Albumcoverzone Blog - Covers Makes Albums

On History of Pop

The ultimate struggle of the mainstream musician. Following the path that has been walked on by many is a very risky manouver. After all, getting to be recognized within musicians alike makes it a very tough quest. But in the meantime, staying too away from the mainstream is not the option if you want to blend into the popular culture.

Pop has been and will always be a very contradicting genre. It reaches to millions of people and gains acceptance on the spot, gets to be recognized as the "familiar music", yet the sound of pop always changes. A mainstream musician on the stairs of recognition needs to establish an understanding of why and how does this happen.

Popular music and pop music can mean different things, regardless, the music that is accepted by the mainstream audience needs to have something that everyone can relate to. This can be the lyrics or the form or the instrumentation. The key here is this; it does not have to be all of that at the same time. Succesful pop musicians create unique patterns within the zone of familiarity. They "include" the new, a very carefully selected "new" to the "familiar". And that makes them unique.

Next time when you listen to the genre pop from 80's or 00's take a good look at the elements that are on use. Try to connect the dots and establish your understanding about what changed and what stayed. Because having a deeper understanding of the genre itself can provide you the key for figuring out a way to exist in it in the future.

A lot of people thinks that music history means stuff about classical music, or early music, maybe it can mean jazz. But pop music established more than half a century of content and information to gather and analyse. What it has always been very succesful at was to realize and recognize the "out of the box" element and include it in it. This happened when pop music borrowed elements from the "electronic music" when a non-acoustic instrument was just crazy talk to the mainstream audience. This happened when pop music took a bit of the grunge in, a bit of the rock in, rap, metal, hip-hop in. All that was used to be underground found themselves within the realm of pop when the genre took in bits from them. 

Being rebel was not hip before. Wearing leather jackets were not hip before, people of the 2010 look were to be avoided by mainstream. Graffitti was something to avoid before it was recognized as an art form. Sex was not to talk about openly before Madonna's famous lyrics "Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex". Who knows what will the next decade bring? Past years have seen a rise of uplifting and in fact, bluntly happy vibes in the popular culture whereas in the 90s being sad, being dumped, being alone were more countable in the lyrics than today. It shows that the mainstream culture wants to go brighter and maybe not rebel so much anymore.

But then, how to make yourself unique in it? What are the new elements that are parts of subcultures and underground cultures today that will be part of pop tomorrow? It is the singer songwriter's challenge to figure that out, its the producer's mission to formulate that, its the arrangers work to establish the form of the '20s.

This also shows itself in the design of album cover design. Decade by decade, styles of music established certain visual looks that today we can almost always recognize the decade of an album from the cover. Pop from '80s has a look that pop from '90s don't have. Rock of '00s is different that the rock of 80's. Here in albumcoverzone our designer team analyses these changes, respects the image of the past and the image of today. But also, like the pop musicians we sometimes borrow new elements, the unused ones, the underground ones, the ones that have never been tried before, to explore and to create the look of the future. The '20s will see a lot of AlbumCoverZone artworks in its charts, we can assure that.

Good luck to us all on this journey. 

 

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How to Improve the Quality of Your Home Recording Session

Home studio recordings and productions have increased in the past years thanks to the evermore accessible technology, to free online content that allows people to learn about recording techniques, and of course, thanks to the ever pursuing spirit of the freelancer. But still it can be challenging to venture into this realm just by yourself without the help of a professional sound engineer, or the guidance of an experienced amateur, to support you on your recording.

Be that you are a musician who wishes to record his/her own music, or an aspiring sound engineer that searches for the best sound qualities, you must take from the beginning some very important focus points to make your recordings sound as well as possible from the first moment.

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Prioritise Recording Above Mixing
First thing to have in mind is that the more careful you are with the quality of your recording session, the less time you will have to be spending on the mixing of your music. You should avoid having to fix your sound on the mix as much as possible, so always aim for a clean recording.

Check Room Acoustics
Test sound inside your recording room. A basic and zero budget procedure is to clap your hands in different places of the room and listen for possible wall reflections and reverberation. The goal is to understand if it’s suitable for the style of music you’re recording and if there are unwanted reflections that could interfere with the quality of your recording. Remember that it is easier to add the characteristics of a room later on mixing than to take the characteristics of a room out from the recording. If you want to learn more about sound treatment of a room check out our other blog posts.

