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)
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