or other musicians.
What must not be missing from the EPK?
Press photos: Always offer multiple photos as options and make them available in different formats. Also, make sure they are print quality and don’t forget to credit the photographer.
Artwork: Blogs in particular often use the cover of a release in their posts. Upload this in excellent resolution, as well.
Links to important press articles
Contact info (e.g., for your management)
Links to your website and social media
But of course, we can’t forget about the music! People should be able to listen to the release, the center of your message, directly on the EPK. If it’s not publicly available yet, you can put in a private SoundCloud link, for instance. But you should always keep in mind that we want to make it as easy as possible for the journalists. If you are also writing to radio stations, don’t forget that the song needs to be downloadable.
Make sure that the EPK is always up to date and that it can thus be utilized whenever needed for the next campaign. It’s also not just great for pitches to blogs and media outlets, but can also be used to get in contact with playlist curators, DJs, or bookers.
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Nowadays, most discussions about music are taking place on social media and most listeners discover new music through playlists. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t write off blogs and traditional media outlets prematurely. Curators, A&Rs, and other tastemakers continue to use blogs and media outlets to discover new artists, and there are also a lot of fans who could come in contact with your music in this way. Articles can help establish a connection with the fans, reveal more about the artist as a person, and attract more new listeners.
You should therefore never miss out on sending your new releases to bloggers and journalists. If you don’t have the budget for a PR agency or would rather take things into your own hands, there are a few things to keep in mind. What’s certain is that music journalists and bloggers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of e-mails. This means you need to stand out from the crowd – everybody hates spam, so you shouldn’t send out any either.
Putting together a media list
Before you can start, you need to know who you actually want to contact. Instead of buying a list of media contacts online, most of which won’t be a good fit, you should put together a handpicked list yourself. If you’re a rap artist, there is no point in writing to blogs specializing in electro or rock music. That’s why it’s better to get in touch with only 20 media outlets that actually fit your style, instead of wasting your (and everybody else’s) time.
Once you have your list put together, you need to find out how the outlets in question like to receive their submissions. Some list their e-mail address, others upload a form or use external platforms. Make sure to actually follow these submission guidelines!
When is the right time for a pitch?
Journalists like to have information in advance. So, it’s best to send them your pitch before the release. Keep deadlines in mind: Bloggers are flexible, but print journalists (especially if their publications only appear weekly or once a month) obviously less so.
Personalize your pitch
Now it’s time to send those e-mails. First rule: Send out a personalized message! That’s more work, but you’ll stand out from the crowd and you’re showing the journalist that you are genuinely interested in their project. Include something that lets the recipient know immediately that you’ve really researched their medium. If you don’t have enough time, pick 10-20 of the most important media outlets and spend time crafting personalized messages for them, while the rest can receive a more general e-mail. Should you not receive an answer (chances are high that you won’t), ask for constructive feedback, but don’t send more than one reminder.
Get to the point!
What’s really important is that the e-mail clearly states from the start what exactly it is that you want from the journalist/blogger. Would they be posting a track, are we talking about a video, do you want to get into a playlist or a certain column or are you asking for an interview? Are you perhaps even interested in having the blog launch the premiere of your song/video? Of course, you shouldn’t suggest a premiere to everyone in your e-mailing list – only those media outlets that you really want to be featured in.
The first thing the journalist sees is obviously the subject line. So, take time to come up with an eye-catching headline (mentioning your stage name and genre would not be amiss). The content of the e-mail should be kept short. Briefly introduce yourself and your release, mention important information like the release date, features, and a selection of past highlights. Also add a picture to the text. Everything else belongs in the EPK. You’ll find out what all is included there here.
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Sales trends give you a preview of the amount being credited to account in your future. iGroove has updated this feature and can now offer the most accurate trend data to tell you well in advance exactly how much money you will receive and when it will be at your disposal.
Many distributors provide artists with so-called sales trends. These trends give an overview on streams and sales before accounts are balanced with the streaming services. They offer artists a point of reference on where they stand approximately. The reason why nonetheless the actual payout might deviate from these numbers is that while streaming services disclose to distributors the number of streams, the type of subscription, and where the streams come from, they do not specify the monetary amount.
