Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making Cheap and Easy CD Sleeves (Mobile Music Factory)

Hello, and a good day to you.

Overhead can be a killer for the working musician. You need to make a certain amount every month to sustain yourself while you are on the move. As a musician/ Band you need to have product to sell and distribute to every new person that you meet. This means spending money up front on T-shirts, stickers, ect not knowing how they are doing to sell when the opportunity arises. This is particularly important for your music and selling physical CD's is the most essential merchandise you can put into the hands of new fans. It will also be one of the most expensive investments you will have to regularly make. Making an album requires studio time, Mastering, graphic design, Music Copyright, Photography, Compact Disc's, packaging, digital distribution, ect. Each one of these things comes with a cost associated with it and depending on how you go about it, it can add up quickly.

To the do-it yourselfers a lot of the cost associated with making a album can be reduced. Home recordings and producing your own artwork are two essential ways to reduce you expenses.  The unfortunate circumstance is that to produce a physical CD, you have to buy the supplies needed to get to the final product. There are many different ways to make a CD. One option is to go professional and use a service that does it for you.  You can get about 100 cd's for about $200 to $100 a pop from many different on-line sources. This will include CD's sleeves, Jewel cases, and multi-panel digi packs and usually laser printed CD. If you want silk screen printed CD's you usually have to order at least 1000 pieces because of  time it requires to set up the screens and you are also limited to a certain number of colors used, as each one is individually applied. You still have to have the artwork and have it digitized to the proper pixel size for each company's required standards. This will work if you can make the investment to purchase in bulk. but what if you run out and need more, it will take time to have another set produced. Some of these options can be made by hand. This would make it so you can make what you need as you need it.  In particular the Jewel cases and CD's sleeves are the easiest to make. I prefer to make my CD's myself as I go.  The reason being is that I can customize any variations to what music is on them and update the art as well.

The easiest two to make are the Jewel cases and the CD sleeves. With The Jewel cases you will need a Jewel case, a CD-R, and some graphics printed out at the proper sizes on paper to insert in the front and sometimes the back of the case.

With the CD's sleeves you can go one of two ways.
The first way would be to buy generic CD sleeves with a clear window in the front and insert a piece of paper with whatever art into it that can be viewed through the window and then the CD. You can also just have the art on the CD itself.

The second way is what I prefer to do, and that is to produce the sleeve yourself. This gives you more control and creative ability than the modular system of just inserting graphics in the space allowed. I would like to show you how I make my CD's sleeves, and how much they cost.

The things you will need to produce 10 cd's.
10 prints on the thickest cardstock you can find
 (example Office Depot  .59cents for color print  .08 cents for 110 ib card stock)

Two pack of Super Glue (Gel) Only one is needed to make about 10 sleeves( the gel is important because it makes the assembly easier. regular super glue can be runny and makes more or a mess)
$3.99 (Walmart 3M)

Digital Vinyl CD-R's (Walmart) I prefer these because they look like old Vinyl albums

Total cost in supplies is about $16. This price will vary depending on were you get your supplies.

The price you sell your CD's at will really depend on how much you put on them. So your profits could be from $3 (selling at $5 a piece) or up per CD. I have found that even though it cost you the same, it pays to present options for people at different prices. I notice when I have both $5 and $10 cd's that people tend to by more of the $10 then the $5 because they see the value of getting more music.
Here is a picture of the basic set up  of what I use to produce these anywhere, usually some restaurant or library.

The tools in this photo are:
a cutting matt ( keeps me from damaging the table)
a ruler (in this case a architectural scale)
a bone folder ( this is used to make creases to fold the paper but anything with a hard rounded edge will work including closed scissors)
Super glue (3M gel)

Here is a video of the entire process of making a CD sleeve from start to finish which is about 8 minutes. If you go on youtube there are many different ways to make CD sleeves including very unique pop up origami style sleeves, but time is money and the ones I make are cheap, easy, and quick to produce anywhere you may go. All that you really need is a table of a desk and the tools listed above.

Here are Templates I created to use in creating your own CD sleeves. I have made them available to you via Dropbox and they are both sized to  8.5 x 11 (standard piece of paper)
PDF  or  Photoshop

Here is a picture of each steps of cutting away the extra paper prior to folding for reference.

