September 2014 – We need to get some CDs printed as soon as possible
My name is Darren and I am the drummer for a band called “Nemesis Project”. We’re from Sheffield and have been together for about 3 years. What started out as some college friends playing a few cover songs occasionally when we were in the same room for more than 10 minutes, has turned into a potential professional career. We began writing our own songs together about 2 years ago and we turned out to be pretty good at it. We played a few gigs at our college and our local pubs and quickly developed a very enthusiastic following. At one of our more recent gigs, which was attended by about 400 to 500 people, we were inundated with requests for CDs of our music. The task of sourcing the CDs fell to me as I was the only member of the band with a good grasp of computer artwork packages and also because I work with computers and I’m a rather good photographer (so I’m told!)
This was too good an opportunity to miss to make the band some money (to pay our gig expenses) and to promote the band to get a bigger following and really start taking the music seriously. I did a little research through our band website, Facebook page and soundcloud page and came up with a figure of about 1000 CDs required to satisfy enquiries. Having had a good few enquiries at gigs as well we decided to order another 500 CDs to go onto the merchandise table at larger venues. With gigs coming up thick and fast, we felt that there was a good chance that we would sell them fairly quickly so we got ourselves into the studio and recorded 8 tracks. The recording process was fairly quick as we knew the songs inside out having been playing them solidly for about 6 months beforehand and we were very happy with our final master CD.
Getting The Ball Rolling
When I started looking into CD printing and duplication, I was amazed at the variety of options available to us in terms of packaging and also at the amount of potential suppliers there were. Digital downloads may be on the rise but there is still a big requirement for CDs so it would seem. I did a little internet research and found a company offering the services I believed we needed and they seemed to have a great reputation with their previous customers judging by the amount of positive reviews they had received on the internet. We had made some good money from our recent gigs and decided to invest it and get the job done properly rather than cutting corners and pinching pennies.
I called the company and spoke to a customer manager who briefly discussed our requirements and sent me some information via email about the printing processes and packaging types and their most appropriate uses. The information was concise and to the point which suited me fine as I didn’t want to trawl through pages of technical data. The customer manager then put me in touch with a member of their design team who briefly talked me through the artwork services she offered and how to go about designing an eye catching CD package.
Designing the CD – Using a Template
I’m fairly good with Photoshop and I like to think I’m quite creative so when the designer mentioned CD printing templates during our conversation I seized the opportunity to request that she email me a template for me to work with. We also discussed a few “do’s and don’ts” with regards to the use of photographic images and CD artwork in general. At this point I think it would prove useful if I bullet point the main subjects of our discussion:
- A standard CD is 120 mm in diameter with a 22mm diameter central hole so the designer advised me to work with a 123mm square template. She also advised me not to block out the central hole in the template but just to be aware that it will be present and not to put any pertinent information within 3mm of that area. A common mistake apparently! She also advised me to leave at least 3mm from the outer edge for any text that I wanted on the disc.
- I wanted to use a photograph from a live show that we did but when I showed the designer which image I was intending to use she advised me against it as it was too dark and would not have come out well if printed onto a CD or packaging. I could easily have wasted a lot of time there so I’m glad I checked.
- I was advised about the differences between CD screen printing and CD litho printing which was also very useful information. Photographic images are litho printed and block colour images are screen printed. The designer pointed out that I shouldn’t mix the two types of image such as putting a small photo onto a large area of solid coloured background. In this case the CD would need to be litho printed but litho printing does not lend itself to printing large areas of solid colour things can get patchy and uneven apparently. Screen printing a CD can get some of the cost out of the job too without compromising on the look of the end product. There are many techniques that can be used to create a fantastic looking CD using only a single colour with the silver surface of the CD showing through in places. It just takes a little imagination. Then you only need to pay for 1 screen and 1 ink colour. A litho printed CD incurs the same on cost for making up the plate whether it’s a black and white photo or a full colour photo.
Once I was on the right track with my artwork, after consulting the designer (which I can highly recommend as there was no extra cost involved), I began to have a look at the packaging side of things.
CD Packaging Considerations
Again, I discussed this with the CD printing company that I first approached and together we analysed how the discs would be sold and used to give us a better idea of the most appropriate type of packaging. I decided that the best course of action was to get half of the batch of printed CDs put into CD card wallets for selling at gigs and the other half into standard jewel cases for selling online. When we play a gig, space comes at a premium in the van and also some of the gear tends to get treated pretty roughly. The CD wallets would be ideal because we could get a few hundred CDs packed into a little protective case which meant that they didn’t take up much room, they didn’t get damaged and we had loads of them to sell at gigs.
The standard jewel cases with the printed paper parts would be ideal for selling online as we could post them out inexpensively to buyers and they looked great; our fans would be getting a high quality product.
CD Packaging Printing
Once more, I decided to have a go at designing the printed packaging myself. Our supplier sent us templates and again offered advice along the same lines as for the CD printing side of things but the CD packaging is digitally printed and so blocks of colour and small photo images are fine. I still needed to be wary of using photo images that were too dark though. I was also advised about leaving a 3mm border outside of the actual image size to compensate for potential print bleed and again to keep any text at least 3 to 5 mm away from the outside edges of the printed area.
When all the artwork was finalised, which took about 2 weeks of tweaking and refining, we submitted final approved images and it was just a matter of waiting 4 days for the production run to be completed. At this point, I will highlight the length of time that the project took. We didn’t have a desperate requirement for the discs so we were a little more relaxed with the process and took around 3 weeks in all to get the CD printing and packaging completed. Our supplier told us that they were always getting calls from bands who were desperate for CDs within a few days of a gig and were disappointed when they realised how long the process actually takes if you do things right.
The Master CD
We supplied our customer manager with our master CD and were advised of the following considerations:
- CD text – The line of text that shows up on your CD player display (if you have one). This is usually the track title.
- ISRC codes were added to each track to identify us as the original musicians and copyright owners as the code includes a date and recording location identifier.
We then approved the recording for CD duplication.
The Final Product
We took delivery of our first batch of discs in the middle of November 2014 just in time for December when we had loads of gigs. After a few weeks we were down to just a couple of copies. Thankfully, as all of the information was on file and easily accessible, our supplier was able to get us another run of CDs in about 2 working days which saved the day.
Our first CD printing and duplication project was reasonably straight forward but we weren’t under any extreme pressure so in an effort to assist with planning to benefit anyone else thinking of getting some CDs printed, the following is a bulleted list of what we considered when going about the project:
- Do your research on the internet beforehand to find a reputable CD printing service supplier
- Ask for templates if you intend to do your own printing and packaging design
- Ask for advice about the best way to design for CD printing and packaging to avoid potential mistakes
- Check your master to be sure it’s a perfect recording and that the end user will be pleased
- Allow enough time for the design and print process, don’t be a last minute kid