An Artists guide for creating an engaging Spotify Canvas
Written by Leni - November 27, 2020
Spotify has finally opened up their new feature Canvas, letting artists add a short looping visual to their tracks on the music streaming platform.
Whether it’s a cut-down of your music video, an abstract animation, 3D motion graphics or moving picture overlays, Canvas helps you engage your fans in a whole new way. Spotify calls it “the album art for the streaming era”.
So, what is Canvas?
Canvas was developed by Spotify to give artists the ability to create their own innovative visual experiences on the platform. The feature gives your music the power to ~move~ by letting you add a 3 to 8 second looping visual to your track when open in the “Now Playing” view.
Why should I make a Canvas?
Adding a Canvas to your track is a good way to share more of who you are with your fans, helping you build your brand and create a deeper listening experience for your audience, all while increasing streams, saves, profile visits and shares. Spotify claims that high-quality Canvases can increase track shares by 145%, playlist adds by 20%, streams by 5% and artist profile visits by 9%.
You can also add Canvases to any track or album across your entire catalogue, not just new releases.
How do I add a Canvas to my music?
Check your Spotify for Artists account for Canvas access. If you don’t have access yet, it will be coming your way very soon (they’re rolling the feature out globally now).
On desktop: Log in to artists.spotify.com, go to Music, click a track, and hit ADD CANVAS.
FYI, you need Editor or Admin access in Spotify for Artists to add a Canvas, and you need to be either:
How can I make a Canvas?
We’ll be honest, unless it’s a simple 3 to 8 second cut-down of your music video, Canvases are not super easy (nor cheap) to make. Especially if they’re 3D graphics or abstract animations. The cost can be hundreds of dollars per track to hire a designer to make one for you.
The good news is, our friends at Spotify have levelled up and launched SoundBetter, a marketplace for visual artists who make short, looping Canvases. Making it easy for artists to discover and hire a super talented designer. Check out their website to find artists that have worked with the likes of Kanye West, Billie Eilish, Pop Smoke and Zedd.
If you’re goin’ DIY, we suggest you check out some of the following design apps: InShot, Premiere Rush, Splice
Keep these Canvas specs in mind:
Tips for creating an engaging Spotify Canvas
Spotify have served up 10 tips to help you get the most out of your Canvas.
1. Make sure you own the rights to the video content you’re using.
Using any video or photo assets from the web could lead to your music being taken down due to copyright infringement. Make sure you create your own, unique asset - and if you’re using stock material make sure they are free to use for commercial purposes.
2. Choose footage without talking, singing or rapping.
With only 3 to 8 second clips, Canvas is not synced to the track, so it's not practical to try to sync the video to the lyrics; it'll have the effect of an awkward overdub.
3. Avoid rapid video cuts or intense flashing graphics.
Too many rapid cuts can make your Canvas hard to make sense of visually, and flickering images may overwhelm whoever sees this.
4. Remember to focus the action in the "safe area."
Don't put anything crucial in the "hidden area" (which is only visible on certain phones), and keep in mind that the player controls will partially obstruct the lower half of the screen.
5. Consider excluding the song title and artist name.
The artist name, song title, and track length are all already visible in the Now Playing view on the Spotify mobile app. Get the most out of every square inch by letting the images speak for themselves.
6. Learn the scoop on the three types of loops.
Know your way around the loop options and pick the best one for your imagery. The Continuous Loop has the satisfying feel of a "seamless" looping gif with no clear beginning or end. It may take some practice or know-how to get this one right, but it's worth the effort. The Hard Cut loop has clear edit points, but—as this example from L'Impératrice shows—even that can be artfully disguised. The Rebound is the simplest way for a novice video-maker to get a seamless clip: It plays your clip forward and then reverses it. As this example from Tune-Yards shows, the effect is not only fluid but mesmerizing. (Remember — these only work on Spotify’s mobile apps!)
7. Try to tell a full story in the time allotted.
Millions of super-creative people have proven that you can do a lot with a little where video is concerned. A Canvas may be only 3 to 8 seconds, but incomplete storylines or drastically trimmed music videos could leave your fans wishing for more. Take a look at some live examples here for inspiration.
8. Connect your vision across your Spotify profile.
You've likely already uploaded album art, a profile picture, a header image, and perhaps playlists. So what you do in your Canvas is just one part of your persona on Spotify. Why not stitch together a cohesive artistic vision across your profile? Note how Homme uses the half-circle motif in her Canvas visuals—a theme that also shows up in her album art and even track titles.
9. Try creating a theme or narrative that crosses an entire album.
10. Feel free to update.
Unlike the art printed on the cover of a physical album, you're free to change your Canvas over time, or as your look evolves. Billie Eilish, for instance, has updated her Canvases to celebrate her fans, filling each track with animated versions of fan art. Change your Canvas to tell a story, to explore different visions, to keep people engaged—or just to keep things interesting for you!
11. Let your music live for the moment.
Is there synergy between your tune and a holiday? Is there something in the news that has inspired you? Canvas is a tool to let you express yourself, and you can update it whenever inspiration hits. As one example, Tycho did a catalog takeover for Pride, updating all of his canvases to celebrate the month. Thanks to your ability to change your Canvas, your songs can capture the here and now like never before.
Need help developing your visual identity? Read our guide to artist branding here.