Treating Room Acoustics 
Certain sounds must be avoided. This can be done by covering up stone surfaces, figuring out bass traps for the corners, dampening the sound with absorbers for avoiding reflections where the listening or recording is happening. But this doesn't mean the room should have no sound at all. If you over-dry your room sound you will see that this is also not the way. There are various formulas to figure out how much space of a surface should be covered with sound treatment.

Reduce Surrounding Noise
As part of the treatment of the room you should also search for unwanted noise. For example, make sure that your computer’s fan isn’t being detected by the microphone, or if there is noise coming from the street, or surrounding rooms/flats. Depending on it, you might have to find your way around to reduce the noise as much as possible, such as, turning off devices that make noise, soundproofing your room, learning when your surroundings get quieter, such as off rush hours, etc.

Mic and Instrument Positioning
Independently of how good your microphone or instrument is, you must know where to place them correctly. The goal is to find the place where the microphone captures a sound that is most similar to the real tone of the instrument. Similar thing happens with the instrument placement in the room. In your “Check Room Acoustics” step you probably noticed how different places in the room react differently to your clapping. The same rule applies to the voice or an instrument, so be careful with their placement.

Don’t Let It Bleed
When talking about mic positioning one should also consider the quantity of sound that is taken by the mic. Check out the input levels on your console and make sure the sound doesn’t bleed and therefore distort the quality of your recording. Different instruments are able to produce different intensities and you will have to make adjustments for every single one of them.

Pop Filter for Singers
A pop filter is the simple solution and essential tool to have if you are recording voice and all those “p’s” are coming through to the recording.

Tune Your Instruments
101 for every instrument player (and singers in their own natural way) - make sure your instrument is in tune every time you record. If your instrument is not in tune, the recording will most probably not sound well. There are ways to correct pitch but till a certain extent.

Try Out Different Speakers/Headphones
If you have the chance, have different devices to listen to your music. Every set of speakers and headphones have their own character, some darker, others brighter. With some you can easily distinguish all the instruments whilst in others you can’t. Remember that everyone else listens to music with all sorts of equipment and that your recording should sound well in majority of them.

Add Effects Only After
There is a tendency for many musicians who have access to sound effects to immediately use them when recording. Even though it might sound very nice right away, it can limit you after when you’re in the mixing. For you will not be able to alter much more the effects themselves, since they have already been applied to the original recording. So, add your sound treatment only after you record.

Perform The Best You Can
When you check out every point of this list you should be able to finally record your music with a good sound quality. If you have tried before to record without considering some of these aspects, you will most likely feel a big difference in the quality of your recording. Generally, these are some of the basic concerns of sound engineering applied to a home studio environment. Only after these details are sorted out comes the time to actually record. If the clock is ticking, make sure to first have “safe takes”, so that no matter what you end up with something that can be worked on the mix. Safe takes include things such as playing with a steady beat, not making wrong notes or unwanted noises. Once this is done you can move to “inspiring takes”, where your main focus is on playing with the real feeling of the music, even though it might take you off the “perfection” track. It is very likely that the inspiring take will be the take you chose, then the only thing you have to do after is treating it in the mix while passing here and there bits from the safe takes.

How to Reach Your Target Audience

Power of Association

Each musician is unique and cannot be repeated, but still, being present in a group of artists that are similar to you is one of the best ways to reach to the audience that is looking for the style of music that you are producing. Credibility of an unknown music can be gained by associating it to the known music. Although no one would like to be remembered as "That guy that sounds like the singer of that band", let's be honest, you can see it as a huge compliment on your way up the ladder as well. 

Which is why no matter what style of music, everyone used to aim for the "radio" for recognition. Track lenghts were decided with this strategy in mind (if not they were butchered by the radio producers to fit in the slot). Every album had one or two "possible radio hits", composed and arranged in a way that they were suitable for the DJ to use in the morning traffic hour.

