CD Manufacturing suggestions

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by jazzbutcher, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. jazzbutcher

    jazzbutcher Guest


    I know some folks here advertise "complete packages" for recording/mixing/mastering as well as actually manufacturing finished CD's with album art, etc... I've never done this before, but now I've got orchestra and choir clients asking me to quote a price for a whole package like this, including the CD manufacturing (2000-4000 discs initially).

    So, with this in mind, what cd duplicating/manufacturing outfits have you found to be easy to deal with and provide a good quality finished product for your clients??

    I know several of the large outfits that local musicians have dealt with (ie...the kind of companies with large glossy catalogs that do lots of advertising, etc), but I was hoping to tap the collective experiences of this forum to get some insight into who you trust to do your manufacturing/packaging for you.

    I also know of a few companies locally that will burn small runs (100-1000 discs) of CD-R's, but that's not what I was thinking of...or is this the kind of outfit that some of 'yall make use of?? I am guessing 'no', but tell me what you end up doing...

    many thanks,

  2. johnmcg

    johnmcg Guest

    I strongly recommend Oasis CD Manufacturing:

    They don't do the "whole package" that you're talking about, but once you have a master, go to Oasis for duplication. Micah Solomon and his team are GREAT to work with, and they produce high quality product at very competitive rates. I've used them for a number of projects in the past, and I don't plan to use anyone else in the future.

    good luck.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Just as important to finding a good printer/replicator you can work with, you need to get your feet wet (using this client as your launching pad) if you're planning on doing this on an ongoing basis.

    Assuming you're fine with the (audio) Master, and you've gotten the whole thing down to a replication-ready pre-glass Master, you now have another whole world of detail awaiting you and your client: The cover (booklet), label & tray card design. All too often, it's the LAST thing people think of, and the whole project suffers.

    I wont lie to you: There is NO free lunch, and you must build in a contingency plan (price) to this, so your butt is covered. Murphy's law applies here, BIG TIME, esp to newbies. Plan on things taking longer, going wrong, and costing more than anyone figured. It's a given with those who've never done it before. NEVER quote your client the same price you get from the replication company, unless you like working on the last 1/3 of a project for free.

    Before quoting them ANY kind of price (with your cut built in) get your list of replicators in order (you don't have to share this with the client, this is for YOUR reference.) Find out what they charge & what they offer. (You should expect/demand proofs of all printed materials and test-runs of the CD before you commit to mass-runs. ) Believe me, you get what you pay for. I'm not here to promote Discmakers, but they (and I'm sure many others) do this, usually with FEDex or online PDF's and the like. We never go to "Final" runs until all parties have seen/heard the proofs and are ok with it.

    Most replicators will demand a deposit (usually 50%) upfront when the job is started, and will demand payment in full when you pick up the finished job. (Make sure your client knows this, and gets you the $$$ so YOU don't have to fork it over - or worse - have to put it on YOUR credit card till the client ponies up....)

    On the nuts and bolts side, if both you and your client have never done this, there IS a learning curve, and it WILL cost you - again, mostly time. The good news is that you'll learn a lot and will be ready for the next time...and the time after that.

    Nail down what platform - PC or MAC - that they're working with for graphics & text. (Stress that they - esp a computer-savvy member of their organizaition - be your contact person, and will type-set all the minutia and will proof-read it before giving it to you. Ditto for graphics - scanning, cropping, airbrushing, etc. (You may or may not want to get involved in all this....the more you do for them, the more indispensible you a point! It's a fine line between being a Jack of all Trades and a Master of None.)

    Then when it's designed and set up, you want THEM to proof it again. Stress this, so that ANY mistakes or typos are on them - you don't want to have to eat an entire production run because YOU missed a typo or an important name in the credits. As long as you've done your homework and had the client weigh in on the final, FINAL production run, you can relax and leave in the hands of the pros, knowing you've done the absolute best, and covered all bases. Just remember this all takes time - YOUR time, so build it into your estimated cost, over top of the great "bargain" you'll get from the replication company.

    Whether you use Quark, Adobe, or MS publisher, you'll either set it up yourself, design it with the client present, or spend time (and $$$) having the replication plant do it for you. Each way has it's pros and cons. It WILL take longer than you thought it would, and there WILL always be something someone forgot. You may also be able to download PDF tamplates from replications companies like Europa & Discmakers; that's a BIG time saver as well.

    Ask about bar codes as well, at least if this is going to be sold commercially. Stores like to have the bar code to scan in whenever one is sold.

