This is a question I’m often asked. It’s not difficult but you have to plan the process carefully. Usually the first thing I ask is “when would you like the CD to come out?” If you plan to bring out your CD in October lets work back from there.
October: CD release
Mid August: Send CD master to pressing plant / itunes etc
Start of August: Have CD mastered and CD cover / notes etc finalised
Mid/End of July: Mix album
Start of July: Record album in studio / home
June: Rehearse like mad to make sure your album is going to sound amazing
May: Make sure you are happy with your arrangements
April: Decide on material and book musicians / band mates / studio to play and record on album
March: DRAW UP A BUDGET SO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MAKING AN ALBUM WILL COST.
I’ve written the first March task in capitals as it is really important. You need to know how much it is going to cost so you can decide on different recording options. If you haven’t drawn up a budget before here is a template.
So you have drawn up a budget and you now know how much making a CD will cost you. You now have a few options to think about.
Can you afford to make this CD?
If yes – brilliant – on you go!
If not then you need to start finding cheaper options. You could look at cheaper studios, taking less time in the studio, renting equipment yourself, use less musicians, ask your friends to play for less (or nothing) and make sure everyone gets a cut of CD profits on the gigs. You could also look for funding to help you with the costs of CD from Scottish Enterprise or Creative Scotland. You might also try Crowd funding or asking family for a loan against CD sales. There are lots of options so don’t give up when you first look at your budget. Have a look at out sample CD budget and try out your own figures.
When it comes to pressing your CDs there are lots of options out there however we recommend Birnam CD – a Scottish company who can find you great deals and ensure your CD project reaches a successful conclusion. Contact them when you are preparing your budget and get a cost for pressing 500, 1000, 2000 CDs (what you plan on pressing). One thing to remember is that CDs take up a lot of room in your house so don’t press to many more than you think you can sell!!!
When you have decided on the way forward you next need to book your recording space and simultaneously check that that your band / session musicians are free. When all this is in the diary comes the bits we really like doing – getting the material together and rehearsing until it sounds fantastic!
Running alongside all this rehearsing should be thoughts about marketing. Is my website good enough? Does it let the public know what kind of musician I am? How am I going to tell people about my CD? Am I going to put it on Spotify, iTunes etc? Do I want my CD in the shops? We’ll deal with some of these issues below.
Also you should be getting your CD designed at this point. I think it is best to use a designer rather than yourself for this project. They will understand the printing intricacies and you don’t have to worry about it! I would recommend 16k Design, Louise Bichan, Dave Milligan for great design. You might also want photos taken for the cover (and future promo). You will have to know the names of the tracks and any other text for the inside including recording credits, musicians, designer, track timings and an ALBUM TITLE! Also get a barcode as well. Your pressing company should be able to provide one for you.
Another thing worth doing at this point is applying for a MCPS AP1 license for your album. If you are recording other peoples music on your CD they have to be paid and MCPS will do this for you. Also your pressing company will not press your CD without this. Read more here.
So you are all rehearsed up and your first studio day has come. Remember and get there nice and early as it will take time to get set up. The engineer will get all your microphones set up / sounds etc before you can make your first recording. If you are playing with other musicians make sure you take time to feel comfortable with your earphone mixes so you can hear everybody. Don’t be scared to take your earphones off if it feels better or just have one on. You can also ask for reverb in your earphones if you want it to feel more like a gig more than a dry studio room.
When you are ready to go GO! Remember that first takes are not often the best and it takes a few goes to get into it. Also studios have a bad habit of audibly pointing out weaknesses in your arrangements. Don’t worry about this. Just fix it! You know how many recording days you have so try and work to a set amount of tracks a day. Remember to leave yourself time at the end of the recording days for making any changes etc.
After you have recorded it mixing time. If you have time it is good to take a few days off before going back into the studio so you can listen to rough mixes and decide how you would like the track to sound. Remember again to not spend too much time on each track unless you have a big budget.
When mixing is finished you need to get the album mastered. This process is all about making the final CD. The engineer will make sure the tracks are all the same volume, the correct gaps are in place between the tracks, track timings and the album is loud enough. Often people take the final mixes to another studio to master for a different perspective but again it all depends on budget.
So now you have a stereo master you need to send it away for pressing. Speak to your pressing company so they get it in the correct format. You also have to send your design files away at the same time.
Once you have sent your master away it will take a few weeks to come back to you as a complete product. There is nothing better than holding your finished CD! However you don’t want to hold it for too long. You need to get it to distributors to send to shops, website etc. The main Scottish distributors are Highlander Music and Gordon Duncan Distribution. UK distributors are Proper Distribution. I would be wary of singing an exclusive deal with anyone as they all sell to different areas of the market (but some of them will try to get you to do this). Get a pack together including a CD and some promo info including any gigs you might have and send it to them. Wait a week or two before phoning them to see how many they want. Please don’t be surprised if they say 5 (and you have 1000 sitting in your living room…)
You could also send your master for upload to iTunes, Spotify etc. This is not expensive to do and again there are many companies who will do this for you. I recommend ISA Music http://www.isa-music.com, a Scottish company who will do a good job for you.
You should also be thinking about tour dates/ record launch etc however here are a few other things I mentioned above.
Your website is your store front – the place where your fans will find out all about you. You need something that looks good and professional. This does not have to be expensive. It can be free if you are willing to do it yourself. All Hands Up for Trad websites use WordPress.org. To run this you need to own your domain which you can buy from loads of companies which you can find with a simple search engine search. Personally I like Blue Host. You can also try WordPress.com which is free and works similarly to WordPress.org. There is also Wix and many options out there that will give you free websites. Get your own domain though. You will have it for life and it is a good investment if you are a musician. I’ll write another tutorial on websites however you need to populate your website with a biog, CD info page and maybe a section where you can hear your music (using SoundCloud?). Also a contact page with an email and phone number so potential bookers can get in touch with you.
Telling people about your CD.
When you get your CD back you need to send it to radio stations and out for review. We all love a nice review and the publicity that comes off it. Getting reviews is difficult though as the print market is shrinking but there some great music journalists out there and it is worth sending it to them. (Remember though to watch your costs. Don’t bankrupt yourself sending out too many). We have list of reviewers that is available here http://www.mediafire.com/download/7gmanecvigc67mv/CD_Review_Contacts.pdf. Also do some research on your favourite radio stations and send them a CD. Try and find out the producers name and send CD direct to them. You can also check out Hands Up for Trad’s Folk Waves project.
Good luck with all this and if you need any more advice feel free to contact us.