Releasing a CD: The To-do’s
It seems that lately, more and more guitarists are taking on the task of self-producing their CD’s. Even some of guitar’s greats have abandoned the big labels and created their own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but let’s save that for a different day… In this article I’d like to go over the to-do list for self-producing a recording, not so much the recording process itself, but everything else you need to take care of before you get those shiny, fresh out of the oven albums at your door step.
I don’t want to go too deep into the recording process in this post, mostly because there are so many different ways to go about it. However, you will need to decide which way you’re going to go. That will depend on a lot of factors, first and foremost your budget. If money is no issue, the easiest way is to hire a studio that will record, edit, and master everything for you. That way you will get professional service and all you will have to worry about is playing your best. However, if, like many of us, you’re on a tighter budget, recording and editing yourself is the more frugal option. If you are pretty savvy with technology and don’t mind spending some time learning about microphones and different software, then you are more than capable of recording yourself.
Once you have your master recording, then the real fun begins. Before you can release any of your recorded music, you need to make sure that you have secured the required copyright licenses. I did it through the Harry Fox Agency. It was a fairly easy process. The trickiest part was figuring out which pieces needed copyrighting and which were in the public domain. From all the reading that I have done, it seems that pieces that were published before 1920 are in the public domain. For everything else, you will need a license. But you have to be careful, if the arrangement you’re playing was published afterwards, the publisher of that arrangement might still hold the copyright. Also, every country has its own copyright laws. So you need to do some research on your repertoire and the country where you are releasing your album to be sure.
Next step, designing your album cover and liner notes. Again, you can hire a designer to do that for you, or you can fiddle around with image editing software and make it yourself. I used Photoshop, which is capable of doing pretty much anything you will need for this process. For manufacturing my discs I used Disc Makers. They have a number of services, including album design. If you choose to do it yourself, they will provide you with a PDF template, which you will need to use as a guide when designing your album to make sure that everything prints in right location.There are also other manufacturing companies that I’m sure provide the same services.
Program notes or liner notes is another thing to think about. I chose not to include liner notes with my album, thinking that the repertoire on my CD is traditional enough that I wouldn’t be adding anything unique by writing another bio on Albeniz. However, there are those who think that liner notes are an absolute necessity and a sign of professionalism. So for my next album, I will most likely include liner notes, even if everyone has the power of Google.
Pictures… For some, that might be the last worry they have when producing a recording. However, I think it’s an important part of the presentation. When taking pictures for your album cover, keep in mind that the end result is going to be on a square box. So when having your photo shoot, think about the layout of the CD, the design you want and try to come up with images that would improve the look of the album.
Once you have the master, the licenses, the album design, template, all you have to do is upload (or send) all those files to the disc manufacturing company of your choice. And they will take it from there. Once they receive your files you will be sent a proof which you will need to approve and then the manufacturing process will begin. They say that normal processing takes 2 weeks. However, plan for about a month. Mine took 3 weeks and that’s with no need for corrections or delays on my end.
Overall, at the absolute minimum, plan to spend about $3000-$5000 to make 1000 copies of your CD. I already had the equipment, so it cost me about $3500 with everything.
A little insider’s tip, make sure you have at least 10 tracks on your album… I’ll tell you why in another post next week!