    Ask your replication plant about over- and under-runs, and make sure they will keep the project on file for when you want to do smaller runs & refills in the future. (Think positive: if it sells well, they'll come back to you for more, and you don't want to start from scratch again!)

    Who's the best? I have no idea. I dont' trust ANY of them to do it perfectly on their own; I check and double check everything before the final production run. (There's that "TIME" thing again...) Some clients want to do it all themselves once I've supplied the master and point them to a replicator. I gladly, happily let them go off and do it all on their own....hehehe........THEN they find out what's involved. WIth some anal-retentive types, it takes them almost as long to do the jewel-case layout than it did for the actual recording! (Better their time than mine.)

    Remember, if you DO take the project all the way to the final steps: For professionally printed graphics & replicated CDs (NOT duplicated CDrs), you need to build all that time & aggravation into the cost. (That's when you find out those $900 for 1000 CDs aren't really all that much of a bargain, AFTERall......)

    Hope that doesn't scare you off; it really does get better (and easier) every time you do it. Good luck with it, and I hope you get more projects like this one....could be the start of more lucrative work for you!
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I would like to add to what JoeH has said as we just went though a project that, although was very small, was a nightmare.

    The client, a harpist, wanted to release some of her material on CD. 100 CDs to be exact.

    We asked for the artwork in Photoshop flattened and the text in Word with the correct spellings and the correct punctuation. (We are a mastering and restoration operation and only do CDs for our clients when it is a short run and they are needed quickly) Our client instead provided an old photograph and some programs from the recitals that she wanted on the cover. We reluctantly did the scanning and typed in the information from the programs. She verbally approved (but did not sign for) the artwork and the cover so we did the run of CDs for her. When we gave her the CDs she started finding all kinds of problems with them including that her earrings were not as prominent as she would have liked and we had used the wrong accent on a piece of French music. She also did not like the color scheme and was upset that when we did the typing in of the program we put an asterisk in the wrong place. She also was upset that we typed in an extra space as had been done on the original program and that we "did not catch the typo". OK so there is no signed document and we agreed, after much discussion, to redo the job for her. We did all the corrections she requested, presented the material to her, and now there are about 20 more corrections that she wants done including making the photograph of her look better (I am NOT a graphic artist nor do I want to be and I don't retouch old photographs so this was not something I feel at all comfortable with) We have about 5 hours of time in on this project that we have not charged her for and I am afraid that this is going to go on for a long long time.

    In a effort to help her we violated our own rules about artwork and importing of information from a known document. We are simply paying the price for being nice.

    This has somewhat soured my outlook on helping clients and from now on we are going to only do the printing and the duplication of the CDs. If the client wants a cover designed they can go to a local graphic artist and have them do the work and provide it to us as a flattened Photoshop document.

    SOME WORDS OF ADVICE: Get all appovals in writing and make sure you are completely correct BEFORE committing to a duplication run.

    I too second Oasis CD Manufacturing and Disc Makers as two companies that have their act together.

    There are many companies that have ads in the back of Mix or EQ magazines that promise 99 cent CDs but when you read the fine print you realize that that is only a small part of the total expense and you will be billed for many other things including shipping and handling and any graphic films will be at your expense so the 99 cents soon goes to $3.00 or more and then you are getting closer to what the folks at Oasis and Disk Makers are charging. Be a smart shopper. There are good deals out there you just have to find them. Best of luck.

    [On a related note one of my former students, who is working in Nashville, was doing some mastering for a client and did not catch a change order for the song order so the graphics and the CD were not in the same order. He is now the proud owner of 2000 wrong song order CDs and the whole duplication job had to be redone at his expense] Whoops...
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Wow, Tom; that's a helluva tale. (Makes me shudder just listening to it: Been there, done that, DONT want to go through it again, if I can help it...)

    I can't help but chuckle at the way some folks handle this. I have one client who early on would REALLY get po'd at typos in the proofs I sent him. He would acidly point out "THE TYPOS" in very imperious emails back to me. One day I finally cleared it up for him and said: "Yes, there WILL be typos, we are NOT perfect, that is why YOU get the first draft for approval. Proof-reading is YOUR job, unless you want us to hire you a proof-reader." A light bulb seemed to go on over his head, and we've never had a problem since; he knows the drill now and realizes what his part of the process is.

    I mentioned a Jazz session remix in another post that we recently wrapped up. A final "Tweak" session we had with a client lasted 7 hrs. The last three of those hours were spent on importing pictures, MANUALLY typing in text (I had asked to have the song titles & composers already done in an MS Word document, but, NOoooooooo.....), and the best part of all: Using Google to find the correct names of the songs & of the composers he missed. He wasn't bothered by it at all. (And this was - of course - a rush job). But the time he blew by not being prepared - and could have had ready on his own ahead of time - was at least two hours or so.

