Music CD and Original Artwork for Duplication & Packaging
With there being so many different apps and free image libraries available online, mostly for free, inevitably the DIY CD artwork is the approach or option most bands and musicians appear to be leaning towards.
Inherently this also assumes that originality may be stifled….
What do you think?
Table of Contents
In today’s music world, digital distribution makes it less necessary to produce a physical CD, but moreover, to produce a visual presentation that can translate in both digital and physical realms.
Do we still need physical music CDs and artwork packaging?
In the past, one of the many roadblocks for many independent musicians attempting to professionally put out their completed music for the first time, was the expenditure involved with the CD duplication of their music tracks, as well as producing the CD artwork and packaging.
And with that came the compromise between going the full length and hiring a designer, or cutting corners?
Of course, if your music is undoubtedly of high quality and desirable to its audience, it may well speak for itself. However, in most cases alongside competition, it goes without saying that, a well presented music package adds value in a number of both practical and emotional ways that help make your work more memorable.
However, in today’s digital world, distributing your music doesn’t necessarily mean producing physical CDs, but to produce a visual component that can translate in both realms in order to tell your story through the many different forms of content.
What are the music CD alternatives?
Today, if you are just starting out, you may not see the need for physical CDs. Besides, the easiest and more affordable option is to NOT produce a physical CD at all, and use a digital store or streaming service.
However if you feel that you must provide you fans with something they can physically hold in their hands…
…instead, produce a branded thumb drive with your music…
…you see, judging by the way things are going, I’m not quite sure that the majority of people who buy music today, actually care too much about physical CDs and music packaging…
Maybe you can share your thoughts on the subject below.
I’m guessing that you may already know about this method. If not, then yes, you can create your own branded thumb drive with your logo and, or, other imagery for distributing your music.
So, whilst there are alternatives to physical CDs. The ultimate decision makers however, will be your fans.
Which is why you might still want to learn a little more about the process involved with producing a physical CD and the cover artwork.
So , here is an overview of what you need to know.
1. Starting the process with the CD cover artwork
Now, if you are on route to following conventional practice, you may need to hire a graphic designer to produce the artwork for you.
However, today there are so many of us that are pretty adept at carrying out such tasks ourselves. If this is you, all you’ll need to get started is a CD sleeve template, like the example provided below. You will need to use software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or, any of the Affinity suite of software, and namely, Affinity Photo if you want a good ‘Photoshop’ alternative. (see my software folder)
Things to consider when preparing original cd cover artwork
There are a number of different CD packaging formats. The example above is the front and back from Jewel Case Sleeve.
Once you have your album sleeve artwork prepared for print and packaging. You should bear in mind that your album represents a collection of normally up to 10 or more individual music tracks.
If you decide to release your album tracks as singles, this can result in having to produce up to 9 or more additional artwork covers for each of the individual music tracks. Which, if you’re talking about printing, can be a costly exercise. And then of course you’ll need to produce the cd copies.
My guess is, not many people use this route nowadays, so please correct me if you happen to be one of the people who do. Especially if you have a great reason why physical CDs are still a valid medium.
Music Digital Store and Streaming Services.
With the more up-to-date strategies available, such as digital stores and streaming services, I’m talking about the likes of Apple Music and Spotify. For which I might add, you will be required to adhere to specific rules before your artwork is even accepted. So don’t think that that this option is all plain sailing.
You will also need to provide suitable audio files with metadata i.e. album title, track titles, artist names, release date, etc.
CD Artwork Pricing; Hire or Do It Yourself?
As well as requiring a number of steps, the cost of producing artwork can vary. For example, once you have a concept for your cover you can proceed with realising your idea by hiring some help.
Artwork Hiring - List
Hire a creative graphic designer to take care of the whole process for you. Preferably one with creative skills such as illustration and photography.
Typically a graphic designer will be able to come up with a few ideas that may require the commissioning of a photographer or illustrator, which can add a significant amount to the overall costs.
A creative designer will likely be able to produce everything in-house.
Expect to pay a minimum of £350 USD upwards
The chances are you probably already have your band photos, or portrait photos at the ready. A little cliché I know, but this may be the most convenient approach for you if you don’t have any photographer friends.
If you do have a friend photographer, the offer of a portfolio opportunity might help with negotiations. If not, the cost of hiring a photographer will be totally dependent on the fees the photographer charges or agrees to charge in your specific case.
Allow a minimum of $350.00 for photography
Similar to hiring a photographer, the cost of hiring an illustrator is dependant on the fees the artist charges. Alternatively, hire a professional graphic designer from services like: AirGigs
Expect to pay a minimum of £150 USD upwards
Use your own skills to prepare your artwork. However, bear in mind that as you are likely to be providing artwork for streaming services your artwork should accommodate the following size and format: 3000 x 3000 (pixels) and 300 DPI JPG files
Try GraphicSprings’ design software to create your CD cover; Graphic Spring
If you are using your own skills to produce a physical cd remember to consider the necessary requirements for also having your artwork approved by the streaming services and Apple Music.
DIY CD artwork software options.
Who are we kidding, getting cd artwork done these days is as easy as pie. Just grab a free image, add some text and go…
…well, sort of. However, we’re not here to discuss your design skills today, so I’m assuming that you have that one under wraps.
Anyway, with there being so many different apps and image libraries available online, mostly for free, inevitably this is the approach or option many young bands and musician appear to be leaning towards.
So, just to feed your DIY appetite, the following are a few handpicked resources for you to try out before deciding which route is best for you.
Artwork Software - List
Use GraphicSprings’ design software to create a numerous items. Design your own logo and other brand assets with ease: Graphic Spring
2. How much should you expect to spend on CD duplication these days?
Okay, let’s assume that we are focusing on producing a packaged CD album cover anyway. We can deal with music streaming services and digital stores later. The first thing we’ll want to determine, is the number of CDs we need and how much they will cost. However we do know (as of date of writing) you can expect to pay a net of around $430.00 for a 1000 duplicates.
However, If you have a high demand or use for CDs, you might be better off buying your own duplicator for the long term?
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