June 11, 2016

DIY: Is it wise to budget manufacture CD’s yourself?

Making your music available for streaming is a must now. “Nobody” sells CD’s as a primary product anymore. We listen to much more music (quantity of tracks) than before, yet we seem to have a perception that music in general doesn’t have any value other than being “lucky enough” to be in our playlist, until it fades away. You have that Spotify playlist (or mp3 playlist if you’re still oldschool). And in the end, everybody can make music, and with abundance of products makes the values drop, right? Both economical and the time spent on each product/artist.

(This phenomenon creates another demand, the filtering of music, I’ve written about it here.)

Spotify playlist

A Spotify playlist


But the fact is that every one of us do value certain artist higher than other artists, even if we don’t think about the value of that music. Or the potential value. And here is my point with this article:

As a musician, should you be satisfied with DIY digital distributing on Spotify, youtube, and/or Soundcloud and that’s it? Maybe you also have a few followers on facebook and instagram. Still digital. (However, I’m not saying that you can’t do creative and good fan-catching on digital media, because you can, and should do that.)

If you are a musician, you want those dedicated fans.

INDIO, CA - APRIL 12: A music fan attends day 1 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2013 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella) ORG XMIT: 165510695

INDIO, CA – APRIL 12: A music fan attends day 1 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2013 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Will that fan create herself just by simple streaming?
Maybe. Will that fan keep being YOUR fan, or will he be a fan of another artist instead, that replaces your track in the fan’s playlist?

To keep on to fans, you’ll need to fire up something beneath the ground that makes the fan feel that there are some personal things going on. If you are old enough, you remember waiting “forever” for an announced new album from your favorite artist. When it came to the market, you had to go buy it, and you listened to it for weeks and months, while no text in the inlet stayed unread. You want to have your fans get this feeling about whatever physical you’re coming up with.

It can be a shirt or another clothing. It can be posters or special CD packages, cassettes, vinyls, shirts, or you name it. (You should probably be more creative than that.) The only problem with legacy formats, though, is that people don’t have the mechanical players anymore. But that doesn’t mean the collectible fan-value for a CD, cassette or vinyl is void.

So, let’s say you’re creating something physically to ship/sell to your fans. For the sake of this example, let’s just say you’re giving away some CD’s. It could also be a farmed fish with its tail formed as your logo. (PETA won’t be happy)

Things are so easy to do these days, right, so you could probably just make them yourself to minimize costs. It’s easy to produce yourself, because of the technology, right? No.

1) It takes TIME. Time that you can spend on other things like producing music or promoting your new album or interacting with fans.
2) You will probably end up with a much higher total cost to get to the same result as if done professionally. Costs are not always measured in money, but in marketing we’re talking about convertions.

The importance of hiring someone professional for the manufacturing task is not to be underestimated!


I want to give you a specific example why you should try to find money for professional manufacturing, even for promotion copies.

Back in 2009 I was a real DIY dude with my debut album.
I remember I had at least final_final1_final_FINALFINAL_EXTREMEFINAL_ LASTFINAL_MASTEREDFINAL1_ MASTERLOWERBASS1_MASTERLOWERBASS2_ MASTERBETTERCOMP_MASTERDISTORTIONOFF_ FINALFINALFINAL8.wav before it was ready to go. Mostly because I wanted to do all the mastering myself, and also the wrapping up of the polishing process. Neighter did I want many inputs from others, as I wanted this product to be mine. Wrong thinking, I know that today. Totally DIY. But when it was finally sent to distribution, I went on to produce promo copies. What could go wrong?

For a DIY CD package, you’ll need:
* Make a cover, with legal use of images/elements.
* Set up graphical elements ready for print.
* A good photo printer that can print on CD’s. I have Canon IP4700.
* CD’s. I bought 50×4 (200) Verbatim printable CD’s.
* CD covers. I bought 200.
* Photo paper
* Ink and extra ink, plus some extra ink^2. (Ink is costly)
* A cutter/scissors
* CD burner

Ready to go.

I sketched down ideas for a cover design. I then found an image on an image database and paid a one time fee royalty to use it. I kept fiddling around with my artist logo (and actually ended up with one that I used for several years after.) and the album name typography.

Final cover

When this was done, I started the printing process for the covers. First 1-copy-test was faulty printed. I thought I was a smartass and that I knew the cause of the error. This was a double sided problem. You see, this was supposed to be a double sided inlet. I fixed that error from the test print in the print job settings, and ran the entire batch to the printer. When I had 200 ready (or so I thought), I went apeshit. The backside was upside down. I had to do a few more test prints before I got the right result.

I ended up doing one print each side, and turned the sheets manually in the printer for the other side. That worked 🙂

Print sheet setup

Print sheet setup, front side



I do work with graphical elements in my primary job, (maybe that made me sloppier?) so this was really an elementary mistake, but nontheless important to mention. I am a Photoshop guy, and should probably have done it with Indesign. Anyway, the printer settings are not just straightforward, and that is with one sheet only. If you’re making paged inlet, you’re taking it even further.

I did the cutting, fairly simple and easy with a cutter like this. It’s much worse with a scissor, trust me. You’ll go crazy.




A Canon Pixma ip4700.





CD’s: (remember to stay old-school and buy CD’s and not DVD’s. Just LOL-ish basic stuff, but it’s easy to pick the wrong type if you’re really tired. And you will be tired after x nights trying to figure out everything yourself)


Verbatim 43309 AZO 52x Wide Printable CD-R – Spindle 50 Pack


Then I printed the CD’s. I’ve actually lost the first CD design, but here’s the reprint version, also with my new logo (I’m still doing these prints myself, because all my budget really go to new releases, and I still have leftover covers)

cd layout

CD layout

So I had the cover front and backside printed and cutted, I had the CD’s burnt and printed on. Just put the CD in the cover, and you’ll be fine. But don’t touch the printed CD top yet.



It will leave your fingerprint in there forever, even if the print has dried. Also may I be bold enough to tell you to not touch the cover at all? It will also leave fingerprints, and you’ll have to use a textile to clean them up. Nobody wants a product delivered with fingerprints on them. It takes time to remove them.

I have no option for shrink-wrapping the CD’s, which you can have done by a manufacturer for a very low cost. Shrink-wrapped stuff looks smashing. A CD with fingerprints under the CD, in the CD print and on the cover simply isn’t a good delivered product. It feels used.

And to the last and worst part.

Differences between prints:
This part is horrible. It looks so bad. The entire process is topped with a thing that breaks all the fun. It’s so unprofessional, yet how do you avoid it? You could simply adjust the colors in the cd design, and try again a few times, and that will solve it. More time wasted away.

city lights promo

Differences between prints


Bottom line:
You will be surprised how little money you need to get CD’s manufactured professionally. Go do that! It will leave you open to do more important musician things. Even for promotional CD’s.
You can probably do the design setups yourself though.

And don’t forget: This is for the unique personal feeling for the fan. Never ever just release a CD only. CD is outdated. We all know that. But it’s still something that you can feel with your hand. The fan doesn’t even have to open the shrink-wrap to feel connected to you as a fan after receiving the CD.

You should of course also send the same fan a shirt or poster at the same time. Get the same manufacturer to produce everything. It will give you lower shipping costs and no surprises in turnaround times.



Thanks for reading, and don’t be shy to share your story!


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