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Album Art copy: a checklist for musicians

You’ve got your tracks recorded, song order finalized, & title chosen — now get all of your copy together.

Written on October 21, 2019 by Christina Blust

We love working with musicians, and album art is especially fun. As a musician myself, I’ve experienced firsthand the excitement of recording an album and hearing everything come together.

Musicians can sometimes spend a lot of time thinking about what they want their album to sound like and look like and forget all about the album art’s words. But the words—the album’s copy—can make or break the way your listeners and fans perceive your work.

Make your words work for you

The beautiful photo on the front of a physical CD or vinyl album might make a potential fan pick it up, but then what?

Your fans want to learn more, and they can only learn more if you tell them something. So make sure your album art copy is working for you to:

  • Present your hard work as professional and impressive.
  • Educate & delight your listeners about the album’s contents.
  • Credit and show respect to everyone who helped create the final album.

Consistent & complete

We’re sticklers for the details, and having the songs follow a consistent setup with each other really helps keep the final art professional and sharp. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow this exact format, but the songs should match each other. And when gathering your copy and typing up your album & song information, keep everything in normal sentence case (no all caps) — this will help the design process move smoothly.

Here’s a handy checklist of what copy your album might need:

1. Track listing

This is just numbers, song names, and featured performer if applicable — think of what might be on a back cover.

1. Battle Cries
2. Cemetery Road
3. The Miles
4. Moses
5. Let’s Be Found
6. Saltshaker
7. Street Lamp Parade
8. Lineage
9. Apples
10. Slow Burn
11. Hot Air Balloon
12. Dangerous Bird

The Wabash compilation album shows an example of a track listing that includes the performer, which was different for each song.

2. Non-song copy

Do you want a short artist bio, or an acknowledgements block? That’s non-song copy.

A sincere and humble thanks to the family, friends, people and places that inspired the songs contained herein, as well as to the great community of musicians and creatives that both welcomed me and offered their many talents. It is quite an understatement to say that this never would have happened without you.

3. General production info

The general production information paragraph is true for the whole album. You know for your project what is always the same and what changes from song to song — the always-true info goes here. It might include production and recording info, copyright, photo credits and the like, making sure to get all the right credits in.

Example 1

©&℗ 2013 Wabash Valley Outdoor Sculpture Collection, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Executive Producers: Don Arney, Mark Bennett, Mary Kramer and Ted Piechocinski. Recorded at Quantum Productions, Terre Haute, Indiana, unless otherwise noted. Album design by Christina Blust/Blustery Day Design. Photo credits: Christina Blust – front and back cover images; Steve Letsinger – wild birds along the Wabash; Samantha McGranahan/The Roxy Studio – guitar. Sheet music and map are in the public domain.

Example 2

© 2011 Pilgrim Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Album produced by Don Arney. Recorded and mixed at Quantum Music Productions (Terre Haute, Ind.). Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, Mass. Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice. Album design by Blustery Day Design. Album art incorporates photos taken by Barbara Kendall, Beaux Art Photography.

On this album we designed, you can see the track listing, some non-song copy, and some general production info.

4. General instrumentation

When instrumentation stays pretty much the same for the whole album, we can use a general instrumentation section. If credits change a lot per track, we’d probably put it song-by-song instead.

You can decide whether the person or instrument comes first in the listing.

Instruments first

Guitar and Vocals: Dave Frisse
Vocals: Doris Frisse
Bass, Slide Guitar, Mandolin: Eric Rasley
Keyboards, Backing Vocals: Jim Rasley
Percussion: Bill Foraker

Person first

Jon DaCosta: Guitar, banjo, vocals
Jimmy Rinehart: Lead guitar, vocals
Jamie Bacon: Bass, violin, vocals
Brook Ellis: drums

5. Individual track info

Then we need the song-by-song info, for the things that are unique to each track. We start with track number and track name, followed by track artist (if it changes), then optional pieces like songwriter, copyright, musicians & instrumentation, recording location (if these differ from main production paragraph). If you want lyrics included, put them here too. Examples:

3. Old River
Kade Puckett 
By Kade Russell Puckett © 2013 Kade Puckett Studios. 
Kade Puckett – Guitar. 
Recorded at Kade Puckett Studios, Linton, Indiana

12. Worth the Wait
Music: Mats Nermark. Lyrics: Dave Frisse. Sung by Doris Frisse
[Lyrics]

The interior of this six-panel eco-wallet we designed has some song-specific information and some non-song copy.

Double-check & make it yours

Now double-check everything. Look for typos in your lyrics, misspelled musician names, and inconsistent structuring. Have your writerly friend look it over. Getting your copy perfect before it goes into the album art can save you time, minimize headaches, and avoid additional project costs. Your designer will then have exactly what she needs to format and style everything in a readable, effective, and beautiful layout design.

Don’t feel like you need to follow any of the examples exactly — make it fit what makes sense for you and your project. We’re good at adapting to the unique needs of different types of albums. If you’re working with us on album art and get stuck on something, just ask. 

You’ve worked so hard to get here! Make sure your album copy does your hard work justice.

Need album art?

If you’ve got your music ready and your words perfect and just need that final design, we’ve got you.

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