Artwork Guidelines / Preferences


I believe in this case the color of the artwork of the actual physical release (at least the one in my collection) is somewhere in between the color gradients you posted, @mmirG

Here’s a scan of my cover done just a moment ago, with no color alteration or correction.


I agree with what @mmirG and I would go even further to say that this is exactly what we don’t want. The cover art on the 1997 US CD release of this album should be the actual cover of the 1997 US CD release, not some piece of art that we think is the most representative of what the graphic designer presented to the marketing department. These variations between releases are what make this artwork correct or not. The fact that one release has the RCA logo on the front instead of the back, or this release has the catalog number in the lower left instead of the lower right, or this release has a pale yellow background instead of cream/off white (see Edit #34234849).
For example look at this cover here:

I’m sure nobody in the band really wanted that ugly “Best Buy” logo in the corner, but replacing the cover on this release with a cover lacking the logo would simply be wrong. This is what the 1982 RCA US Vinyl re-release looks like, and to put another cover in it’s place would be allowing inaccurate data into the database.

That is, I think, the root of the contention here. I’m not on the MB staff, and I don’t speak for MusicBrainz, but since I started here in 2009, the main thing I’ve learned is that the MusicBrainz community values accuracy above all. When a user comes to MB, whether it’s some guy pulling up the website to look up who played harmonica on a song he likes or the BBC downloading reams of data directly from the database, they know that what they’re seeing is the best, most accurate data we can give them. We may make mistakes, and there’s a lot of data in here that’s incomplete (and kudos to you for curating the U2 data), but what we don’t do is purposely allow wrong data into the database.

So when someone pulls up the 1997 US CD release of U2’s Pop, if they’re seeing the iTunes version of the vinyl release’s cover art, that’s just as bad as if we replaced the CD release’s catalog number with the vinyl release’s catalog number.


My take on this issue would be that if an iTunes cover/digital cover highly resembles (no discrepancies in font, color, size, graphics, etc) the actual cover on a physical release, then it should be accepted as a good cover art.

We must understand that by introducing scanning artifacts we are creating inaccurate representations of what the artist intended to be the cover. If the original cover file sent to the printer to be printed for the physical release (for modern albums at least) could be found and uploaded, I don’t see how the digital cover would be inferior, if not superior, to a scanned version.


Right on! @silenbird for President :sunglasses:

Thank you for articulating what I’ve been trying to (albeit unsuccessful).


This is clear and helpful. Thank you!


The whole issue of cover art is fraught with controversy, partially because of differing opinions with respect to the intent of maintaining a cover art archive. I’ve tried to summarize my understanding in another thread, where I also suggest that the MusicBrainz brain trust provide some clarification with respect to intent.

If my understanding is correct, and the primary purpose of the CAA is to provide archival information (images) with respect to releases, then I believe that the images uploaded should be unaltered scans or pictures for releases on physical media. Obviously this does not apply to a digital release.

I also believe there is a place for high quality digital cover art suitable for tagging one’s music collection (such as one would find with a digital release). Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a place for this within the CAA portion of MusicBrainz.

I’ve been told by others that this digital cover art is more appropriately stored on sites such as, so I am no longer uploading it to the CAA. Until something changes or is clarified, I am now limiting my cover art uploads (for physical media releases) to unaltered scans showing information supporting my edits.


I have no issues with someone adding an artwork from the digital release IF it’s exactly the same as the CD release (meaning no color, font or any other differences). I assume people often search the CD cover via google images and pick the highest quality/resolution image, which could very well be a cover from the digital release. So you often cannot know which one is it if there are no actual differences on the cover art. And I say the higher quality/resolution image there is, the better.


One thing that we do weirdly in MusicBrainz is treat those as separate releases. (Well, ideally we do—our data is far from perfect). So all those different variations you describe should be different releases in MusicBrainz (linked together in the same release group, with the same recordings, etc.).

For any physical release, there will of course be variations—printing is not a perfect process, and when we’re scanning them many years later, different ones were subject to different storage and handling conditions. And different scanners digitize things slightly differently (sometimes more than slightly, even). So colors will vary a little, some will be more faded than others. Those I think aren’t justifications for a different release. But beyond that, different art → different release.


It seems like you missed this bit in the “How to Add Cover Art” guideline:

Note: Always make sure you’re uploading art to the right release (i.e. barcode -if any- fits, format fits, etc.)

Note that it says right “release” and not “album” or “release group”. If the cover art is different (including cropping), add a new release.


Yes, that is logical and intuitive and I believe I have a grasp of the concept. Admittedly, I’ve made a few errors over the past few days that I’ve since learned differently about so there may be existing edits that one could point to where I’m missing a concept or idea, but I don’t think I’ve ever been lost for the idea of uploading specific artwork to a specific release (as opposed to release group, etc.).

