Should we still judge an album by its cover?

Music has such a profound impact on us all and I've recently been pondering about my favourite album covers and started to think about (the unanswerable question):

What makes a great album cover and in a digital era - do album covers actually matter?

When as I was growing up, I spent many a happy Saturday afternoon flicking through the vinyl and CD racks at HMV and Virgin and I remember album covers seemed to be so much more important to bands, to my life and also to my appreciation of music.

They were often my first introduction to a band or the next chapter in an evolving story from my favourite band. They offered a statement of where the band was at - dark and moody or light and playful; they allowed bands to talk to me and project their current thinking.

Some album covers were instantly iconic and through their use of colour, photography or font, you knew there was something exciting waiting inside. Classic examples of this include The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ or Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’.

Back to modern times and depending on who you’re talking to, an artist’s image (and obviously album covers play a key role in this) is still either everything or nothing.

Working in our industry, I would argue that being a brand, or a band, comes down to what you communicate to the consumer or audience - and so album artwork is still massively important.

But just how important and relevant are album covers in today’s digital arena? I’d again argue that as covers are still used on most streaming sites (including iTunes and Spotify) and great art is an attention grabber, that seeing a great or a bobbins thumbnail image from a new artist can be the difference between a potential new fan clicking the play button or not.

So, as there is no magic creative handbook for developing a great album cover, surely it comes down to a few simple principles as per any great art?

It’s got to be about connecting with people and creating an emotion. Great album covers stop you in your tracks and make you look and interact with them, and this is because they create an emotion, whether that’s a smile, a memory, shock or intrigue.

This should now be the point where I share a load of inspiring album covers, but that would be too predictable - so let’s just share with you one of my all-time favourite covers.

Is it my favourite because it’s a piece of creative genius or because I have fond memories of listening to it blaring out of my brother's room, or frankly is it because it’s got a load of great tracks on it?

Who knows?! What’s yours?

Stuart Hornby, Client Services Director