Essentially, all distributors (including iGroove) calculate the amount of money garnered from a stream based on previous numbers. But this didn’t cut it for us – we wanted to offer our artists the most accurate trends in the game. Thanks to our Artificial Intelligence “Muse,” we can already predict future revenues with precision, so we decided to use it for the trends, as well. Thus, we can now tell exactly how much Spotify pays, for instance, for a stream from Brazil that was generated by a family subscription.
What has changed for you?
Precision has improved greatly once again, so you can know much more accurately today what you will earn in the future. When it comes to the most important services like Spotify, Apple Music, or Deezer, the precision is more than 98%. Unfortunately, some other services like Amazon, for example, do not yet provide trend data about their streams. But as soon as they are available, we will include them, as well. Our goal is to tell you in advance exactly how much money you will receive and when it will be at your disposal.
Preview & Forecasts
The new iGroove app also shows you how high your future payouts will be. That way you know at all times how much will be credited to your bank account in the coming months and can plan better for the future. The app also gives you a projection of your revenues in the next 6, 12, and even 24 months.
If you still have questions about the sales trends, the app or the forecasts of your future revenues, feel free to contact our support.
We’ve already reported on the rumor that SoundCloud might be the first streaming service to switch from the pro-rata to the user-centric distribution model. Now, this has become reality – at least in part.
While in the pro-rata model all streams are thrown into one big pot, the user-centric model distributes the revenues from each user only to those artists that they actually listened to.
The change will take place on April 1st, but the new model will only be used for artists who upload their music directly via SoundCloud. To be precise, that includes 100,000 customers who use SoundCloud Premier, Repost by SoundCloud, or Repost Select. But these three features are not free of charge – so, to be part of the user-centric model, you have to be a paying member of SoundCloud.
How does SoundCloud calculate the payout?
The share, that the artist receives, is calculated based on the time that a user listened to said artist in comparison to the total listening time per month. What also plays a part is how many ads the user listens to on the platform or if they are paying for SoundCloud Go+.
But there are still some questions that SoundCloud has, as of yet, left unanswered.
One of them is whether the user-centric model will be applied for publishing, as well, meaning whether it will be applied to the shares of the songwriters and composers. For another, it’s still unclear how the revenues will be calculated when a user listens to music both from artists who upload directly (user-centric), as well as from label/distributor submissions (pro-rata).
User Centric: Advantages for artists?
Since so far no big streaming service could bring itself to change its distribution model, we will now see for the first time whether this system can actually bring benefits for independent musicians. But the cake that’s to be divided is still relatively manageable: In 2019 (there are no new numbers available yet), SoundCloud made a profit of 99.5 million dollars from ads and user subscriptions.
Whether other streaming services will make the switch is still written in the stars and heavily depends on the major labels. Since these labels show themselves to be open only to conversations but nothing more, it is not to be expected that anything will change in this regard anytime soon. But thanks to SoundCloud, we will now at least get an idea of whether a system change is even desirable from a musician’s perspective.
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According to one projection, Spotify will soon be not only the biggest streaming platform, but also the number 1 in podcasts.
We’ve already mentioned in multiple posts that Spotify is placing a big focus on podcasts and investing huge sums into this area. There were many critical voices who thought that these big investments were not paying off and that they were bringing in too few new users.
The newest projection, however, shows that Spotify will replace Apple on that number 1 spot this year already.
According to this projection, Spotify could increase their numbers in the USA to 28.2 million users (in 2020: 19.9 million), while Apple will only experience a minimal growth from 27.6 million to 28 million. In the two years after that, Spotify is predicted to experience an even bigger surge: up to 33,1 (2022) and 37.5 million (2023). In comparison, Apple will supposedly only grow at a very slow pace and reach 28.8 million users by 2023.
This, of course, means that a significantly bigger slice of the ad cake will go to Spotify. According to the aforementioned study, this cake will be worth 1.28 billion dollars in the U.S. alone.
Additionally, there are rumors circulating, as they do every so often, that Spotify is drawing up a separate subscription plan for podcasts. Whether this will be well-received by the listeners is a question on which opinions differ greatly.
At the moment, 25% of Spotify users listen to podcasts, which corresponds to around 86 million people worldwide.
The study predicts that in 2021, 117.8 million users in the U.S. will consume podcasts monthly. Almost a quarter of them listen to podcasts on Spotify.
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