Today's listener is listening to the radio in a different way. We are now consuming playlists as much as (if not more than) we consume the radio. Either done by the streaming platform itself, or by individuals, the playlists are the new way to discover new material. Because playlists give the audience the chance to check new stuff out without having to choose or commit to an unknown album of an unknown person. Because the audience still wants to discover material just by bumping into it. So how to reach to that audience? One of the answers to this question lies in playlists.

Prepare playlists that have an aim to gain followers.

Like everything in life, consistency is the key. Creating catchy playlists is serious business. Be commited to the cause and gain attention and praising from strangers, simply by your taste in music. Title your playlist with clarity and with a spark of uniqueness. Put a cover art to it instead of the ready made layout the platform provides.

Don't fill in your playlists with hundreds of songs! Listeners of succesful playlists often use them as albums and listen to them multiple times. 

Do your best to co-exist with your heroes and heroines.

Your band released a single. It has stylistic similarities with an all time favorite track of a super duper popular band. Be bold and don't fight your inspiration sources. Make playlists that includes that well known track from the well known artist and put your single right under it! Chances of people running into your playlist is going to rise if there are already famous tracks in it. Promise of similar style and the chance of bumping into a new track will motivate listeners to take a look at your playlist and discover you in the middle of it.

Share your playlist around.

Send the playlist to your friends for it to gain momentum; the credibility of the playlist provided by famous musicians in your playlist will help you hit more people than your close circle. Someone looking for a song of an established artist will see the song appearing in a playlist that is listened by hundreds of people and will be interested in your playlist. This way you don't only show your track to some random listener that you have no idea of what his or her taste is like, you are showing your music to the person has a taste very similar to your own. What better way to advertise your music to a targeted audience than this?

So here you go, now enjoy the selection of covers in AlbumCoverZone with this idea in mind! We are sure that your future album's marketing strategy will be covered by us. ;)

 

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1000 covers and rising!

What can we say? We are very proud :) 

Our catalogue of premade album covers for various music styles is growing and with every passing month we are aiming to "cover" other genres with our unique designs. 1000 has been a milestone in front of us for some time now, and reaching it only makes us look back with joy and aim further ahead. We already had many wonderful artists who used our album cover designs for their amazing works, which motivates us to reach out for more. Each album cover being unique, this is a challenging task. Our designer team is carefully taking care of this part of the mission we have, making each cover different than any other, and we take great pleasure out of this.

Our covers have so far found themselves new homes all around the globe in all sorts of musical styles. Because of this we are also very proud to say that AlbumCoverZone is the one and only service that provides album covers for such a broad spectrum of music genres. Our works are designed to match early classical music albums and they reach to the most recently created musical genres as well. We see it as our responsibility to reach out to each and every style of musician that is looking for an album cover. Because of this, our catalogue has the largest classical music and jazz premade album cover selection right next to metal and electronic music.

Now it is time to go through our database, get lost in this beautiful selection we offer that grows even more with each passing week. As we always say in the AlbumCoverZone, you do the music and we "cover" the rest. May you reach your milestones quickly as we did as well, and release your first single, your first album, your first hit as soon as possible!

 

 

On Creativity and Flow Under Stress

 

You can do more. But you don’t have to.

If you are reading this in the spring of 2020, you are indoors due to Covid-2019 and you are either thinking of a new music piece, or you just finished producing one. Self isolation is gaining new meanings, taking down possibilities and creating others, and we are all in this together. May the reason be protecting ourselves or others, may we all come out of this chapter as healthy as possible, today we all have our responsibility to stay indoors.

How does this affect the healthy musician? No concert. No orchestra or band rehearsal. No ensemble recording session, no release party, no spring festival, no cast to shoot a video with. No busking. Though, not every musician has lost their jobs, meaning not everyone has the sudden burst of free time either.

Still, a lot of music business models were not entirely prepared for a moment like this and it is time for them to challenge themselves to reshape their formula for the current situation. Performance dependent careers are searching and finding various media tools to keep the live music alive. The new dance venue is a conference call, the new chamber music concert is a split screen video. But the modern consumer, the Streamer, is not used to paying tickets for media content yet, and such is a rule we have to shape as a collective.

While indoor productions can limit the musicians who are used to acoustic and live realities in certain aspects, the “no product-no proof” deal of today’s intensely content based creative scene pushes each and every musician to take the next step to record material, finish off that single, make that song release. As usual, consistency is the key, maybe more than ever, since there are more and more people trying for the first time to establish themselves in the music scene.

