How Music Artwork Contributes To the Success of Album Release

How Music Artwork Contributes to the Success of Album Release
Find out how some of the most iconic artists in history and of today utilized artwork to their success.
Find out how some of the most iconic artists in history and of today utilized artwork to their success.

Aside from the music itself, music artwork adds an extra layer of interest when it comes to releasing a single, CD cover, digital album covers, vinyl sleeves, or other merchandise.

Artwork ultimately contributes to the overall success of the new record which is why it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Although a song or an album itself is already the main selling point of a recording artist, with the increasingly growing competition around and the way platforms are built (Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, or others), the title alone might not be enough to draw new viewers.

This is the main reason why the artwork also has to be eye-catching not just to attract new listeners but new potential fans of the music itself.

Why on earth would someone decide to light themselves on fire? Well, this is the first question that usually comes to mind when thinking about the 1992 album that Rage Against the Machine rolled out.

Instead of just screaming violence, the artwork in itself graciously screams angst, rebellion, and the drive to move forward.

The disturbing image of a man that was engulfed in flames, although maybe a bit horrific to look at, the image actually contributed quite massively to the debut album’s success.

Aside from Rage Against the Machine relying on music alone, they decided to attach art which was something that really pushed the success of their debut album.

rage against the machine album cover man on fire

Never underestimate the power of artwork

Aside from just Rage Against the Machine, there have also been a number of other artwork that has propelled the success of the music attached to it.

In fact, artwork itself can touch even the music besides it.

One perfect example of how powerful artwork is can be seen in the recent success of Redbone by Childish Gambino.

While the song itself had been something fresh for listeners to hear since it used a genre that hadn’t been heard of in a while, the iconic artwork also propelled the success of the song.

Aside from bringing funkadelic back with a political and eerie but empowering feel to the song, the song itself was actually released without a video or image attached to it.

Instead, the album art was used as an audio-video but because listeners saw the album art really fit the song itself and somewhat empowered the song in its own way, that art became attached to the song itself.

childish gambino awaken my love album cover

Artwork really contributes to the success of an album’s release no doubt at all.

This is because usually when people browse, they usually check out art before actually reading the title or the name of the artist.

Taking a closer look at music artwork, there is a certain keyword that really pins everything together and this is “compelling.”

The complete picture must not only catch the eye of the fan but also pull them closer towards the music, the band, and the whole picture of what the artist is trying to paint through sounds.

Artwork enhances the music experience

A brand image is composed of a number of different components.

Just like the music itself must be able to tell a compelling story, the artwork used on both the music releases as well as the merchandise should also be equally compelling as well.

Music is basically a creative business which is also elusive as well as mysterious. Artwork should be able to enhance that particular image.

Another very compelling piece of music artwork that has not only caught the attention of listeners but also cemented the very image that the artist was trying to portray in the first place is Metallica.

While listeners of this metal band were already drawn to the music itself, the Master of Puppets album art really topped the cake with an image so powerful that drew listeners past just the music but towards a new artform, this time in black.

metalica cover album master puppets

The power of packaging

Before the digital age ever happened and listeners could easily swipe away on album art of new songs, packaging was very important when it came to securing placements in then-popular record stores.

It also helped the album stand out around others in the crowd. 

In fact, previous record stores almost exploded due to the vast number of new releases and this created a huge competition for records, albums, and artists to be able to get a place on the top of the shelf.

The album artwork for CDs as well as vinyl pieces were really important during that time.

One very important example of artwork play is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

The classic Dark Side of the Moon is reported as the best-selling album ever with over a whopping 200 million album sales as of today.

The stunning album of one of the most popular bands in the world is still very popular today even with those that aren’t too familiar with the band itself.

The artwork was designed by both Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, Dark Side of the Moon used a prism that shows colors of light that show in rays when dispersed by the prism.

The artwork indulges the viewer making them think about what it actually is, what it is referring to, and what it actually means.

The artwork was able to empower not only the CD’s front but also the inlay and even the font on the back as well.

The artwork extended towards the back of the album and even inside the album itself shows colors as a sort of lifeline.

The main thought behind the beautiful artwork shows the viewers just how big of a role artwork is in terms of music and more.

While the colors celebrate the light that shows that Pink Floyd usually has during their performance, the triangle could symbolize the whole thought and ambition behind the music just like Roger Waters’ lyrics.

Packaging in the digital age

Back in 2012, the popular electronic music pioneer known as Brian Transeau or BT released a sort of mixed compilation that included a very distinctive album cover or music artwork, a QR code.