That's basically all you need to know how to make these things for yourself. The only other aspect that I didn't address is the CD's themselves. This also has many different options out there. I use the Digital Vinyl CD-Rs because I can make stickers with a rotary cutter and a full 8.5 x 11 label. I can also get it printed at the same location that I print the cardstock for the sleeves. You can also get a roll of vinyl stickers made in bulk but make sure they cut out the center hole as well. You can get the pre-made full disc labels that are available pretty much anywhere that you can print out and make with their template, however, I don't like these because as they age the stickers tend to peel up and they can ruin CD players.
The best option is to get CD-R's professionally printed in bulk so you can burn them as you go. Silk screen require at least 1000 ordered. Laser printed ones are cheaper and less are required but don't look as good. I like the UV cured ink printed CDs because they can print in any quantity and are not limited by a certain amount of colors you can use. 

I hope this post is useful for you and I hope you have a wonderful day.

See you next time 

J Gilton

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to make your Album art take on a life of its own. (Mobile Music Factory)

I hope the sun is shining on you wherever you are.

I recently have been putting together art for my lasted Album release Honey Dipped. This is my second album release that I've put on iTunes, but the first full band recording I've done. The art for the last Album Zeus's Woodshed  was done by me as well. With this album I'm touring a lot more and I'll be selling Honey Dipped were ever I go. So I had this Idea to give the album art itself a little more depth by adding concept.  Let me explain.

Here is the Honey Dipped album cover.

This is a working draft, I might change the honey spoon to resemble a musical note better.

As I go on tour, for the city's I play shows in I am going to place a post card from that city on the table. In this way as I sell these albums moving on down the highway adding postcards as I go, they reflect the journey I am on. This gives the art itself life. As if the table in the picture is home and I'm sending the postcards back there as I'm on my journey. I make each of these Cd's by hand the same as the Album art. So each time I make a set of them it will be it's own unique printing, and I sign and date each batch I produce, 

 these are being made at a Panera Bread co.
(I will post a blog about producing CD's in small affordable batches later as a chapter in the Mobile Music Factory including templates to use.)

People in each city will see there home town postcards or neighbors on the album and feel more of a connection to the art and hopefully the music. What I truly like about this concept is that it has life because the growing postcards will display a proof of history on the table. Showing that things have happened and are still happening. 

But wait there is more, I like art that has multiple layers to it. Outside the Window is my last albums art for Zues's Woodshed 

As the background in the new art it takes on several representations itself by holding visual information. Its represents the outside world as black and white were everything is yes and no, right or wrong with plenty of the grey areas between what defines were the edge is. The formidable mountain is displaying a sense of grandeur by looming in the distance . The road outside the window is leading away over the horizon. The lines of the road are actually made of a sentence in cursive. It say "May the western winds memory always be felt upon my skin...." You then see a road on the smaller mountain with a small building and stairs to the temple on the big mountain giving a sense of a destination. The tree is bare and shows the sign of the season giving the viewer an idea of what time in the year it is. Then you have the night sky in the back ground showing consolations in the sky. Orion the hunter is predominant in the sky giving a metaphor of hunting for what you desire in the outside world. This is subtle and won't be noticed by most people, maybe only those familiar with the stars. They might also then have the knowledge that Orion is to the West in the Fall and Winter when it comes over the horizon at night. This will give the picture and actual idea of direction.  All these visual cues are waiting to be discovered by the curious viewer. 

When I was submitting the Album art to Itunes/CD Baby I came across an "opportunity". The Art needed to be 1400 pixels and my art was only at 800 pixels. This is a pretty big difference in size so  what I did is added a frame to it. This opportunity gives me the ability to put the art in the background of later albums by just adding a framed picture somewhere.

