While the Internet offers great exposure for today’s musicians, there remains an appeal and functionality to CDs that the virtual world cannot match. Fortunately, there are many options available if you need to produce quality physical objects which can be sold at shows or sent to reviewers.
Your options for producing CDs
CDs are produced in two ways: Duplication and Replication. Duplication is the process most of use at home, and involves burning the data onto the surface of a CD-R. Replication goes one step further and produces physical copies of a master disc–the plastic disc is molded to be your CD from the start.
Duplication–the reliable DIY option
If you are making a few batches of CDs, duplication is probably your best option. The minimum of equipment required is a computer; a disk drive that can burn CDs; burning software; and CD-Rs. There are duplicator machines available for at-home users, if you feel that they are worth the investment.
Duplicating CDs yourself can be tedious, especially if you factor in user error or hardware and software problems. If you don’t own a duplicator or a computer with multiple disc drives, prepare to spend many hours setting up and burning blank CD-Rs.
Assuming all goes well, duplication can be the cheapest option, though the quality and acceptability of CD-Rs is lower compared to replicated CDs. Duplication does allow greater flexibility, however–you can make CDs as needed, and tracks can be added, removed, or rearranged from one batch to the next.
Replication–the professional option
Replication is used by recording studios and is often required if you want to send your CDs in to radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. There are many companies that offer replication services. Most require an order of at least 500 CDs. Pricing varies, but hovers around $2 a disc for smaller runs. The price per disc usually goes down for larger orders.
During replication, a glass master disc is created using the master recording you provide to the company. This master recording is usually a CD-R or 1630 tape, which you may want to produce with the help of a professional mastering studio. After the glass master is finished, it is used to produce molds or “stampers”.
The stampers are placed in a pressing machine, plastic pellets are injected into the mold, and a disc is born. The disc then goes on to receive its aluminum coating and lacquer finish. Art is silk-screened over the top and the CD is packaged. Many replication services will include CD inserts with the packaging, but shop around if you want alternatives to jewel-casing or poster fold-outs rather than two-page inserts (for example).
For both replication and duplication, invest a lot of time in checking your master recording for errors. Hire a graphic designer if you are not familiar with preparing art for print–packaging gives your CD added value in the age of digital piracy, so make it good. Finally, keep your audience in mind. Replication is great if you want to present your band professionally. But, for a few CDs to pass out to friends and at shows, duplication is probably sufficient and allows for more personalization–the discs will be more unique and collectible.
This is a guest post. This article was contributed by CD Technical who specialize in cd duplication and digital distribution solutions.
Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net