    When I have a client that's paying by the hour, I make it clear to them what's left at the final stage - the Jewel Case & label design, unless they want to attempt it themselves. I try to at least get a mockup ahead of time. Some already know what they want, others are clueless. One client actually sketched it all out in pencil on a cocktail napkin. Many just can't visualize it until they sit down with you and beging seeing it come to life for real on the screen. THat's all well and good if they're paying you for it, or if you've got a package deal that you can live with.

    I stress that they can do any route they want, as long as they know the costs involved with their time vs. mine.

    Near the end of the 3 hrs of design work with the Jazz client, I chuckled out loud and said: "And all this time I thought I was going to be a SOUND engineer." The client took the point well - he knew that one has to spend almost as much time on the typing, artwork & design as one does on the final mastering stage. Most forget that part, and it's a huge stumbling block at the final lap. IMHO, it's part of what separates the pro's from the hobbyists.

    I would love to be able to say: "Screw it, take it somewhere else to be designed & setup." But now that I have templates and enough basic skills to get around quickly, I don't risk having them go elsewhere. In today's competitive market, it's just too risky letting the work go out to someone else - they may just begin offering audio work to go along with it.

    To serve is to be served (I think that's a Zen thing), and helping your clients put on a good "face" for the finished product is the icing on the cake, IMHO.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    All good points.

    One of our clients came in and asked if we could do some down and dirty mastering for him plus get some names printed on 10 CDs in exchange for a little ad in his "magazine" Since he is an old client who has been with us for years we agreed to do the "quick" mastering (basically assemble edit and burn) and the graphics.

    Well the mastering part went well and quickly but when we got to the graphics and printing he decided that he wanted more than the titles on the CD. He wanted a picture of himself (which I had to take with my digital camera) and a very detailed background plus the titles in a font we did not have in our computer but he had a friend who had a friend who had the font. So we sat and did the graphics...three hours later he was satisfied and we printed and burned 10 copies for him.

    He turned to me after I had handed him the CDs and said could I get 100 more copies of this for free as part of the bargin and I replied NO.

    I have not seen him, the ad in his magazine or any more work from him since that time.

    Once in a while I don't mind helping people out with some "value added services" but he was asking too much especially since his "magazine" is aimed at a different target audience than normally would use our services.

    Oh well live and learn.
  7. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    I send all my work to Klarity Multimedia in North Vasselboro ME. They are a small company that got their start in cassette duplication and have partnered with a larger company that does the glass mastering and pressing.

    Why them, you ask? They were originally referred to me by George Blood (he does the Philly Orch and others) who had many negative experiences until he found them. He says he has not had a problem since them. I cannot overstate how pleased I am with the quality of their printing and timely delivery.

    They accept DDP 2.0 CD-Rs as well as "PMCD"s. They include the UPC and also will list the CD for no charge on their internet shopping site-- similar to CD Baby. I use a graphic designer rather than their in-house designer.

    When I call I get to talk to the president of the company (not a sales rep), and he always returns my calls. I have never experienced customer service like this with any other company.

    Are they the cheapest? No. Are they the most expensive? No. But they have come through for me even when the client held things up.

    Call Gary Coull at 888-387-9273. You won't find nicer people with whom to do business.

  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Wow! Lots of information.

    Tom, that's a dreadful story that I can share with you ALL too well.

    Personally, we do a lot of graphic design work in-house including full-service photography. (My wife's a photographer with multiple Minolta Maxxum 7s and a Maxxum 7 Digital and a built-in photo studio in our house.) Needless to say, when you do everything in-house from recording, editing, mastering, graphic desing, artistic layout, photo, printing, burning, cutting and packaging - there's bound to be something people don't like.

    Moral of the story - always have 'em sign on the proof. But, it sounds like you usually do that anyway - or probably always do now.

    I would like to second the nomination for Oasis. These guys are fantastic. In every case though, just be sure you have your mechanical licenses in line. You don't want a project held up for months do to something silly like paperwork.

  9. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I've had too many bad experiences with clients on that so I have made a conscious decission not to organize replication. I will submit DDP images, but nothing else. I use a couple of places.

    The first is local to me here in LA- a broker called CDS ( They deal with JVC with the K-process of replication and Sonopress. Both replication houses have given me top notch results. They also have a resident graphics dept. so clients that are not so "graphics savy" can work with them to get their CDs looking good. They have saved my clients butts more times that I can count.