But wait there's more, The tiny Dragon holding the honey spoon, or as I like to call it a DragonFly, is is another concept in itself.  I have a outside of the box advertising campaign that  will involve Geocaching. If you don't know what geocaching is its a global scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates. When I'm on tour I like to go hiking on the off days. The concept for the campaign is to mark special places with my geocache marker which is a dragonfly made out of colorful wire (cat-5 data wire or telephone wire have lots of colors to pick from). This wire Dragonfly will mark the location for a log book container that I will leave free download cards inside of. Leaving things with the log books is a custom for those that participate, they leave something and take something. On the laminated Tongue of the dragonfly is This will speak to the curiosity of people, especially a few miles deep in the woods at the end of a sweet trail, or a hidden away area in a popular city park. This concept is really Advertising for a tiny niche of people and will most likely be discovered by those who are not looking for it. However, I think its cool and defiantly unique. 
I also am planning to use this concept as a type of logo, and a recurring underlying theme or mascot through out my albums and promotion materials. The logo below is a base concept. I plan to make it resemble a dragon more but keep the shape of a dragonfly.

logo created by Jeremy Smith

So as you might be able to tell at this point, I like to put a lot of thought in the things I do. The reason for that is to reward those who like to look a little deeper into things. I'm guilty of taking a long look at creative efforts to see if anything is beneath the surface. If someone feels like looking into something I've created, then I want there to be something for them to see. There is a effect of showing a depth to your art that it gives enough space for people to add there own meanings to it.  In this way they can have a special connection to you and your music that you could of never imagined when producing it.

To some people this can seem to be more effort then what its worth. The question is what its worth to you. To me its worth creating the best that I can with what I have the ability to imagine. In the world me live in today the things that attract peoples attention are the things that are outside of the box. On average peoples attention span has been shaped by the instant gratification we are use to. We don't like waiting for anything, and patience is now a even more valuable virtue. What I find funny about creating art with depth is that it is not a new concept, much to the alternative. Art has always been layered full of depth. Before the invention of TV they had pictures, and paintings, and cartoons, all of which wouldn't be worth their weight in salt if they didn't have depth to hold someones attention. 

Are all these things in which I have done necessary?  No they are not, but why not make things better than they can be.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a good day.

Josh Gilton

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mobile Music Factory

Plato's once said that
 "A man should stand upright and not be held upright by others." This states the need for us to be able to support ourselves. However, he could be referring to how his friends might of drank to much an that he was tired of helping them back home. The statement is open to interpretation. The role of being a independent musician is open to interpretation as well. You have to be able to hold your liquor and your drive of ambition. The real kick in the pants is that you must always keep striving for progress even without much reward. I am guilty myself of not keeping the ambition needed to stay productive. So in an tempt to better myself and continue in the quest to share what I can with the receptive. This will be a place I will gather my thoughts and share them in the most intelligible way I can muster. When you are starting out you are going to be responsible for all sides and aspects of making things happen. You create the Songs, the Art, the CD's, the performance, and the money. You will have to act as your own booking agent, promoter, Public Relations, Webmaster, Blogger, and Street canvasing email getting smiling billboard for you and your music. Well it takes not only drive and ability but it also takes the right tools to accomplish your goals. I put together something that I have been using for a little while now,  I refer to it as a  "Mobile Music Factory" business platform.

Sometimes you need to be able to travel at absolute minimum and for this reason comes necessity of light travel and adaptability.
 My main components: *Instrument and case *Backpack *Laptop/Flashdrive *Smartphone/Camera
 Each one of these will play important roles for me when going on tour if I need to get around using public transportation, or air travel. I have put together a tool kit to allow me to adapt to needs on the road. The smartphone will play very important roles on the bushiness side of things. I will use apps on the smartphone to maintain contacts, emails, navigate and putt out quick content for fans. Having a camera, (especially and HD) is needed to get your YouTube videos out there. You tube itself has made many independent artist serious money by gathering fans on a international level. The flashdrive picks up were the smartphone leaves off. It will contain all the flyers, cd sleaves, or audio for printing and promo. The press kits would be kept here along with full library of original recordings and unreleased demos. Having a laptop that can burn CD's is a powerful advantage because the greater your ability to create product, from Video to Recording to Social Media anytime you want. The main use of the flashdrive beside transporting files to the printer, studio, or who ever  will be loading it with portable apps that can be used on other computers. You should always have a back up plan,(or maybe you don't have a laptop) with this you will be able to create new content while on the move but you are limited to finding a computer to use. With the flashdrive you will be  able to do everything from updating a website to making custom flyers, handouts and other graphics. Most library's and collage campuses have computers that are free to use, and since you run the programz off the flash drive there is no administrator restrictions. In more dire situations you can also use the display models at a Best Buy or Walmart type store. However, complications can arise so use cation and late hours. You got to work with what you got, so its important to remember keep your best promo saved to your phone to be able to send emails with the files in a place in between city's were cell phone reception is you only link to society. It also gives you the ability for direct bluetooth to any tech savvy fan.
 The backpack will have to contain all the things to maintain myself like hygiene, clothing,and important accessories. Minimalism is the key here. I plan on walking a fair amount during my travels. So light weight and multi-functional items will be necessary. Last but not least will be the guitar and hard case. This will be the simplest yet most essential piece of gear. Its the money maker and will hold the guitar and its accessories. The case will be what people throw tips into at a show or in the street. After busking for years now I've used hats, pitchers, vases, beer buckets, you name it. I have come to a belief that people have a physiological preference for the open guitar case. This is the reason I'm electing not to use a gig bag. The complication from this is carrying the guitar. After a mile or two it can become a pain to carry. But I say screw it, a little hardship can grow a lot of character, and a serious amount of strength in your grip.

