The Economics of Producing Your Own CD

May 9th, 2013
free_raisins, music
My band recently made a CD. Before doing that it would have been useful to read someone else's account of it to know roughly what the costs are like. Not finding one, we just went ahead and did it with estimates, but I thought other people might find our numbers useful.

This was a live CD, so getting the raw material was free except for equipment. We made multitrack recordings of ourselves at seven consecutive dances using a splitter snake and a StudioLive 16.4.2. The StudioLive is expensive and bulky; if we were doing this now we'd just use my VSL1818 (~$400 new).

We had about eight times more recorded than we needed, so we needed to choose just the best tracks. This again was free, except we needed to spend a long time listening. But hey; we do that anyway.

Going from rough recordings to CD-ready tracks was the first task we couldn't share. Luckily one of our band members is a recording engineer. She spent about 30 hours creating the final stereo recordings, which she billed at $1320.

We printed 500 copies via groovehouse for $659.47. This included the CDs, cardboard sleves, a front-cover stamp, and a stamp pad. The track listing stamp was smaller, so we bought it separately, for $24.60. Julia made some of the designs, I made the rest, all we counted as free. Physical costs per cd were $1.37.

Most of the tunes on the CD were traditional tunes that are out of copyright. Of the rest, two were written by band members and two were written by other people. [1] The going rate (which might be set by law?) is apparently 9.5 cents per copy, so reimbursing Keith Murphy for "On the Danforth" and Paul Gitliz for "Flying Home to Shelly" cost $95.

Total costs are:

$1320 mixing, production
$684.07 CD printing and cases
$95 copyrights
$2099.07 total
We're selling the CDs for $10/each, so we break even at 210 CDs. As of 2013-05-09, five months in, we've sold 127.

We're also selling electronically on bandcamp. So far we've only sold four this way; most of the time people want to buy at our dances.

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