A Step by Step Guide to Pressing Your Music

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What the flip

So you’ve recorded something amazing, in your bedroom or a big fancy studio or something in between and you’re ready for the whole world to hear it and blast it from the rooftops! You wanna sell this thing like hot baked goods to your fans, in a form they can hold in their hands, get you to sign it, cuddle when they fall asleep at night or use as a coaster. You wanna make this thing a bona-fide CD, just like the good ole days. But how the flip do you even do that?

There are a lot of things to consider before you can hold your music in your hands, but before you decide to crawl into a corner and rock back and forth in the foetal position, we got your back.

How the flip

So the most obvious and important thing to consider before anything else is where to get you CD pressed. There are heaps of companies out there who can make your music 3D but there’s a few things to research.  Firstly, when do you need the CD’s by and how long will it take for the company to get them to you? So if you’re ordering a month out, you probably don’t want to go with an overseas company. There are plenty of Australian companies that do awesome work and will also be in the same time zone for all your questions, such as; Mad Cds, Music Media, Implant Media and Replicat.

Packaging

Once you’ve picked a company, you need to think about the kind of packaging you’re going to use. It seems simple but there’s a lot to choose from; jewel box single with tray, sleeve PVC single, four panel gatefold wallet, 4 panel CD digipack, those all sound like gibberish? Choosing the packaging can depend on many things; whether or not your cd is an EP, Single or an Album; your budget, cardboard packaging is typically cheaper than jewel cases; therefore it may suit better for an EP rather than spending excessive money on a 4-5 track project. What kind of image or look you’re going for on the CD, the same artwork can look very different with just a change of packaging. Or maybe you just want the option that is both cheap but still looks good.  To break it down simply, a ‘Jewel Case’ is your classic full plastic case with a CD booklet inside. A 4, 6 or 8 panel digipack is a cardboard case with a plastic tray for the CD to snap into and this style can have a CD booklet too. A wallet is a cardboard packaging with a slip, slit or pocket for the CD to fit into. There are heaps of variations to these packagings so you’re sure to find a mix of the elements you’re looking for.

Photography and Graphics

Now clearly you need to get your photos and graphic design done before you make your order, but if you’ve already chosen your packaging and you know what you need for you layout, eg. How many photos you’ll need, how the photos will fit together, do they need to be landscape or portrait, etc.  Make sure you use a quality photographer who can get you photos that will be clear, crisp and translate onto the packaging; no one wants a blurry cover. Before you shoot, get your chosen pressing company to send you the art specifications for your packaging so you know what you need to plan for.

Things you didn’t even know you needed to know about

When you’re making a record chances are you’ve come across some things that have totally boggled your mind. Things that you didn’t even know existed until this moment and now you have to figure out how to work them out and you have to do it in three days and you have a million and a half other things you need to do too. Never fear, here’s the sitch on a few semi-unknown things you’ll come across and how to figure them out.

Copyright

Under Australian law, copyright exists in your songs already. But what you do need to do when you create your cd artwork is include a copyright notice somewhere on your packaging.  A basic one to go by is All Recordings ℗ 2015 (Owner of recordings). All Compositions © 2015 (Owner of compositions). All rights of the owner of the recorded work are reserved. Copyright subsists in all recordings. Any unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording in any manner whatsoever will constitute infringement of such copyright.

ISRC Codes

An ISRC code is designed to help track sales and radio station play. Every new recording and version of a recording must be assigned a unique 12 digit number code. These codes can be obtained through ARIA in Australia. You should get these organised as soon as you can, as they should be allocated in each recording when a Master is completed and the decision to release a recording has been made.

Gracenote Database

Otherwise identified as the magic that tells iTunes what cd is in the drive. You can organise this before you even get your CDs, you just need your master. Insert your CD into your CD drive and open iTunes. The CD should come up blank, when iTunes asks if you want to import, say no. Then click into a track name, select get info and enter in track name, artist name, album name, etc. Once you’ve done this for all your tracks select from the top iTunes menu select ‘Advanced’ and click Submit CD Track Name. It should take two to three days for them to be registered so insert your CD again after a few days and they should be identified. Yay!

Barcodes

Where do you even start to get a barcode from right? Well it’s not as complicated as it seems. You can usually purchase barcodes from your pressing company, of Australia Barcodes. You’ll only need a barcode if you’re going to look at distribution to physical stores.

Placing Your Order

Usually pressing companies will offer you a range of different quantity brackets, some even offer discounts or extra CDs when you buy a certain amount. While all this is really wonderful you to think about what will work best for you and your fans. Think about how many really engaged fans you have, how many will be willing to buy, how many you can afford in this run and to consider if something goes wrong (touch wood) with the artwork/photos/sound on the CDs you might have a batch of dodgey CDs.

If things go wrong

When there are ‘uh-oh’ moments to do with your precious CD it is emotionally trying.  ‘Why did this happen to me?’, cue the violins. But there are solutions.  If you’ve gotten back your artwork from the graphic designer and it’s not what you want, or there’s something not quite right, talk to them about it. Ask them if they can change what needs to be done; it’s better to be honest now than look at this CD cover for the rest of your career with regret.  If the CDs aren’t perfect, speak to the company. After all, you’ll be telling people where you got them pressed, and it’s in the company’s best interest for you to have nice things to say about them.  The best advice for avoiding regret is to make sure you’re totally 100% happy with the proofs/masters etc before you get them pressed: double check, triple check, be sure.

Do a Flip

So you finished it! You pressed your CD, you can hold it in your hands, you can use the discs and ninja stars, everything’s coming up roses! So what now? You’ll have to work out how much you’re going to sell your masterpiece for. Take a look at other musicians in your genre/area/position and see what they are charging for their release. Generally you wouldn’t put more than $10 on an EP and Albums can start at $20, but at the end of the day it’s up to you. Then there’s the question of where to sell. Obviously, selling as many as possible at gigs while you and your sound are fresh in people’s mind is a must. But you may also consider seeking a distribution deal to get your CDs in stores and reaching further than your local networks. Places to consider include WJO, Inertia Music and MGM Distribution (The Groove Merchants).

With these tips and tricks you can turn the flippin’ part of pressing a CD into a flip.

If you want to know even more about releasing music and the process involved you can check out our mentor’s advice in our premium content for DIY Music Releases and Recording Your Music.

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