CD cover graphics and artwork can be just as important for recording artist's promotions as a radio advertisement. Think about it; when you're at the record store browsing through your favorite genre, what's the first thing that catches your attention? The CD cover graphics, when specifically designed, can put you in a different pre-mindframe before even proceeding with the purchase. This can be quite beneficial to the artist or musician because you can literally persuade the consumer to pick up your CD based on the story that you've told on the album artwork. The simplicity, complexity, or uniqueness of the cover is usually enough to peak the browsers curiosity, regardless of the artist's commercial popularity, or pop chart position.
Let's take Eminem for instance; If you saw him on a CD cover graphic, wearing a triple fat goose, in the hot Iranian desert, with 1000 UPS drivers chasing him on Camelback, you probably check the CD out, wondering “What's he up to now?” On the other hand, if you saw the same CD cover graphics, but it had an unknown artist instead of Eminem, you would still probably pick it up, wondering “who is this guy?”, In admiration of his album cover art.
Either way it works to the artist's advantage. Especially if the contents of the CD is “less than great”. In those cases, you've convinced the consumer to check out your crap album (or at least look at it). And about 17 out of every 100 previews, converts into a purchase. It's the law of benefits.
This concept also applies to album cover art, attached to MP3s and digital music downloads. As you scroll through iTunes on your iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, or your PC, if you are not looking for a specific artist or album, the album cover artwork is what will catch your eye and compel you to investigate further.
Different genres call for different artistic approaches. Let's take R & B for instance. Most of the great albums of this genre had very simple and direct concepts. In most cases, there was just a nice portrait of the artist, shot with a soft filter on a 35 mm lens, with a background that did not draw attention away from the subject. This is all that was needed. These CD cover graphics answered one question; who?
Now on the flipside of the coin, let's look at the example of hip-hop. In many cases, the CD cover graphics told the story in relation to the album title. For example; BDP's 'By All Means Necessary'. This cover had KRS One standing by the window, peeking out of the curtains with an oozy in his hand. This is a direct reenactment of Malcolm X standing by his window with a shotgun in hand. Let's look at another example: Nas' 'Hip-hop is dead'. This CD cover graphic shows Nas stooping over hip-hop's grave, dropping a rose on the grave, in the middle of a gloomy night. These album covers told stories before even listening to the tracks.