Planning Your Album Release
As the old saying goes, “Fail to plan, Plan to fail.” Unless you have a huge and dedicated fan base, the world needs to know about your upcoming album release or launch day or you may get a poor turn-out at gigs. Equally, if you’re not well rehearsed then gigs might go down badly and damage your band’s reputation. Everything needs careful planning allowing enough time to get activities sorted without putting band members under pressure that may be avoidable but without taking too long over it all.
The following checkpoints are not the only considerations that you’ll need to make but they’re definitely a good place to start:
Are your deadlines achievable?
Patience is key, but deadlines are also useful to get everyone focussed. Just make them realistic. Before making a plan you first need to have a good idea how long each step is likely to take. If you’re ordering more than 1,000 CDs then you may want to consider CD Replication as a manufacturing process which can take up to 2 weeks depending upon the order quantity. There is a cost saving to be made when using CD Replication as opposed to CD Duplication especially with orders above 5,000 units.
Take into account possible delays. Allowing a couple of days grace here and there might sound a bit pessimistic but if something does go slightly pear-shaped then it won’t be the end of the word. Don’t try and do everything last minute and rely on split second timing. You’ll have breathing space then, to ensure that you can get a CD duplication sample before the main batch is produced especially if you’re using a duplication company for the first time. You can put some extra time into rehearsals to make sure everyone’s comfortable and stress-free.
There are certain activities that you can get out of the way whilst working on the CD master, such as CD artwork for the disc and CD packaging, and also the acknowledgements – you know who’s been involved up to this point. Take promotional photos of the band and get gig posters designed and made up. Advertise in advance on your band website (get one designed if you don’t have one!) but don’t do that so early that people lose interest before the main event.
Copyrighting – Protect ownership of your work
Any original work that you produce, whether in audio, visual or written format, is automatically copyrighted, but until you register that copyright, it’s next to impossible to prove ownership should another party infringe your copyright. It’s very simple and very important to register ownership of your work before it is released into the public domain. Visit the ipo website or copyright service website for further information and to register online.
Don’t Infringe Copyright
If your master recording contains samples of another artist’s work then you have to obtain permission from the copyright owner and submit proof to your CD duplication company before CD manufacturing can take place. Also, if your album includes covers of other artist’s songs then you’ll need to obtain permission from the copyright holder. Bear in mind that there are usually two associated copyrights for a song. The first is a copyright in the actual sound recording and the other is for the music composition and lyrics of the song. Permission can be granted via a “collecting society” from whom you can buy a licence on behalf of the actual owner of the copyrights.
The collecting societies that you need to contact are either PPL or PRS for Music. Take a look at their websites to obtain the licence you need. If neither can supply the licence you require then you may need to approach the individual copyright holder directly for permission but the PPL and PRS for Music cover most modern music.
Check out their websites, and see which of their licenses are right for you, most can be obtained online with minimal fuss and expense.
What about your CD printing design?
You may be intending to produce the CD printing design yourself prior to organising CD duplication, or you may have a good idea what you want to see and are looking for a CD printing and packaging artwork designer.
Whichever route you choose for a design, you need to ensure that you obtain the correct template from the company that you choose to do the CD printing and CD duplication as there can be subtle differences with different company templates and you can prevent delays by talking to your chosen company before starting the design work. A good CD printing company will also be more than happy to advise on or approve different aspects of your artwork. You need to be sure that any photographic images you intend to use are of a high enough resolution (300 dpi minimum) and, if they are not your own images, then whether the image may be copyright controlled in which case you’ll need to obtain permission from the copyright holder to use the image in question.
If your budget is tight for your project there are also a myriad of CD printing options available to bring the cost of printing right down whilst still resulting in an original, eye catching design that really looks the part. For instance, a 2 colour screen print that allows the silver surface of the disc to show through as part of the design can be very effective and would almost halve the cost of getting a full colour photographic, litho-printed CD.
