Create Your Own CD Cover

by | Jun 2, 2016 | CD Design, Digital Marketing, DIY, Music Business, Package Design

If you are a musician or band manager and you have succeeded in outlining a recording project that you hope will result in your own self-published CD, you have already got a lot of major challenges both behind you and ahead of you, and you may not want to spend hours fretting over what to put into your CD booklet. Just the same, you want it to look good, and to present you as the professional that you are.

Production houses are wonderful for telling your graphic artist how to lay out your booklet in one of their formats, but they are not the people to bug for info on what kind of content and how much should go into the booklet itself. Your graphic artist will want to focus on making the content you give to her fit into the space you want it to take, making the booklet aesthetically pleasing to look at, sending your visual-musical-entertainment message to your prospective buyers, and keeping all that within budget. And speaking of budget, if you have enough money to hire a professional writer (a very good idea if you want your CD to look professional), even the writer will be expecting you to provide him with the content to write up! Hey! Who is gonna take on the job of figuring out what goes into the booklet?

The short answer is: you are.

But where to begin? That’s what this article is about. What information do you need for your liner notes? What goes on the front cover? What about the back cover? How many pages should the booklet be? While all of these items are a matter of choice, and extremely flexible, it helps to have a way to organize your thoughts. You don’t want to be hitting yourself in the head later, when the CD is all produced and a friend quietly points out to you that you forgot to include the title track in the song list. It might sound unlikely, but these kinds of omissions and errors happen all the time.

Not to fear. We have put together a list of guidelines to help you find your way through this critical aspect of your professional CD publishing project without missing anything, small or large, and then to sift it down to what matters most.

Gather—the First Step

Gather the information. The following guidelines are designed to help you compile the information for your CD liner notes. If you don’t have all of the information, or don’t want to include it all, that’s fine; just use these guidelines as a checklist so that you don’t miss something you would have wanted to include. Later, we will look at how much you want to keep and why. Here, we begin by gathering everything you might want. Put together a file–either a physical folder, or better still, images, and notes you take on your computer, in a directory you can copy easily to a data CD. Include:

Basic Info

CD Title & Artist

  • Ordered list of songs (your writer or artist will need to know what order your songs are in on the CD), with track times for each final cut
  • Credits—producer, engineer, sound studio, cover design, photographer(s), writer(s), etc.
  • Lyrics—of all or any number of songs; particularly of original material
  • Instrumentalists/instruments per song
  • Vocalists per song
  • Copyright info per song (names of songwriters, at least)
  • Artist’s discography
  • URL or email address of artist (preferably a website address)

Basic Data

  • Any photographs you wish to use, with a list outlining your preferences for choice, cropping, etc.
  • Any design concepts/sketches you have in mind, unless already discussed with your artist
  • Any other images you wish to include (paintings, etc.)

Song Roots, Stories, Esoteric Stuff

  • Inspiration—what inspired you to choose (or write and choose) these songs?
  • Personal account—by either you or someone in the industry who will promote your work. Is there a story behind the title, any of the songs, or the making of the CD, or a particular show or event that inspired the CD?
  • Biography of artist—something about you, the artist(s)
  • Dedication—any thanks or credits you have (other than technical)
  • With the notable exception of song titles and people’s names, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or even writing finished sentences at this point (oh, and except for personal accounts by industry experts, which should only be cleaned up and not rewritten)—especially if you have a writer. The important thing is to get the information down. Writers and designers need content to do their work, so just focus on making sure you include all of the things you want to say, and don’t worry about the right way to say them. You are of course free to be as creative as you want, though, so just relax and have fun.

    Refine—the Second Step

    Hone it down. This is where you should enlist the help of your insiders: friends, your graphic artist, your writer, and any professionals in the industry who have the time and inclination. But before you do, be nice to them by thinking through the process the first time around on your own. Look at the CDs of other artists in your genre, and don’t slavishly follow their lead, but try to ask yourself why they included or excluded various items from their CD booklet. Weed out anything that seems too maudlin, or overly self-indulgent. We live in the age of need-based marketing, so try to imagine what your audience will actually need from your CD (if you don’t yet have an audience, you will have to imagine them, too). Get rid of the excess and save only those items you rightfully cherish, because you know your audience will be made happy by them.

    Then use the knowledge you have gained in the process to determine where within the booklet each item you have remaining belongs. Usually the front cover contains only images, title, and principle artist, for example, but sometimes a highlighted guest artist will help to sell your CD, so you might add a callout with their name. The back should have your track list, copyright info, website, bar code, and some graphical elements, at the very least, but not much more. You might also feature the logo or info for your recording studio on the back cover. Everything else goes somewhere inside. You decide.

