R/E/P > Budget? Budget? We Don't Got No Steekin' Budjet

OK, The Album Is Done - Now What?


What's the next step after you come out of the studio and you have your finished album on a DAT or a CD-R?  Is it mastered?  That means that the levels of each song have been adjusted so they play right from the start of the album to the end of the album, the tonal balance has been adjusted to work well on almost any kind of player, and the levels have been maximized to where it'll compete nicely with any commercial CD without having to crank your stereo wide open just to even hear the damn thing.

Is the song order right? That can make or break a new album when you're dealing with a record company or a radio station.  Make sure that one of your most "radio friendly" songs is the first song on the album.  An 8 minute "masterpiece" as your first song is a sure fire way to bore the hell out of a radio programming director, A&R guy, or a reviewer.  Put your best foot forward.

Now that you've got all that right, the next decision is how many copies do you make to start with?  And that's a hard call.  Here are some things to think about that may make it a little easier to figure out the best quantity and the best duplicating process.

Has the group been together for a while, and do you have a pretty big following?  If the group has only been together a year, and you've only played a few clubs so far, there's no point in having a 1,000 CDs made.  It'll take a long time to get rid of that many CDs, and what happens if the band breaks up, or somebody leaves in the meantime?  

Make a few hundred CD-Rs with paper labels and sell those for now.  You can even buy imprinted burned CD-Rs for around a $1.75 each.  That means it looks like a regular CD on top (with full color graphics), but it's a CR-R (hand burned, not mass-produced).  You'll hafta supply the jewel cases (about 25 cents each), the booklets and tray cards, and put it together yourself, but you can make them as you need them - and save some money that way.

You can design your own tray cards and booklets on your computer and print them to your color printer as needed.  That way, you can put together just enough CDs right before a gig, and you don't have a lot of money tied up in printing costs.  You just make a guess as to how many CDs to bring to the gig, and your guesses will get better as you play more gigs.

When you get all those CD-Rs sold, you'll have enough money to pay for a 1,000 CD run with a finished package (if sales warrant it).  At the very least, it'll help pay for the recording session and the cost of the CD-Rs.  But it all depends on how many you sell - and how many you want to give away - and that's the hardest thing to explain to new groups.  Here's the basic rule to burn into your mind:  Don't give away your CDs!!  

Here's why:

First of all, it diminishes the value of the group ("Hey, they're so bad, they hafta give em away for free!").  There's a big difference between "freebies" and "giveaways".  There are some people who are entitled to "freebies", but not as many as you think.  You only give "freebies" to people who can help the group in some way.  Record companies, club owners, reviewers, radio stations, managers, and promoters get "freebies" - EVERYBODY ELSE PAYS!!

Hey, what about all the band members, and all their friends and family members that were promised records?  Simple answer: Screw 'em!!  Yeah, each of the band members should get a couple of albums from this first batch, but only a couple, not 10 (or more) each.  

Make Mom and Dad and Uncle Harry pay for the album, like everybody else.  Besides, they're the only people you know that can best afford to pay for it.  You SELL CDs to family and friends.  Unless Mom or Dad or Uncle Harry financed the recording sessions or this CD run, they pay, like everybody else.

If a friend or family member really insists on getting a free record, here's how you handle it.  You say, "Look, this first batch has to pay for itself so that we can pay for the big run of CDs.  You can have a free CD from the big run, but we need to sell all of this batch so that we can to finance the whole first big run.  None of the other band member's family or friends is getting them for free either."

If you have 200 CD-Rs made (for around $400, including jewel cases), give away 50, and sell the rest for $15 each, you'll still clear around $2,250 - more than enough to pay for a big run of CDs with all the trimmings.  And selling 150 CD-Rs (in which you only have $400 invested) is a lot easier task than getting 1,000 sold - and trying to get back a couple of grand - just to break even.

The final step is to make a list - of how many you've sold and when, and another list of who got freebies.  The "how many were sold" part is very important because it'll show you the rate of sales (how many sold in a given time period) and that'll tell you whether to make a big run next time, another small run, or consider a different career.

The freebie list gets followups; did ya like it?  do we get the job?  ya gonna sign us?  are we gonna be on the radio?  are you gonna print a review?  The answers you get here are also a good indicator of how many more copies you wanna make.

If you wanna be professional, you sell your product.  If you wanna do this as a hobby, great -  give them all away.  It's your choice.  I know you're proud of your album and want everybody to hear it "right now", but think ahead - now's the right time to start the band on the road to making money, and this is the first step you take.

John Ivan:
Right on Brother! Don't unnecessarily give stuff away!! I used to make this mistake in my home town regarding my engineering skills.I would go help bands get they're rigs together for live shows and man, they just don't view you the same way ever again.{ah,my 20's}.I would help folks on recording projects just because I liked them and/or they're tunes. { peace bro' it's like,I'll help man. money is the devil dude}.Don't do this. ever!! It took much longer for people to get the idea that I was trying to make a living and while they finally were willing to pay,it took to long to loose the "nice guy/push over" rep that I built for myself. Thankfully,I've always insisted on being paid for playing. If you don't show up front that you think your worth the money,people wont believe you are. tough lesson for me.


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