Pesto EP001: Deep Discoveries - behind the scenes pt. 2

cover artwork for Pesto EP001
Following up on part 1 of my little piece on how Pesto releases are made, here's the second part with more gory details and more classified information you won't even find on Wikileaks.

So, after the name was set, I was still undecided about it - I found it a bit too cheap and too obvious. Surely, it was better than simply "Deep Tunes" but it also wasn't something to blow my mind, to get me excited. When I shared my concern with others, they told me they liked many of my concepts - just after I had explained it to them. Apparently, when developing new ideas, I'm usually digging too deep. I'm trying to make up associations and deep links between items that only a person would understand who had gone as deep into the matter as myself.

That's not how marketing works though. Sophisticated concepts are great and can be jaw-dropping but very often, they won't work in the first second. And this very second is crucial when trying to get the attention of fans, listeners and possible customers of Pesto Music. "Deep Discoveries" remained therefore.

Up next was creating the cover artwork and a general identity for the Pesto EP. The graphics should be timeless so that nobody would be tired seeing it after one year. The cover design should look great in fullscreen mode as well as on shops' web pages. While my distributor demands the artwork to be 1440 pixels wide, Beatport displays them at only 80 pixels wide when browsing through their catalogue in list view. To put it differently and to make you imagine better: think of a road sign that's approx. 60cm in diameter such as a speed limit sign (they look like this at least here in Europe):

50km/h speed limit road sign, european style

And now imagine the same sign 18 times smaller. That's the size cover artworks are displayed in Beatport's list view in relation. It's this size (yes, there is a picture below):

Maxima_velocidad

Back in the good ol' days of 12" covers, designers could go fully creative on huge areas of carton. Quite obviously, this is not the case with covers for digital downloads. So far, I've designed the digital cover artwork for Pesto myself. You will find that the artwork for the first releases look quite awful, changing for the better beginning with Pesto 005 by Babak Shayan, our very first digital-only release. You can see I wasn't satisfied with the look still and that's why the covers for Pesto singles kept changing until I came to a design that I found functional and decent looking, first introduced with Pesto 013 by Replika.

As much as I love doing as many things myself as I can, I surely also recognized that I'm not a graphic designer. I know a few things about colour rooms, CMYK, contour trapping and the likes but graphics are not my profession. I needed to hire a designer.

As I knew a couple of great creatives, I thought I'd make a contest among some designers (it's called "pitch") and let the best one win. In order to draw more attention to the Pesto EP and the label in general, I had in mind to publish the designers' sketches on the Pesto Music fanpage on Facebook, embed a poll there and let you, the fans and Pesto followers decide. I thought "if 7 designers enter the pitch and each of them sends all their friends to /welikepesto in order to cast their votes, I have countless new fans, raise awareness for both the label and the designers' work, fans are part of the whole process (say crowdsourcing light) and I'll have the best possible design meeting the consent of a majority, the producers get exposed to people who would otherwise have never heard of them - everybody's happy, I will be a millionaire and retire".

Well, those were not exactly my thoughts - but except for the millionaire part, that's how I imagined the whole thing. Wrong!

One of them never got back after sending a reminder when the deadline had passed. Another one went on holidays just to send me a few sketches after returning that did meet not any of the criteria I had written down. The next one suddenly had too many clients (I really want to meet your sales rep - somebody who's able to acquire clients for weeks of work in just a few days, wow!), another one suggested pink covers for housier releases, even though the first drafts hadn't been that bad and another one found the deadline too close (which actually was a proper excuse - I had intended to release the first Pesto EP in early June and the deadline was just two weeks ahead then). Remember the part from above dealing with great concepts that are too difficult to catch up with? Yeah, this pitch was a great idea - it just did not work out.

So eventually, I found the right guy for the job - or better put, he was recommended by one of my buddies here from Cologne (hvala Danilo!). David van Stephold (you will read more about him and find some samples of his work here soon) was the only guy who actually got back with a sketch, explaining what he had in mind and why he designed the artwork the way he did. He's living just around the corner so what could I wish more for?

To be honest, I did not like the artwork that much in the beginning. But the more people I showed it and got great response, the more I understood that again, my concepts (and expectations therefore) were simply too complicated. David's design just made "boom", it clicked with people, they liked it lots.

While all this was in the works, I mailed the artists from the release, announcing release dates that would be delayed again and again. I revised the tracklist, changed the track order, asked the artists for final master recordings (while one of them was writing his university exams at that very moment) until I finally got the artwork and the master recordings.

Next on my list was mastering the tunes, entering them into the distributor's system and into my label software, setting up the promo campaign and making some buzz on my social networks so that people would become aware of our new baby, the Pesto EP. As you can imagine, again, this did not go without minor hiccups and in part 3 of this behind-the-scenes, we will finally arrive at what I'm currently doing for the release that will be out on Beatport excl. the 8th September 2010 if nothing goes wrong (fingers crossed). Tomorrow, you will read why I was mastering "Deep Discoveries" three times, how I messed up some info on an artist and why I nearly smashed my computer but eventually felt very content. Stay tuned.



speed limit sign picture source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maxima_velocidad.png