Posted: Feb 19, 2013
Sure, we all know that releasing a CD allows you to take your music from the stage to the hands, homes, and ears of your fans. And having a cd with your best work on hand is also crucial when meeting and networking with a talent buyer, producer, or agent. But what if you don't have the budget to print a large run of your album, or even a place to store the inventory? Well you've got options...check out these on demand printing outlets so you can print just the number of cds you need, when you need them.
This service, part of Amazon, allows you to quickly and easily create a cd of your music. Either upload music files or send them on a cd, design and upload the artwork for your CD booklet, tray card, and disc face, and CreateSpace takes it from there. They'll create professional looking cds with full color and full-bleed artwork (full-bleed means the image runs all the way to the edge of the paper, rather than having a white border around it).
If you're planning to sell your cd on Amazon.com, CreateSpace makes the process pretty seamless - which makes sense since they are part of the same company. Still - they take care of several items that will also be essential if you hope to have your music included on Pandora.com (+How to Get Your Music Played on Pandora), the wildly popular personalized internet radio service. This includes the UPC bar code and Amazon.com listing. You'll also have the option to offer an MP3 download as a choice for those purchasing your music.
Part of the deal is that CreateSpace takes a cut of cd sales. They charge a flat fee of $4.95* plus 15% of the purchase price for anything bought through your eCommerce site, or the flat fee and 45% for any cds sold through Amazon.com. This might seem steep, but the upside is that you don't have to shell out the big bucks to get 1,000 cds printed and have all that cash tied up in your investment until you recoup the costs over time. In the former scenario, if your album isn't the big seller you'd banked on, you'd be stuck with a lifetime supply of drink coasters. Going the print on demand route eliminates that risk and lets you test the waters without a major investment.
Want to buy a bunch of your own cds to send to club promoters, festivals, and hand out to your biggest fans? CreateSpace allows you to purchase your own work through a "Member Order" at a discounted rate. You'll have to purchase one proof copy at full price, but after that you can get them for just the flat fee price ($4.95) plus shipping, or even less if you buy enough (50 or more) to qualify for a volume discount.
Another print on demand service for music cds is Kunaki. The price per cd is extremely low ($1.00* per cd for orders of 5 or fewer), though shipping will add to the cost. Kunaki offers full color printing for the disc face, 2 panel insert, and tray card, as well as cellophane wrapping and a UPC bar code for a professional look. The UPC bar code is required by many retail outlets both online and off.
There is some debate among musicians as to the quality of Kunaki's finished product - some report minor issues such as not being happy with the colors on the printing or that they seem "more like a burned cd"...others say they are consistently impressed with the professional quality even at such low prices. At just over five bucks for an order of one cd ($1.00 + $4.30 shipping to most of the country), it's not a huge investment to give it a try and see for yourself.
Kunaki also provides the option to sell directly through their website and only print each cd when it's ordered. Two things to be aware of when considering this service: 1) Any cds with no sales within 180 days will be deleted, and should you want to offer them for sale at a later date, you'll need to upload the audio files, artwork, etc. again. 2) The service is not compatible with Macs, and only works with PCs.
CD Baby, the online music super-store specializing in distributing music from independent artists, also offers cd manufacturing. Pricing is delivered through an instant quote engine, and when we plugged in some numbers, costs ranged from $2.59 plus $8.15 shipping for 1 disc, to $134.00 plus $23.00 shipping for 100 discs, to $890.00 plus $158.00 shipping for 1,000 discs. This was for CD-R printing (CD replication is also available for orders of 300 or more), full color printing on the disc face, and a jewel case. Adding inserts, mastering, UPC bar codes, shrink wrapping, etc., all add to the cost. As you play around with your selections, you can instantly see what the cost (including shipping prices based on your zip code) should be, so there are no surprises later on.
One nice feature from CD Baby is the option to select from a variety of packaging choices such as jewel cases, digipacks, eco-wallets, and jackets. Some of these are great for saving space and cutting down on plastic.
Looking to create a small run of your latest cd on a very small budget? This might be a great time for a DIY project. If your computer doesn't have a cd burner, you can often add one for as little as $20. Grab a bunch of blank cds and some printable cd labels at your local office supply store and get to work.
Design cover art and a label on your computer (print design software such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher is ideal, but Microsoft Word or even a free online word processing program will do the trick if you are willing to play around with your design) and print as many copies as you need.
Which of these options is the right choice for you? Well it's going to depend on your budget, timeframe, how many cds you need at a time, how you plan to distribute and market your cd, and what you hope to get in your finished product. Take a look at the details outlined above and weigh the pros and cons of each service. Once you know which option is the best bet for you, order one or two cds to get a feel for the process and quality of both the cd audio and the printing.
*Prices as of January 20, 2013
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