    Once you’ve got it narrowed down, go to your list of insiders and ask them for their take. Show them everything you have and see what they think you should get rid of or add back in. Write down their advice and then think about it for a few days. You will know what to do by then, so just make your changes.

    Package & Meet—the Third Step

    Bundle it all together and meet with your creatives. This is the point at which you will have to decide once and for all just how many pages will be in that booklet. Talk to your creatives and make sure they understand your goals. If your budget is tight, work with your writer to cut away more verbiage—a good writer can often cut your verbal content down to as little as a third and still keep the essentials, if that’s what you end up needing. Be clear with your graphic artist about how small the type can get, what needs to stand out, how much and which text/graphics per page, etc. The writer and artist should be able to raise any major flags at this point if they see a problem. Collaborate. They are trying to help you succeed, so let them do what they do best. Listen.

    Proof—the Final Step

    This might actually be two steps. If you have a writer, you, and possibly the artist will need to proof the textual content prior to the design phase. This is the time to proof the liner notes for mistakes or major omissions. This will be an important time to make sure everything reads the way you want it in your CD package. Go over all names first; then go over titles; and then, finally, go through the rest of the text. Try to read what is actually there, and not what you expect to see. This will help you to catch the errors, if they exist. Once the design is complete you will have only one more chance to correct errors, so take this step seriously.

    When the textual content is perfect, and the artist has completed the design mockup, proof the design. This will be your last chance to fix any typos or minor issues. Make sure your artist understands exactly what you want to see. Most artists will be happy to get this kind of detailed instruction, because it saves them having to redo your design when you decide later it wasn’t really what you wanted.

    Breathe a Sigh of Relief

    If you have followed through on each item in your process using these guidelines, you will have come up with the very best CD booklet you possibly could, and that is no small accomplishment. If you think the old adage not to judge a book (or CD) by its cover is true, well that’s not the way of the world. Just look at how you, yourself choose books, CDs, and other products—the packaging either works for you or it doesn’t, and that is the deciding factor on whether you look further.

    Using these guidelines you should have been able to relax, have fun, and do it right, without worrying about missing something or making costly mistakes—and that will take you a long way toward rocking your audience, which was what you wanted all along, right?

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    Create Your Own CD Cover

    by | Jun 2, 2016 | CD Design, Digital Marketing, DIY, Music Business, Package Design

    If you are a musician or band manager and you have succeeded in outlining a recording project that you hope will result in your own self-published CD, you have already got a lot of major challenges both behind you and ahead of you, and you may not want to spend hours fretting over what to put into your CD booklet. Just the same, you want it to look good, and to present you as the professional that you are.

    Production houses are wonderful for telling your graphic artist how to lay out your booklet in one of their formats, but they are not the people to bug for info on what kind of content and how much should go into the booklet itself. Your graphic artist will want to focus on making the content you give to her fit into the space you want it to take, making the booklet aesthetically pleasing to look at, sending your visual-musical-entertainment message to your prospective buyers, and keeping all that within budget. And speaking of budget, if you have enough money to hire a professional writer (a very good idea if you want your CD to look professional), even the writer will be expecting you to provide him with the content to write up! Hey! Who is gonna take on the job of figuring out what goes into the booklet?

    The short answer is: you are.

    But where to begin? That’s what this article is about. What information do you need for your liner notes? What goes on the front cover? What about the back cover? How many pages should the booklet be? While all of these items are a matter of choice, and extremely flexible, it helps to have a way to organize your thoughts. You don’t want to be hitting yourself in the head later, when the CD is all produced and a friend quietly points out to you that you forgot to include the title track in the song list. It might sound unlikely, but these kinds of omissions and errors happen all the time.

    Not to fear. We have put together a list of guidelines to help you find your way through this critical aspect of your professional CD publishing project without missing anything, small or large, and then to sift it down to what matters most.

    Gather—the First Step

    Gather the information. The following guidelines are designed to help you compile the information for your CD liner notes. If you don’t have all of the information, or don’t want to include it all, that’s fine; just use these guidelines as a checklist so that you don’t miss something you would have wanted to include. Later, we will look at how much you want to keep and why. Here, we begin by gathering everything you might want. Put together a file–either a physical folder, or better still, images, and notes you take on your computer, in a directory you can copy easily to a data CD. Include:

    Basic Info

    CD Title & Artist

    • Ordered list of songs (your writer or artist will need to know what order your songs are in on the CD), with track times for each final cut
    • Credits—producer, engineer, sound studio, cover design, photographer(s), writer(s), etc.
    • Lyrics—of all or any number of songs; particularly of original material
    • Instrumentalists/instruments per song
    • Vocalists per song
    • Copyright info per song (names of songwriters, at least)
    • Artist’s discography
    • URL or email address of artist (preferably a website address)

    Basic Data

    • Any photographs you wish to use, with a list outlining your preferences for choice, cropping, etc.
    • Any design concepts/sketches you have in mind, unless already discussed with your artist
    • Any other images you wish to include (paintings, etc.)

