An album cover is the front of the packaging of a commercially-released audio recording product, or album. The term can refer to either the printed cardboard covers typically used to package sets of 10″ and 12″ 78 rpm records, single and sets of 12″ LPs, sets of 45 rpm records or the front-facing panel of a CD package, and, increasingly, the primary image accompanying a digital download of the album, or of its individual tracks.
The cover became an important part of the culture of music at the time. As a marketing tool and an expression of artistic intent, gatefold covers and inserts, often with lyric sheets, made the album cover a desirable artifact in its own right. Notable examples are The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which had cut-out inserts, lyrics, a gatefold sleeve though a single album; The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street which had a gatefold and a series of 12 perforated postcards as inserts; and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon which had a gatefold, lyrics, no title on the sleeve and poster and sticker inserts.
The talents of many photographers and illustrators from both inside and outside of the music industry have been used to produce a vast array of memorable LP/CD covers. In addition to the examples mentioned previously, a number of world-renowned graphic artists and illustrators.