A Compact Disc

The tremendous amount of down time I’ve had in Gainesville translated itself into some productiveness. I’ve done my taxes and removed the furniture from and painted the house’s study. In terms of music I had the opportunity to make not just the bookmarkers and business cards but also run through all the logistics (a nightmare of circular phone calls) that lead up to producing a CD. While Maria mastered the live covers I made in November I contacted the necessary publishing agencies and CD duplication companies. That part constituted a headache. Happily another integral part of making a CD is the album artwork. I’ve thought recently how lucky it is I’m graphically literate enough to make my own websites and graphics. While I’m slightly sick of all the close up squinting at Photoshop, I had a quite a good time with the images.

I plan to release the record in two weeks on the twenty fourth of February. This may be a wishful target.

I think I’ll detail a little bit how the process works as I found another blogger’s post quite helpful for me. Obviously, skip away if this doesn’t sound interesting.

By making a cover album I needed to pursue the rights for each song and it took me some time to figure out where to start. Eventually most of the individual companies I called (I found out their information by looking up each song at ASCAP, SESAC, or BMI) re-routed me to the Harry Fox Agency, where I began the rather simple process of obtaining mechanical licenses. Everything is automated there – you first type in details about your record (how many copies, title, artist, etc.) and then whatever songs you need, add them to your basket. Sometimes there are multiple copies of a song with slightly different spellings or album releases. Calls to the publisher solve that.

Every now and again I ran into songs not licensed by HFA so I unconcernedly called up their individual publishers. Here I met a gamut of responses. Some publishers simply haven’t – Universal, BMG, Essex – but this turned out to be a small problem as I eventually struck those songs from my final list. On the other end of the spectrum was Chrysalis Music. The Managing Director in charge of licensing there answers my emails almost as soon as they’re sent and went out of his way to call me and clarify specifically what sort of licenses I needed, what the label copies should look like (the notes on the album which indicate the writer’s and publisher’s information) and even advice on books to read about the business and rates I should be charged for streaming – not the absurd $295 I was originally quoted but closer to $25.

A funny anecdote: While browsing Border’s for covers of the songs so I might find examples of liner note credits – one must call each publisher directly for their specific liner notes, but they don’t seem to care too much and brushed me off or ran me around in circles – I ran into a fashion designer from Miami on his way back from Chicago. He came on to me rather hard, friendly and conversationally, no innuendo but still clear in body language. He nearly stood upon my toes. At forty something despite being extremely kind and gentle eyed I happily conversed about music (he’s an amateur songwriter, himself) and his thoughts on my album graphics, but took my leave at the door to the restroom.

Each license costs 9.1 cents per song per instance, or if over five minutes 1.75 cents per minute per song per instance. This adds up extremely fast – royalties alone for my seven track record have me out $453.03. Now those of you astute with numbers may notice this is about one track extra in cost. There are two ways this can occur – either with a medley like Somewhere Over the Rainbow which requires a license for each or when the individual publishers state a minimum higher than 500 units. The song Hello is published by Brenda Richie Publishing and Brockman Music, for instance, and both have 2000 unit minimums which I had to negotiate down to 1000, still twice my projected yield and there you see the extra track.

As for the fabrication of the disc itself, I toyed a long while with personal production. When I worked out the material cost alone, however, it added up to nearly that of the cheapest company I’ve found – Nationwide Disc. You can imagine how long it might take to burn 500 CDs individually, print upon them one at a time and finally print and assemble their envelopes by hand.

It seems the standard cost for a small release of 500 CDs costs about $700-$800. Nationwide Disc charges $485. I’ve chosen full color printing on the disc face and gloss cardboard jacket, with shrink wrapping. I’m deciding whether to pick them up from Richland Hills, TX or to have them shipped to my mother in Florida. My intention is to try and sell them on the street as I busk and at the few gigs I can captain along the way. This task is daunting, though – I’ll need to sell 149 copies at $9 each to recoup the initial investment. (Again, you math savvy readers may note this number is 4/3 what it initially ought to be, but that’s explained away by the 25% of each sale I will cede to Maria).

As you can see I’ve taken a bit of a risk with this Cover EP venture. It will certainly teach me a lot over the coming months as I prepare to release my debut EP.

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