While the QR code is now quite popularly used and might seem like not a big deal, back then, it was a really big deal.

The QR code itself wasn’t really a compelling image or another piece of groundbreaking artwork.

However, its functionality added an additional dimension to the package itself. The fact that the QR code worked gave even more depth to the package.

Back then, scanning the supposed artwork would then lead people directly to a website where they will be able to get the complete experience with images and sounds.

Artwork, in itself, doesn’t need to be uber complicated in order to captivate the audience. The most important thing is that the artwork is captivating in itself.

Back then, with a simple QR code, the audience were able to indulge in a full experience.

Music Portals

It’s important to understand how music portals work as the shift from CDs to digital have made Spotify, iTunes, and even YouTube an important component in releasing music.

The thing about these platforms is that artwork is still very important.

While music portals are dipping more into visuals with iTunes including movies and shows, Spotify has started to delve into podcasts.

This generally shows that modern platforms are giving more emphasis on visuals as they go well with audio.

For musical artists, this can be very challenging as they are pitched against other artists that could have similar artwork.

Due to the competition a heavier reliance on artwork has slowly been developing and coming to these portals with something new is very hard to do nowadays.

This is why artwork has to be taken seriously and should be invested in instead of having a “this will do” attitude.

The future of music artwork

By now, you probably already understand how a compelling design can add to the success of a music launch – that’s actually just half of it.

Utilizing Spotify Canvas

Spotify as mentioned earlier is currently known as one of the most powerful music portals which is only growing in number.

This music streaming service has reportedly garnered a large user base of 345 million as of February 3 and the number could since then have increased recognizably.

The thing about this music portal is that it has also evolved in itself making it better for its users through not just elevating the music selection but also the way that users consume music as well.

Spotify has just recently rolled out a certain featured Spotify Canva which is a relatively new service that would allow music to be paired with moving images instead of the regular static artwork.

Although this can be quite complicated for those making the artwork, this still opens new opportunities to expand the artwork from basic images to further engage the audience.

This also provides the opportunity for artists to expand their expression even more by engaging their audience through utilizing moving images.

A good example of this is the music video of Angels by The xx.

Consistency in building a brand image

Whether the music is for digital or physical release, artwork itself can be used in order to bring some sort of consistency with the brand image.

When it comes to designing artwork for an upcoming tour, CD, merchandise, or even a digital release, achieving perfect consistency is one of the key components in building a memorable brand.

The more consistent the artist’s music is with their artwork, the more memorable they become for the audience as they not only engage in one sense but two.

The principle is the more senses, emotions, thoughts, or basically the more the artist is able to engage the audience, the better it would be for their music.

The thing about music is that it is not only very genre-driven but also very artwork is driven as well.

The more invested the artist is in solidifying their branding through not just their commitment to building themselves in a genre but building their brand as well, the more the audience is able to engage themselves in the artist by having more forms of entertainment and appreciation.

Art is not what you see, but what you want others to see.

Edgar Degas

Of course, the music should still be a priority but in this day and age, music itself struggles to captivate the audience without the user of other forms of art.

Great artwork is very important for the artist to be able to create a solid brand image as well as be recognizable and also appealing for both new and old fans.

Paying attention to other artists and studying them would reveal a great investment not into just their music but also how they use artwork as some sort of boost towards their success.

While the music itself is very important, artists still make sure they release other merch, digital art, and recently, even digital events in order to engage their audience.

One example of a virtual event that was never heard of was the Travis Scott concert inside a popular game called Fortnite.

Although it took a lot to achieve this success, it had reportedly been the first time that something like that had ever been done.

Although this might seem a little hard to achieve, this shows how thinking out of the box would work for artists in this digital age. Basically, nowadays, the limits for new forms of artwork are yet to be explored. 


It is very important to pay close attention to details in order to create artwork for new music releases.

When it comes to creating a music artwork, album cover, merchandise, or sleeve, there should be as much effort put into this as the music itself.

For artists that are multitalented, doing the artwork by themselves would only seem natural.

However, for others, there’s no harm in getting professional help in conceptualizing what should be the perfect artwork attached to the music.

In the end, the goal is to create not only memorable music but also a memorable package of music, art, and brand identity for an artist to not only grow in success but also retain their current fanbase.

Artwork shouldn’t compete with music.

In fact, artwork should be used to elevate music in its own way.

Thank you for reading, and we hope you found this useful.
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