What Do I Put On My Album Layout?

by SaskMusic

June 1, 2015 in Recording & Production

Although physically printed albums are being produced in smaller quantities these days, there are still a variety of elements that you’ll want to think about including in the design for the units you do print, and/or know about when it comes time to upload to a digital distributor. Below is a menu of things for you to consider. 

A quick comment on the design itself. With the prominence of imagery in basically everything (online, print, on your merch table), it is imperative to have GREAT cover art. It will show up on your iTunes page, streaming sites, reviewer blogs, newspapers and hopefully many more places. At times, people will see it before they hear your music, and decide whether or not to listen based on whether the artwork has piqued their curiosity. If it’s art that can work elsewhere, it may also end up on a t-shirt, tattoo or other products. And you’ll tie it into your website/social media design. Right? So make sure you love your cover as much as you love the music it represents. 

Once you have the concept you love, work with a good graphic designer on the layout. Make sure it’s set in the proper resolution and contrast so it’ll look reproduce well on a screen, as well as in newsprint. (If possible. Some of the coolest album designs involve textures, 3-D elements and other things that don’t “shoot” well.) If you do have a crazy creative cover, make sure to provide some version of a high-res album cover for download on your website. Actually...do that regardless.

  • Album title and artist name in a way that it is easy to tell which one is the album title, and which is the artist name. (You would be surprised how often this is a problem!) 

Be aware of how your choice of title and/or name may affect your placement in alphabetical listings and search functions. Do you have a hard (unusual) spelling that will make it difficult for fans to search you out? An impossible-to-Google name like “Air”? 

How many other artists out there are also using your name? Often, the release of the first album can prompt a frantic band name change once it’s discovered there’s six other “Earths” out there. 

  • Sponsor thank-yous and/or logos. Check your grant approval paperwork, if applicable, to make sure you are providing credit in the required manner.
  • MAPL logo. Yes, CANCON is still a thing. If you wish to capitalize on Canadian airplay, radio programmers want to know that you’re Canadian. MAPL components are: M = Music composed by a Canadian; A = Artist is a Canadian; P = Production (recording) was done in Canada; L = Lyrics written by a Canadian.

If this information is the same for every song on your album, you can put one logo that covers the entire album. Otherwise, indicate the MAPL designation for each song. 

  • Songwriting copyright © notice (indicates who wrote each song).
  • Sound recording copyright ℗ notice (reflecting who owns the recording of that song, or who owns the whole album’s recording).

What is this? The ℗ symbol (a circled capital letter P) stands for “phonograph recording”, an internationally-recognized symbol of protection of a sound recording. You may record/release different versions of songs on different albums, and each version might have a different owner (i.e. label). The proper notice has 3 elements in this order: The symbol, The year date of the recording/re-mastering, The name of the first owner. 
℗ 2014 MJ Simple Music

The use of the symbol originated in U.S. copyright law and is specified internationally in the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms. The symbol was introduced in 1971, essentially simultaneously in both domestic U.S. law and international treaty.

Why include it? It can make it easier for those who wish to license your recording (to know which parties they’ll need to contact). The identification can be omitted if the owner is the sound recording’s producer, and the producer is identified on associated packaging.
The symbol in Unicode is U+2117, SOUND RECORDING COPYRIGHT (HTML: ℗).

  • A statement prohibiting authorized reproduction.
  • “Made in Canada / Fabrique au Canada”. This can be especially important if you plan to take physical albums outside of Canada, and want to avoid border hassles/import duties.
  • Bar code: still required, even if you’re distributing digitally. Your manufacturer can provide one, or you can obtain one from the digital distributor that you go with.
  • Catalogue number. You make up your own, or your label will assign one. It should go on each separate piece of your album package, is used to tie the project together at the manufacturing plant, and is used by some stores for reference. 
  • Track listing, preferably indicating track lengths.
  • Credits for songwriters, producer, engineer, studio, mastering facility and players…spellchecked! There’s nothing like thanking someone by spelling their name wrong. Don’t forget credits for your photographer, artwork, and/or album design.
  • Contact information (generally, a website address that you own and control, and will not be changing or expiring anytime soon).
  • Note: Double check the direction of your spine text (if applicable). When the album is lying face-up on a table, your hinge-side spine should have the text facing up too.

Consider also:

  • Liner notes/general thank yous to supporters and fans
  • Lyrics can be posted on your website. This can be helpful if someone can’t recall a song title, but remembers a phrase from a song.
  • These pieces should go on the disc face in addition to the insert: Artist name and album title; MAPL logos; copyright notice; catalogue number; “Made in Canada” notice.

Hope this helps get you on your way. If you have any questions, you can always call us or schedule a one-on-one with our staff!


Related articles: 

Tips for CD Design and Manufacturing