Want to work with independent music producer, solo artist or part of a group that has been making the music for the masses, but don’t know what step to take in order? You can have your music selling on CD and in stores, well read on and I will let you know the best way to achieve your goals. What’s the point of making all this music, but still can’t get the deal with a record company to enable you to move to the next level and have your music selling in stores? Where should I start, what should I be doing, how can I have it looking like those CD’s I see in the store, how can I get it in the stores, these are a few of the questions you might be asking yourself.

This post is designed to help you overcome what may seem a daunting task, of getting your music on a CD that can sell in stores. Over the past decade and more we have seen the rise of digital music, what I mean by this is the recording of music has moved away from Analogue recording as we know it; this is not to say Analogue is dead in the water as this is not the case, it is still used and preferred by some. But there’s no getting away from the fact that digital is now the preferred choice for many as you may or not already know. With the rise of the digital revolution, we no longer need to be experienced musicians to make music digitally or require the big recording studio’s with heavy financial costs, in fact, it has opened the door to all those that wish to use it. You can record almost anywhere within reason with the use of a decent computer, along with a good software package of your choice. With your computer you are not limited to where you can use it, you could be at home tonight, at a friend’s tomorrow or even on holiday somewhere, you can still make the beats. Can you imagine having an orchestra in your bedroom, no I didn’t think so?

Having years of experience in music distribution, I always keep getting asked, what’s the best way to get my music production out in stores without significant backing, or being signed by a record company. So you decided on making a music production but not sure what to do. Well your first step should be to have your completed music recording(s) mixed, the reason being I’m sure you want your record to sound as you intended, this is something that you can do yourself if you are competent enough with mixing music recordings. You would need the correct software package for this, and you will find there are dozens to choose from; it would be a good idea to do some research on which package is best for you. Another option would be for you to use a professional studio that is used to doing this type of work, if you think you’re not competent to do it yourself, I will let the professional do it for you. Once you have your music recordings mixed you will need to have your music recordings mastered; the same process applies as with having your music recording mixed.

Your music recordings need to be mastered for it to be acceptable for the manufacturing process, once it has gone for manufacturing, you will not be able to change anything. It would require you to supply a new master. You now have your music recordings mixed and mastered and ready for production. You now need to think of presentation; how you want your artwork to look. You want your CD to look like other CD’s on the shelf if not better. You will have to get a design of some kind made which will represent your music; the key is a presentation. You have to think would you pick it up, a CD in a store just by seeing it on a shelf without listening to it? There are various options open to you, but the main thing is that it looks good or stands out from the rest of CDs on the shelf. There are dozens of artwork packages available for creating CD artwork, ranging from the basic to the professional package for doing all sorts of artwork and graphic designs; but you may not want to do this yourself. You can always let the professional graphic designer do it for you, in which case you should be on hand to direct your graphic designer as to what sort of job you want to be done.

You should have in mind the way it should look, and make sure it’s what you want and not what your graphic designer wants, make sure you are happy with the finished product. There are a few things you need to include in your artwork, but by looking at other CD’s you should get an idea of how it needs to be presented. You will need to ensure that you have your music tracks details and any necessary credits in place as well as any contact details which you use. You will also need a registered barcode or UPC No: as this could save you money in the long term. A Barcode or UPC No: can be obtained online or through a good graphic designer or print shop; You will need to have your Barcode or UPC embedded into your artwork. You will also need a catalogue number which should be on the CD artwork and the body disc. Small note, if you send your CD to a distributor/wholesaler without a Barcode or UPC you will be charged per CD for this service, so best to do this at the artwork design stage if not, the Barcode or UPC will have to be stuck to outside of CD case.

This brings me to the manufacturing process which is pretty straightforward. Firstly you have to decide how many CD’s you want for your first production run, it may be a case that it is only for promotion first time around, but you should by now know your requirements. In my experience CD pressing plants to have a minimum amount you can press which is usually somewhere between 500 -1000 units, you may find some manufacturers will do less, so it’s just a ballpark figure. So unless you have pre-orders, I would be on the side of caution regarding this and do the minimum unless you require more.

Upon manufacturing your CD you will have to get artwork templates which pressing plant should supply you with before you send in your job, reason being the templates will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Once you have obtained your templates you will need to pass it to your graphic designer. The graphic designer will need to insert your artwork into templates obtained from manufacturer, also it will include CD body disc, bleed area for trimming the finished artwork and any other information you may need. Once you supply the manufacturer with all job parts and info, you should get a delivery date when the job will be completed. This should take between 1-3 weeks depending on how busy the manufacturer is at time of receiving your job, you should get your CD back all packaged with shrink wrapping and ready to sell. Now down to the distribution of your CD, well as you can imagine you have various outlets available you will have to do some research. You have places like Amazon, CD Baby, Super D, HMV to name a few which will distribute your CD, which brings me back to Barcodes or UPC. You can sell to significant outlets but without a Barcode or UPC you will be charged per CD to have these placed on your product which isn’t a bad thing if you are only selling a small quantity, but if you have a hit and are selling a lot of units this will eat into your profit, you don’t want to be paying for Barcode or UPC for every CD you sell do you? Didn’t think so when you can have all your CD’s with a Barcode or UPC for a fraction if you embed this at the artwork stage.

When selling to a distributor, you must remember you will get paid less than the actual selling price in store, the reason being the distributor will want to make money as well. Carry out some research on prices you will be charged for their service, and any hidden clauses you may not know about, as some distributors will charge a storage fee for the privilege of having your stock in their warehouse. If your CD is not a good seller it could be expensive in the long term having your CD’s sitting in a warehouse with not many sales. This brings me to promoting your CD tracks It is possible you may want to do a test with the market to find out if you have a possible hit or something that will sell enough units to make the project worth your while and to proceed with. You may want to do a promotional DJ mail out and see what reaction you get from DJ’s that cover your genre of music. This can be a good gauge as to whether there will be a buzz on your music, and it could indicate on how it will fair in the open market. Make a good press release package, present it well and attach a reaction form with your mail out so the recipient can give a fair assessment and honest opinion of your music. If you have music that will be for mainstream go to places that will play that sort of music, get to know the DJ’s they can make or break your project. If you have them on side you are in the right direction. You can use the social networking sites to promote your music Twitter, Facebook, Myspace are a few of the most popular sites at the moment, but this changes all the time. Make a video if possible which can easily be placed on youtube or similar video site, use the blogs site if you can and any of the music channels on TV. This will help as they are always looking for new material for their sites. You have music magazines and newspapers which you can put adverts and articles in, the possibilities are wide. Why not ask your family and friends what they think of your music, get as many opinions as possible. Also, if you can get any time on local or major radio stations then do so, not forgetting you have 1000’s of internet radio stations. If you can get details for them this is also another option.

Do you have a website? You should if you are serious about your music, you can use email to send out promo’s digitally, with this method I have used, shorten tracks to avoid piracy. The whole point is that you need as many people as possible hearing your music, it’s no use having distribution if no one knows about it, the more interest you can get the better your chance of it being a success. You have to remember that your distributor will not advertise your product unless you are signed to them in some sort of way. Well, that’s the guide for getting your music out there in the wide open market without the aid of the major companies.