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Why You Should Pay for Visual Branding

You've learnt how to play or produce music and you want to put it out into the world and how it will look almost becomes an afterthought or unimportant. It's the music that counts, you say to yourself. But looking the part is just as important. Paying for it saves you time and gets it right. Here's why.

1. Simple Comparison

Take two EPs or albums that are equally as good in quality and content, one has professional artwork, the second has some homemade effort, which do you think people are more likely to bookmark, share, remember? Of course it's the one with great artwork. They connect with it more, they feel less embarrassed liking it and passing on. People do judge a book by it's cover. It's why good-looking people live an easier life. Your music will too, given good artwork.

2. Even Before Sound

People see all music before they hear it and in their brains they will already make associations. You can't have no cover. So it has to have something. And that thing will alter, temper, increase their expectation of what the music will sound like, even on a subtle subconscious level. In a really obvious way: if they see a happier cover, they'll expect happy music, if they see a moody cover they'll expect moody music. Going in the wrong direction with artwork will cause dissonance, but more importantly will affect the listeners experience. Does happier covers make the music seem happier? Even the most rudimentary knowledge in psychology says: yes! (It's called framing).

Now imagine you have a badly put together artwork, what does the potential listener expect? How will it affect the perception of that music? That's right, badly put together music. Your music will sound worse. Even if it's not. So pay for good work.

3. Graphic Designers Understand Ambiguity

Music for, the most part, is not literal, it's figurative, it's an abstract emotional expression and open to a massive amount of interpretation, like all good art. One listener will think it's means or says one thing. Another something else. A third, yet something different still. We all interpret in our own ways. And a good graphic design will understand that in a visual sense. They'll add an extra layer to your sound painting with visuals that will match your music, yet somehow leave all that space for interpretation. Graphic designers just think in that way: visually. You might not, as much as a musician. So let them do the heavy lifting.

4. Double Senses = Added Value

Leading on from that: this adds value to your music. It adds another layer. It's why, generally, the cover for a piece of music isn't called a cover, unlike a book cover. It's usually artwork. Because it heightens the senses of your music, it makes it darker, lighter, odder, gentler. It pushes the sound in the right direction. Good artwork acts like intoxicants when listening to music. Designers know this.

5. Builds Your Confidence

If you are serious about your music then having professional design should be a vital part of your road to market. A part of the complete package you want to put out there. You have an idea of what you want to say to the world and good artwork just adds to that vision. But even if you're not that serious, just even putting out something for fun with great artwork boosts your confidence in what you're doing. And that confidence should creep into your music as well. You're doing it all properly.

6. Someone Else Cares

Making music can be a lonely business if you do it on your own, or a fraught experience in a band. Having someone else that shares the load of your passion project can carry some of that load. Someone outside of it all that appreciates where you're going and wants to help you forward. A good designer always does that.

7. Think of All the Money You've Spent Already

It's so easy over the years to lose track of all that money you've spent on plug-ins in Black Friday sales, all these extra special guitar strings that think would improve your tone, all those online courses about production. All money spent on hopefully getting you to sound better. If you've honest with yourself: a lot of it was a waste. But you've got to a point where you want to release and then suddenly you tighten the purse strings, all for the same price of a cheap VST. It's a false economy not to pay to get the right branding.

8. It's Great to Show Off

Good design is something you can really be proud of on your socials. It gives your extra cool that you've used a professional service to get the right results. It's something that will feel great, rather than just an afterthought after you've made the music. A good piece of design catches the eye on your feed and people will want to know more about you.

Also, let's be honest, there's nothing quite as good as one upmanship. Look at me, I have a better looking album than you!

9. It's Less Hassle for You

You might have spent twenty or thirty hours on track, or even months and years on an album. Do you really want to spend the same amount of time on getting the branding right or just making more music? A graphic design will also know all the ins and outs of the different file formats, sizes and rules you need all the work you require, it's second nature to them. They'll get good quick work quickly to you! Without all that tiresome learning to do.

10. Are you Actually Any Good at Graphics?

To get to the stage where your musical skill-set (music theory, learning your instrument, mixing, mastering) is good enough to release music can take years. It's the same for professional designers. They've spent years learning about fonts, composition, colour. Just because you own a subscription Adobe Creative Cloud doesn't mean you're an expert any more than a graphic designer going downloading Logic X and calling themself a musician. Be honest with yourself. Let them do their stuff.