Have you sourced CD packaging for your release?
Unless CD packaging is something that you have sourced before, you may well be unaware of the incredible range of options available. Suddenly being presented with a large range of choices takes another good chunk of time out of your undoubtedly, already busy schedule. Again, your CD duplication company (if you’re using one) will be able to offer sound advice and take some of the hassle away from you.
If you’re planning on producing the CD packaging artwork yourself, you should approach the CD duplication company for templates and image advice as with the CD printing artwork for the disc itself. Budget constraints may influence your packaging choice; for instance, printed CD card wallets are a cheaper option than a standard CD jewel case with printed paper parts and are also a better option if you intend to mail out CDs for promotional purposes or transport them to gigs for the post-gig merchandise stall.
For packaging with a WOW factor you might go for a Digipack to help your album release stand out from the others on the retail outlet shelves. There are a variety of Digipack templates to use with up to 8 folding panels and they can accommodate multiple CDs or bonus content DVDs if required. They can also accommodate a printed paper booklet with up to 32 pages for album information, lyrics and acknowledgements.
If your album is headed for the shops, don’t forget to make a provision for the barcode on the rear of the packaging. Your CD duplication company should be able to supply you with a bar code.
Be wary of image copyright
If you intend to use artwork other than your own photos or digital creations, make sure that you know the copyright situation with that image. Is it royalty free, does the owner require acknowledgement – if you’re not sure and you can’t find out for definite, don’t use it or you could land yourself in hot water.
Double check your audio master
As an independent artist, the sound quality of your release is critical. Your sound is why people turn up at your gigs and wear your t-shirts so that has to come across on your audio master. You’ve taken the time to write and record these songs to the of your abilities so don’t go cutting corners here, anywhere else – just not here.
How are the individual track volumes? Are they consistent?
- Check the clarity and volume level of all instruments for each track and make sure that all musicians involved are satisfied
- Make sure the EQ is balanced so that the end user can adjust according to their particular preference.
- Check your track spacing
- Check your fade outs
- Get a second, third, fourth opinion if you can from fresh sets of expert ears.
- Double check all printed materials
After thoroughly checking through for typos and grammatical errors, ask a third party to do the same – preferably someone with good spelling and grammar skills. Even if it’s a word processing programme, you need to 100% sure that it’s all correct so as to avoid embarrassing mistakes that make you look like a chump.
When you get the final artwork design proofs from your designer or CD duplication company, double check everything’s OK once more.
CD Manufacturing Checklist
- Audio master
- Audio and, if necessary, image copyright documentation
- Approved CD disc and CD packaging artwork
- ISRC codes (your CD duplication company should be able to supply these)
Full payment (most CD duplication companies will ask for full payment before going ahead with the job unless they are invoicing a limited company, don’t assume that you can rely on album sales to pay the bill after the event)
Order quantity (the more CDs you order, the lower the unit cost will be). If you don’t order enough first time round you may get a shock when you try to order a lower quantity after the main batch. Consider merchandise stall sales, promotion, online sales etc.
Obtain a bar code if your album is to be sold in a retail environment. Again, your CD duplication company should be able to sort that out for you.
What do you need for the merchandise stall?
A fair portion of your band’s income might come from the merchandise stall or, if you haven’t given it much thought before, it could be a new opportunity for you. Just about anything can be printed on so you might give the less obvious items some thought, although in small quantities at first to see how sales go. Consider the following:
- T-Shirts or hoodies printed with the band logo, album release info, tour details etc.
- DVDs of live performances by the band
- Signed printed photos
- Signed CDs
- iPhone covers printed with your band logo
- Printed mugs
- Stickers and posters printed with band info
You will need to make sure that the printers have enough time to get your order to you, again, don’t do everything last minute. Place your order and give yourself a week’s grace to save your sanity.
Hopefully, we’ve captured the vast majority of considerations to be made on the road to a successful album release and a relaxed promotional tour. Good luck and very best wishes!