Manufacturing the CD- Where The Heck Do I Start?
So, now that you’ve got your music recorded it’s time to decide how you will distribute it. It’s always a good idea to have some CDs to sell at your shows, but you also might want to make it available as digital downloads. How do you do that? It’s easier than you might think and there’s an option for every sized budget (even the no-budget budget).
Disc Makers and Oasis are two fairly big duplication companies that were always pretty indie friendly to begin with but have gotten even more so in recent years. Both offer short run production with some really great package prices. If you’re not a graphic artist and you don’t know how to mix down your recording (and you have the extra money to spend) they also offer cover art design, mastering services, and a bunch of other services and merchandise. You have to pay extra for them but they are usually flat rates so you’re not paying by the hour, which makes it much more affordable if you do end up having to fork over the dough. In addition, they have really good sales/service people who can help you through the whole process.
Kunaki is also another good online option, but they are different. Kunaki is the company for those who have all their stuff designed, mixed, mastered and ready to upload. The way they describe it, Kunaki functions like a machine (like your printer). You upload the files and the machine makes the product using what you’ve uploaded exactly as is (you tell the printer what to print and it does). They don’t provide any extra services (except drop-shipping to places like CD Baby) they just manufacture the CD. They’ll send you a complimentary proof copy with your first project, but after that, you have to purchase your proof copies if you want them. Yes, you must be pretty computer savvy to use Kunaki, but they have super good prices, no hidden fees, and you can buy one CD at a time without having to pay extra because they are an on demand manufacturer. This means that they don’t make the product until someone actually orders it (a lot like on demand book publishers).
Create Space does both digital and physical production for CDs and they are somewhere in between service-wise. They have pretty good sales/service people, but they don’t offer mixing or mastering. They do, however, have a very handy cover creator tool, so you can quick-design a cover for your CD without needing a graphic designer. Keep in mind you’ll have to use one of their templates, so you’re kind of limited, but it’ll do in a pinch. Like Kunaki, they are an on demand manufacturer. Before allowing you to sell, they require you to purchase a proof copy for physical CDs but if you only do digital downloads, it’s totally FREE.
Bandcamp is my new favorite FREE site for digital distribution (as you’ve probably seen by my gushing over them in, well, three posts now). Yes, I did say “FREE”. You can upload yourself, or you can mail a CD to them and they’ll upload it for you, but that takes longer. You can upload cover art, or use one of their funky little graphics until you have yours ready to go. I used these guys recently to release my first single. It was super easy.
Last but certainly not least, there’s CD Baby. If you have $10 for a single or $40 for a whole album, you can sell digital downloads from CDBaby.com…AND on sites like Rhapsody, Amazon MP3 and iTunes…PLUS they will make it available on streaming sites like Spotify and Last FM. So, for a little bit of dough (it’s a one-time fee, BTW), you get a bunch of distribution without having to deal with all of those extra companies yourself. This is super cool because I heard that trying to get your stuff on iTunes by yourself can be a big nightmare. They will also sell physical CDs, but you have to provide them by using one of the other manufacturing companies I mentioned earlier.
Shop around, learn all that you can and find the route that’s most comfortable for you. You might even be able to find a small local company that offers even more personalized service. For many people that’s even more important than price. It all depends on your skill level and how you want to make your music available. If you just find it totally overwhelming, ask a fellow musician who has dealt with putting out a CD before OR ask the people at the studio where you recorded for some guidance. They will usually have one or two companies that they can recommend.
Well, that’s all I got. I wish you much luck in your CD manufacturing/distribution endeavors and many sales afterward. Happy music making, y’all!