    Song Roots, Stories, Esoteric Stuff

  • Inspiration—what inspired you to choose (or write and choose) these songs?
  • Personal account—by either you or someone in the industry who will promote your work. Is there a story behind the title, any of the songs, or the making of the CD, or a particular show or event that inspired the CD?
  • Biography of artist—something about you, the artist(s)
  • Dedication—any thanks or credits you have (other than technical)
  • With the notable exception of song titles and people’s names, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or even writing finished sentences at this point (oh, and except for personal accounts by industry experts, which should only be cleaned up and not rewritten)—especially if you have a writer. The important thing is to get the information down. Writers and designers need content to do their work, so just focus on making sure you include all of the things you want to say, and don’t worry about the right way to say them. You are of course free to be as creative as you want, though, so just relax and have fun.

    Refine—the Second Step

    Hone it down. This is where you should enlist the help of your insiders: friends, your graphic artist, your writer, and any professionals in the industry who have the time and inclination. But before you do, be nice to them by thinking through the process the first time around on your own. Look at the CDs of other artists in your genre, and don’t slavishly follow their lead, but try to ask yourself why they included or excluded various items from their CD booklet. Weed out anything that seems too maudlin, or overly self-indulgent. We live in the age of need-based marketing, so try to imagine what your audience will actually need from your CD (if you don’t yet have an audience, you will have to imagine them, too). Get rid of the excess and save only those items you rightfully cherish, because you know your audience will be made happy by them.

    Then use the knowledge you have gained in the process to determine where within the booklet each item you have remaining belongs. Usually the front cover contains only images, title, and principle artist, for example, but sometimes a highlighted guest artist will help to sell your CD, so you might add a callout with their name. The back should have your track list, copyright info, website, bar code, and some graphical elements, at the very least, but not much more. You might also feature the logo or info for your recording studio on the back cover. Everything else goes somewhere inside. You decide.

    Once you’ve got it narrowed down, go to your list of insiders and ask them for their take. Show them everything you have and see what they think you should get rid of or add back in. Write down their advice and then think about it for a few days. You will know what to do by then, so just make your changes.

    Package & Meet—the Third Step

    Bundle it all together and meet with your creatives. This is the point at which you will have to decide once and for all just how many pages will be in that booklet. Talk to your creatives and make sure they understand your goals. If your budget is tight, work with your writer to cut away more verbiage—a good writer can often cut your verbal content down to as little as a third and still keep the essentials, if that’s what you end up needing. Be clear with your graphic artist about how small the type can get, what needs to stand out, how much and which text/graphics per page, etc. The writer and artist should be able to raise any major flags at this point if they see a problem. Collaborate. They are trying to help you succeed, so let them do what they do best. Listen.

    Proof—the Final Step

    This might actually be two steps. If you have a writer, you, and possibly the artist will need to proof the textual content prior to the design phase. This is the time to proof the liner notes for mistakes or major omissions. This will be an important time to make sure everything reads the way you want it in your CD package. Go over all names first; then go over titles; and then, finally, go through the rest of the text. Try to read what is actually there, and not what you expect to see. This will help you to catch the errors, if they exist. Once the design is complete you will have only one more chance to correct errors, so take this step seriously.

    When the textual content is perfect, and the artist has completed the design mockup, proof the design. This will be your last chance to fix any typos or minor issues. Make sure your artist understands exactly what you want to see. Most artists will be happy to get this kind of detailed instruction, because it saves them having to redo your design when you decide later it wasn’t really what you wanted.

    Breathe a Sigh of Relief

    If you have followed through on each item in your process using these guidelines, you will have come up with the very best CD booklet you possibly could, and that is no small accomplishment. If you think the old adage not to judge a book (or CD) by its cover is true, well that’s not the way of the world. Just look at how you, yourself choose books, CDs, and other products—the packaging either works for you or it doesn’t, and that is the deciding factor on whether you look further.

    Using these guidelines you should have been able to relax, have fun, and do it right, without worrying about missing something or making costly mistakes—and that will take you a long way toward rocking your audience, which was what you wanted all along, right?

    Create Your Own CD Cover was last modified: July 23rd, 2016 by Leha Carpenter

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