    The other company I use is Healey Disc in Canada. The prices there are hard to beat, they can take DDP images and they do very nice work. I don't use them as much, though, because the process is a bit more difficult because of the distance (especially when it comes to things like the graphics approval process).

  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    All good points.

    We tried to shy away from replication but a lot of people today want everything they do YESTERDAY and so we started doing some limited duplication for clients on an "as needed" basis. I am a mastering engineer and can get around in Photoshop but don't consider myself a graphics person and the more we get into the duplication process I am questioning if this was a wise idea to do this at all. We literally get graphics in on pieces of scrap paper, on the back of napkins and in computer formats dating back to 5.25" floppies and before. We also get people who want us to lift graphics off other people's albums or off the web which we refuse to do. They also have grandiose schemes including one person who wanted his signature in 24 caret gold on the CDs over a jet black background. Neat idea expensive to do correctly.

    The actual duplication and mastering are somewhat easy. It is the graphics that are driving us CRAZY!.

  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    The actual duplication and mastering are somewhat easy. It is the graphics that are driving us CRAZY!.

    Maybe you've got to hire a sub with some visual graphics chops, eh Tom? ;-) Seriously, I know what you can spend about as much time on the jewel case and setup as you'd do on the mastering.

    For complicated stuff, I try to get them to at least back off a bit from the more grandiose things. (If they've going really crazy with printing on disc with many colors & tons of teeny tiny text, then its' time to call in the graphics folks at the replication company, and have THEM deal with it...for a fee, of course.)

    I'm glad to read where others go for replication (adding them all to my rolodex). I think the general consensus however is that pre-production on the client's part really saves everyone time and aggravation.
  12. jazzbutcher

    jazzbutcher Guest

    CD Replication

    Wow...that's a lot of info to process...

    Thanks, everyone, that's a wealth of information...Although I think you've succeeded in instilling a healthy fear of dealing with graphics and client approval!!! I hear ya, get it in writing....message understood.

    As I said, I'm not looking to be responsible for this end of a recording project, but if the client does not have the experience, time or skills to get a mastered CD duplicated, then I figure I had best help them out, otherwise they will not have a finished product to sell.

    But I guess the lessons to take away here are to get graphics approval in person and in writing and to make sure that the prices quoted to the client include enough of a 'buffer' to account for the time I will have to spend on replication/graphics issues if things go south.

    I guess I will contact the various places you all have suggested and see what the vibe is. I'm most familar with Oasis and Discmakers, as a number of friends have dealt with them directly for their bands, but I'm more inclined to deal with a smaller company where (hopefully) my project will not get lost in all the noise of other customers.

    Any suggestions for what to use as a rule of thumb for estimating replication/graphics costs to the client once I know how much the manufacturing company will charge?

    thanks again,

  13. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    Re: CD Replication

    Klarity is currently $1.50 ea for a 1000--- 4pg insert (fr & r 4-color), color traycard, 3 PMS colors on the CD, black tray, UPC, shrinkwrap, websales.

  14. jazzbutcher

    jazzbutcher Guest

    Re: CD Replication

    Rich, thanks for the pricing info -- I guess I was trying to ask the question "What percentage over xxxx's pricing quote do you reccomend quoting your client to account for the time/energy/trouble of dealing with them being fussy about the graphics/text and getting approval, etc". Since previous messages made it sound so harrowing, I was curious if folks padded their quotes a little to account for the 'hassle factor'.

    thanks again,

  15. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I was curious if folks padded their quotes a little to account for the 'hassle factor'.

    You betcha! In a perfect world, anyway. :wink: Remember Murphy's law coupled with the tripod rule.

    1. Nothing is as easy as it looks.
    2. Everything takes longer than you think it will.
    3. Anything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.
    4. Interchangable parts wont. (There are many more corollaries to Murphy's Law, I can't remember them all right now...)

    Or, imagine three legs of a tripod: Speed, Quality, Low Cost. You can only give your client two, in any combination.

    Always plan as much as you can to protect your time, or be prepared to take it on the chin. (That also may be part of keeping the client & sweetening the deal. These days, it's all fair game to keep the cash flow going.)

    As much as it may hurt you if they go elsewhere (because your standards or your prices are too high), there may come a time when they learn the hard way and realize what you DO offer, and that's a very sweet moment indeed. After they've gone off on their own, done it the hard way, and never really "better, cheaper, faster" - WHATEVER - if they're honest with themselves, they may just view you in a whole new light as someone who was right all along.

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