…appreciate the reminder… are you seeing that I’m in violation of this somewhere?


Ok, I got the impression that this was a “random high res digital artwork vs. scans” discussion. It’s imo ok to upload digital artwork to a CD release if it actually is identical to the printed version. The problem is that this rarely is the case. I would for example vote “no” if it’s a square (e.g. itunes) vs. a rectangle (e.g. digipak), but not if the only noticeable difference is that crop is a few pixels bigger or smaller.


Cool! Understood and agreed.

Thanks, friend.


If that file is sent to different printers then the outcomes could be different - they might be using different machines, different inks, different thicknesses of ink, different halftone screens and have different reactions between their inks and paper.

If we are trying to capture releases that are different because of differences in their CA then using that “pre-print original cover file”, (or for pre-digital that “original copy ready artwork”) is working against that.

Two avenues for error are added.

  1. If differences between the digital file and the physical CA of 2 releases are missed then we catalogue only 1 release.
  2. An editor finds a difference between the digital file that has been incorrectly used for a release and some physical CA in hand and creates another release. We get a duplicate release.


U2Joshua - “are you seeing that I’m in violation of this somewhere?”

The iTunes CA is not the art (CA) of the physical “The Best of 1980 - 1990” as far as I can tell. From what you say the outside border colours are significantly different. This makes the CA significantly different.

If MB was just a tagging database then there would be little problem with good looking but different CA being used.

But MB has raised the bar way up to “encyclopedia of recorded music”. And wants CA data made from the specific release in ways that attempt to capture as much info about that physical CA as practicable…

(General Observation: The word “representative” does not do the job needed around CA. Reductio ad absurdum: Dancer does a performance that is representative of that U2 cover art - is video of that dance what an encyclopedia of recorded music needs? )


@mmirG, at the time of your post I’ve already uploaded my own hi-res scan of CA from the physical release in my personal collection.

And…, so as to avoid any further discussion I’ve also deleted the iTunes Artwork.


… and if two different scanners scan the exact same thing, the outcomes could be different as well. Sometimes quite different. Or if you take two different digital photos of the same thing, even with the same camera and lens, under different lighting conditions. (And even more so if two different cameras). All of these are real-world unavoidable issues of a crowd-sourced cover art archive.

I suspect most printing differences from the same print-ready file will be smaller. I think anyone wanting to add the print-ready art from the publisher should of course compare it to the actual release (or a scan of it) to make sure nothing terrible happened (oops, mounted the magenta plate very misaligned, but they wanted cheap…).

Also: most people contributing to CAA, I’m pretty sure, do not have a fully color-calibrated setup. So most stuff uploaded to CAA is from an uncalibrated scanner, adjusted to look sort-of-like the original when viewed on some random uncalibrated monitor, no doubt with the original illuminated by something far short of a CIE standard illuminant.


I don’t think any ordinary editor has a scanner good enough to capture differences from using different printing machines, inks and thickness of ink, etc. So using scanned covers wouldn’t identify releases from different printing facilities anyway (unless of course someone gets a professional calibrated scanner with reference palettes and uploads to CAA). This is why we have “manufactured in {area}”, “manufactured by {label}” and “printed in {area}” relationships to help us separate releases made by different manufacturers/printers. Perhaps we can create a “printed by {label}” in the future if this information is readily available.

As to the two avenues for error, I think editors should be more careful and always document why a certain release is created in the annotation or disambiguation, whichever is more suitable. I will never recommend to anyone who tries to identify a release or differences between multiple releases only by relying on the CA uploaded. Always rely on relationships and check the edit history to see whether that relationship is from a reliable source.


ooh, as @rdswift knows, I have strong opinions on this (missing your excellent full packaging scans by the way…)

Firstly, welcome @U2joshua!! I can’t express how much I appreciate the time it takes to scan and upload images, and how important it is to musicbrainz :heart_eyes:

Anyway… in a tagging sense using a nice high res digital cover is indeed the way to go. If we could only store one release/cover per album I would absolutely say to go for it.
However, we have support for multiple releases, and a useful ‘set cover art for release group’. It’s a piece of cake to add the digital release as well, that has the artwork you want, if you feel very strongly about that aspect. Frankly, apart from ‘can’t be bothered’, I can think of no excuse not to do so.

I’m not sure if Picard has an option to tag with the release group cover yet (?) but imo it’s a step backwards to put the ‘best’ (according to the editor) art onto all the releases before that happens… why even have covers for individual releases in that case.


I’m not sure if it’s in 1.4.2, but it will be in the 2.0 release.


Maybe we need some kind of “artificially altered” category like in this video: