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Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:00 am
by guitarchuck
I want to start off by saying, I’ll appreciate any feedback or experiences that you may have about this topic. (I’ll give a long winded version of my experience of producing my own guitar CD from start to finish here. I’m being transparent telling all the fun and pitfalls that I’ve had this past year on producing this CD from start to finish!)
I’ve heard Doyle Dykes say more than once, that every guitarist should record. Even if you don’t record a CD to sell, you should record at least for your family. He also said it will make you a better player. You hear things that you can improve on when you record yourself.
My first attempt at making a recording was back around the early 90’s. I recorded a gospel guitar cassette. I did it all myself on a 4 track cassette mini studio machine. I recorded the background music with a cheap keyboard. I look back on it now and some of the background music sounds down right cheesy!
The past several years a guy I work with asked me over and over again: “How’s that Christmas CD coming along?” To begin with, I had no intentions of recording a Christmas CD, but the more he asked, the more I began to think about it. So, at the beginning of this year, I finally decided that I would record a Christmas CD. I made the announcement on Facebook that I was thinking about it and some people said that I should do it. I decided early on that I wanted it to sound professional this time. I decided to lease professional backing tracks from Daywind studios in Hendersonville, TN. Daywind is primarily a Southern Gospel recording studio which I was familiar with. Leasing backing tracks is fairly expensive, about $125 per song. This entitles you to record with each track that you lease on a one time basis and you can have as many copies as you want to produce. I went that route, because I planned on recording my part with my computer software and take my time. I could have went to a real studio, but as many times as I re-recorded to get it right, it would have cost me a fortune! After recording my CD I decided that I’ll go a different route next time. First off, a lot of Christmas songs have been tough for me. I only play them once a year and a lot of them I never took time to learn them well. With backing tracks I was stuck with their background arrangements and I had to work my arrangements around that. Next time I make a CD I think I’ll record a gospel guitar CD recording thumbstyle tunes that I’m more known for and use Band In A Box for my backing tracks. There's a guy on the Chetboard that goes by "MitchC", he uses "Band In A Box" for his backing tracks. I'm really impressed with the background music that he gets with Band In a Box. Give him a listen: This is the type of background music that I think I'll try on my next CD, it's simple, yet very effective. It reminds me of a lot of Chet's old LP's, it put the guitar in the forefront. I had Band in the Box years ago and it didn't sound realistic, now I'm very impressed. They actually have some real instrument clips to choose from. Mitch said if you can afford it to get the "Everything PAK". It's kind of expensive, but it's still way cheaper than what I paid to lease the backing tracks. Give Mitch a listen, I think you'll be impressed.
I leased the backing tracks, all public domain songs, and began recording in the spring. I got a free musician website from to help promote my CD along the way. I also used Facebook and the Chetboard to promote my CD updating what I was recording throughout the year. I used my Zoom G3X to record direct with the bundled Steinberg Sequel LE3 studio software. I used a cheap Behringer C-1 large Diaphragm mic with a Behringer Tube Ultragain MIC200 pre-amp to record my Del Vecchio. I used Audacity to filter out the background hiss. I also used Audacity to do the mastering myself. I was really pleased with the results that I got by doing it myself with the equipment that I have.
Once I got it all finished, I made the decision to have the CD’s replicated instead of duplicated. To have it replicated you have to order at least 300 copies. I ran the numbers and figured I should order a 1000. (Mistake! LOL) I figured I only need to sell around 20 something more CD’s to pay for the extra cost of the 1000 over the 300! I figured I would only need to sell 220 something to pay for my total investment, then everything past that would be pure profit! Well as it turns out I ended up selling 89 copies of my album this Christmas season. Next project will be duplicated and only 100! I ended up using Nationwide Disc to replicate my CD and I think they did a great job and they have very good prices compared to some of the more well known CD manufacturers.
A little background on me: I just play at church, usually 3 services a week. I don’t do concerts or play out much. I do play at our annual Gospel Guitar Jam in the spring and I help organize and play at our Gospel Guitar Night in the fall. We go to a Holiness church that runs about 125 people on Sunday morning. We sing Hymns out of the Hymnal and Southern Gospel type music. I feel that playing the guitar is my ministry. I feel that I’m a good guitarist, but not a great guitarist. There are some great guitarist here on the Chetboard. So, unless you tour and do shows all the time 100 CD’s is probably more than enough.
I went with CDbaby to do my distribution. They charged a $49 one time fee. They sell your physical CD’s and downloads. They also distribute to the most popular digital outlets such as iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. Being on iTunes sounds impressive, but don’t expect too many sales there unless you are well known. I ended up selling the most CD’s to my co-workers – 34 CD’s. I sold the most at one time at our Gospel Guitar Night -21 CD’s. I only sold 9 online and only 2 people downloaded my album.
I had a blast promoting my CD this year, mostly through Facebook. You will find that many people will like your Facebook posts about your new release, but few will buy. Also, I found that paying for Facebook promotion ads was a waste of money for me. I also did a YouTube video of one of my tracks to help promote the CD. I had a drawing on the Chetboard and Facebook and gave away a couple of CD’s. That was fun. I sent out CD’s to about 12 radio stations, both real stations and online. I ended up on 8 on air stations (6 were on the same network) and 3 online stations. That was fun and exciting. (One of the stations actually contacted me and asked if I would be willing to send them my CD for airplay!) The trick to get airplay is to send your music to niche stations. I sent it to online Christmas stations and to gospel stations that might play my type of music.
I hope to record another CD, I learned a lot this time. I’ll do things a little different on the next one. If you are like me, you will want to make the CD as economical as possible, but yet as professional as possible and at least break even. Most of all have fun!

Merry Christmas

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:33 am
by Norm
this should almost be in the FAQ section. Paul had a section where he described what was involved in making his CD's and he had the added expense of using some tunes not yet in the public domain. Those fees are paid up front as Chuck points out.

Far too many people think producing a CD is an "all ya gotta do is..." kind of thing. A lot of decisions have to be made and some up front financial investments need to be made in the hope that you can at least cover your nut.

Same kind of thing applies to writing a book. I'm still having blank wall issues over getting permission to use certain photographs. "Blank wall" meaning all to often getting no response at all from polite inquiries I made. For those who are curious about my Yandell book project, I'm waiting for the publisher to let me know when the next phase (and what it entails) is. My project, hard work as it is, is just another unit they need to process in a certain chain of events, my "unit" being only one of probably dozens they are currently processing.

Yup... writing a book is another area where "all ya gotta do..." is a huge understatement....

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:52 am
by guitarchuck
I can hardly wait until all of your hard work finally pays off in the form of a book! I don't think people realize how much trouble things like this end up being.

In the case of producing a CD, the duplicator/replicator requires you to have all of the proper documents before they will even start the process. In my case all of my songs were public domain so I didn't have to pay any royalties to the song writers. I did have to provide the documents from Daywind Studios showing that I had leased the backing tracks. The online mp3 sites would not accept my song "Carol Medley" until I listed what songs were in the medley. You have to have all of your ducks in a row in this day and time to make sure you have all of the legal rights before you can produce such a project.
I'm also amazed at how some people tend to think that you are getting rich off of doing a project like this. People don't realize how much time and money is involved. Of course I made some mistakes in the decisions I made in my project, but unless you do concerts all of the time it would be tough to make much money selling your own CD's. I'm doing it mainly for family and friends and because I enjoy it.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:40 pm
by Richard Hudson
To produce quality recordings is a very expensive undertaking. It has to be out of love for the music because for most of us, making and selling recordings is not going to be a profitable venture. The market place is constantly changing and trying to stay up with the latest marketing avenues is a challenge in itself. The best avenue for selling CD's for me has been through public appearances. On line sales are minimal at best, and even when there are several sales of individual recordings every month, most of them will be through sites like spotify and others that will pay you about a penny for each download. Most of us cannot afford publicists and marketing people. It is difficult to promote oneself without boasting, and that is never good. It has to be out of love for the music for guys like me. I am not good enough to appeal to the general masses, so I do what I do out of love and respect for the music and hope it all works out.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:20 pm
by Norm

I think the book is going to fly but it may not have as many photos as I had hoped for. Some of the guys here have been great and provided some great period shots but you would be amazed at how hard it is to track down ownership of some shots.

Thousands of yummy photos out there, many that I love bud can't use because I have no idea who owns the rights to them.

Write novels. No pictures involved and you can use made up names...

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:34 pm
by GaryL
Hi Chuck,
Thanks for your post on producing. I've listened to all your clips and I think you did a fine job! I know it's a lot of work and you put your heart into it. Although I havent' tried to produce my own CD, I have been working a long time to produce a decent sounding cd for my own enjoyment and the challenge. I posted a lot of tunes on the CB along the way and I'm still learning. Oh I hate most of it! I've tried to emulate Chet's sound playing his music and doing it with all kinds of equipment. I've gone thru many hundreds of CD's doing this and it's not too expensive using my computer. My main focus for a long time has been recording my Gretsch direct without an amp, just a preamp direct box into a mixer and into my PC. After all the experimenting I've done, I'm still of the opinion that Chet recorded direct more that we will ever know and he was an expert at it - but that's another topic for a different thread. And anyway, no matter what Chet played or how it got to your ears it was PERFECT. I agree BIAB is a good tool and it sure is a lot of fun for us that don't play with others much. BIAB can be frustrating because the possibilities for backing track arrangements are endless. Keep up the good work.
I've posted another Winter Wonderland track I did today with BIAB using my Gretsch. Hope you like it.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:58 pm
by guitarchuck
Gary when you say that you hate most of it, I understand. For me recording is a lot of work. It's hard to get that perfect sound that you have in your head. I want you to know that I really enjoy your recordings that you post here. I seem to post here quite a bit at times and not much at others, but I look and listen to almost every post that everyone makes here. I enjoy everyone's music here even though I don't always say so. I'm hoping to make another CD in the next year or two.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:21 pm
by Chuck

Really like your work on this, you took a lot of care and it shows. And this information you posted, so clearly and comprehensively, is invaluable, thanks for that.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Fri Dec 27, 2013 9:12 pm
by guitarchuck
Thanks Chuck!
All of that stuff that I wrote was running through my mind Christmas eve as I was reflecting on the year. I thought it might be helpful for anyone that might be thinking about making their own CD.

Re: Producing your own CD

PostPosted: Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:46 pm
by stevek

Thanks so much for posting your experience. As a side note, I recently started using Band in a Box and find it to be very good. I have also gotten very favorable reactions from friends and family for the backing tracks for songs that I recorded with it.