I will explain more of these items in greater detail. I will add links from this blog to them as they are created and I will also put it in the title of any future post that about using the Mobile Music Factory,
Thanks for reading, I hope this will be as helpful for your as it is for me.

Today's blog brought to you from a library and my backpack (AKA the Mobile Music Factory), as well as this live track from the recorder in my backpack.

Have a good day!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Campfire song writing in Georgia.

Me and Mr Tim Perry just wrote a song.  American Fishbowl.

Here is a rough draft.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guerrilla music videos

Hope your day has been agreeing with you.
Today I'm going to talk about music video production. On the road you see alot of neat places that most people dont get to see. I see this as an opportunity to get some great footage.  The true point of this video is to share this travel experience with everyone we can. In my situation this means two birds one stone with video and our new tracks.
So we put ourselves to the test and shot some footage at New Harmony,  Indiana. We didn't ask for permission we just started shooting with the idea we came up with that morning. With this style of guerilla video production is easier to apologize when confronted then to ask permission. If they say no It can keep you from great content.  The goal was to get all the video we needed in one day, which we did. Then one day to edit it, which was also completed.  In this way we can turn out a homemade video, and do it quickly.

Here is the video on the new YouTube account.

The format was a few time lapse shots, a few performance shots, and filler footage from around the area. Keep It clean and simple. 
One thing to remember is that different cameras take video at different rates, file types and sizes. So mixing the cameras for video can cause some errors in the editing.Now when it comes to editing I prefer Adobe premiere.  But its expense isn't worth it for most people. All you really need is fade effects between clips and ability to put text on screen to make a decent you tube video.Having a Good camera helps to.
I layed down the audio track first
Then I sinked all the performance footage to the audio track. Then I cut In all the extra peices on the voids and weeker parts of the performances. The performance peices in particular,  we played the audio file outload on my cell phone in my pocket so we could play it at the right timing for the video.
All together it took about 4 hours to shoot the video and another four to edit it. So one days work could make a full video as long as a plan is already thought up. This keeps you from wasting time when your trying to be a ninja and recorde were there are restricted signs everywhere.
This was our first  atemp at a video. Its only going to get better from here.
See you soon,
J. Gilton

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time for a new chapter


We all find a time in are lives that we look around ourselves and find everything extremely unsatisfying. The days grind on and you find after so many of them have passed that you have achieved nothing worth talking about. Well i can't live like that anymore. It's not for me to toil away without any reward for me or others accept a little money in my pocket. It's not for me to keep making money for people who don't have any concern for me or my well being. I want to be happy with every breath I choose to spend on this earth. So i made a change.
I got a van,

 I got a some new tunes recorded.

 I quite my job, I moved out of my house, and I started booking gigs. ( )

I've committed myself to a new lifestyle that will give me the opportunity to see more of this great country and meet as many people in it that I can stand. I got a good friend Tim Perry to come with me on this new adventure. together were going to dot shows all across the united states and Canada (if we can Get across the border). For the rest of this year we will be staying in the mid west but end the year in Florida. Christmas and palm trees sound nice, not as nice as seeing all my family, but skype will help to ease the guilt.

I invite all to spectate our journey through all these digital means below
         Tim Perry
Tim and JGilton
Tim Perry

I will do my best to keep uploading as much as I can to the internet. So until the next time, hope to play some music for you soon.
Have a good day
J Gilton

(update*  Tim Perry is no longer touring with me. He decided to stay home after about a month or two.)