Your photo on the cover? Maybe not.

Over at David Hooper’s weblog, a debate: should you use your photo of yourself on your CD cover art? David says no, and I agree.

This was something I debated each time I got ready to release a new CD. Dare I put my smiling mug on the cover? In the end, I always decided not to. Why? As an indie musician fighting for each and every CD sale, I want people to judge my music, not the way I look.

Does an author put her photo on the cover of her novels because it sells more books? No.

Does a director put his photo on the posters for his movie because it sells more tickets? No.

Why is a CD different? I don’t think it is.

Like it or not, people do make snap judgements based on cover art. In my opinion, putting your photo on the CD cover turns your CD into an instant “Am I Hot Or Not?” contest. For one hot second, the person holding your CD is looking at your photo, deciding if your face is that of friend, foe, potential mate, too young, too old, etc. It’s an instinctive, psychological response.

That may be all the excuse they need to pass judgement on your entire CD and put it down.

If your photo is unflattering, dated or just plain boring, you’re not helping matters, either. Even if you’re like totally hot, there are people who will look at your CD cover and feel threatened, or perhaps think “great, another fashion-model-turned-singer.”

Are there exceptions? Sure. Chances are, with the thousands of CDs released each year, you’re unlikely to be one of them.

Hook them with your music first. Chances are if they love it, they won’t care what you look like.

Agree? Disagree? The floor is open…

3 responses

  1. We are one of the most visually-oriented species on this entire planet. The part of our brains devoted to eyesight is huge! I think visuals must be extremely important on the CD cover. Do you go to “listen” to a show, or do you “see” a show? Your body is part of who you are as a person, because it has affected every personal interaction you have had in your life. When you think of Dylan, do you think of some lyric, or his face?

    I have always used visuals in my promotions and it has helped me a lot. But I have grown some real nice hair, so that helps! 🙂

  2. I get what Joe and David are saying, but I think it’s a case of “you know who you are”… I consider myself a performing artist. My product isn’t just music- it’s me, too! I work at presenting myself as a one-of-a-kind individual… If your look is distinctive, why not put yourself on the cover?

  3. […] Since my little vacation, I’ve been meaning to write something up based on a recent comment. I linked to a debate about whether to put your own face on your album cover. The business consensus says, “no.” And the reality, for most working musicians that can’t afford to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz, is that we rarely look like what we sound like. […]