Saying this, some creative people are losing their inspiration while others are bursting with new ideas. Various condition changes shift and shape our mentalities differently, hence escapism is as valid of a creative process as expressionism. While some are setting goals for more creativity, others are choosing to hibernate in terms of production. While some of today’s musicians are focusing on the healthy days to come, the joy of love, the tale that made everyone smile, other musicians are aiming to release the emotional burden they have, reflect the feelings of the ones that have the enemy at their gates, in their homes. All paths are equally valid, natural and useful, because even more than before, there are no rules. Whichever emotional and financial state you are in, the important thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone.

One shouldn’t feel guilty of using this time for creativity as much as they can, nor one shouldn’t feel exhausted for not making more out of it. One shouldn’t avoid the happy because maintenance of the good and the beautiful is as priceless as exploring the new and expressing the negative. May the reason be protecting ourselves or others, may we all come out of this chapter as healthy as possible, today we all have our responsibility to stay indoors, and that is not normal and what comes out of it does not have to follow any expectations besides your own realistic ones.

AlbumCoverZone is here, wishing the best to everyone, and is here for the inspired ones to show their music with the visual content that will leave the first impression over their audience, because music goes on, with a library of possibilities to reflect both sides of the creative coin, the escapist and the expressionist. And we are here for the one that is waiting for the creativity to come back.

Producing on a Budget

Before coming up with serious budget plannings that would include three or four zeros to record in your dream studio with the coolest army of engineers, everyone needs to take the first step and record their ideas with what they have. And today you can do it well. Unlike some years ago, today’s creative minds have budget friendly technology on their side. Easy to grasp interfaces, user friendly applications and approachable prices on pretty good gear makes home studios a go-to for most of the indie musicians. 

Key idea is to remember how many great recordings were done with what gear how many years ago. The most expensive instrument sounds bad in the hands of a bad player. The same goes for your home studio gear as well. Having the most expensive equipment is not going to provide the solution just like that, and having the cheapest is not going to create all the problems either.


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Once you start, you can upgrade bit by bit each of these items:

DAW (digital audio workstation):
For those on a really tight budget, Reaper is one of the most user friendly workstations that asks their users to financially contribute based on their idea of a user-karma. They trust their users and by the end of your first few sessions you will see how much the program is worth and when you can, you will not think twice about the payment.

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Audio interface:
These days many types of professional sound cards (audio interfaces) have the form of an external USB unit which makes things more practical than ever. This helps a lot with starters to invest on reliable sources. Even the cards meeting the older, "slow", USB 1.1 specifications are capable of pretty high quality sound. So make sure to check the second hand market to see if there are some gems out there.

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Microphones:
As the Peter Parker principle goes; “With great power comes great responsibility.” Sometimes for the very beginning, a low-end, less sensible microphone can be actually easier to manage. When you are embarking on your journey to the unknown lands of room acoustics, the most sensible microphone can frustrate you more than rewarding you. For your training purposes it is a good idea to keep in mind to experiment with various gear instead of investing on that one expensive thing. Even starting with your smart phone’s microphone, you can experiment what mic positioning can do to your recordings.

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With that said, we enter into room acoustics. Acoustic treatment gives you control over the sound of your room while you are recording and listening. Recording in a treated room gives you a much easier sound to work with. Listening experience becomes entirely different in a treated room as well. Your gear can go from thick curtains that are not in use to custom made acoustic isolation panels. Health tip: bedroom/studio owners, research well before going in the direction of glass wool. Make sure to read and grasp the physics behind the rules, and then start with what you have, think out of the box. Filling up the bookshelf behind you can change the sound more than you can imagine.

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Headphones and speakers are there for you finish the making of your sound creation. Your listening experience needs a good end gear to make sure your mix is air tight indeed. But bare in mind, the first productions that will come from your home will firstly hit the smartphones and various wireless speakers of your friends and colleagues while you are showing your project around. Whichever type of headset or monitors you own, make sure to test your music on (relatively) cheaper devices as well.

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And once your audio production is done, with our album cover library that grows hundreds of covers each year, we will cover the rest. (pun intended)

 

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