Discmakers: The Review.

Entertainment, Music, Services, Useful Things by Chris Coyier

I just went through the process of releasing a CD with a band. My head is still spinning from all of the complexities we came across. It could have been much worse though, had it not been for a couple of key factors. For one, one of our members is a professor at state school up here and he teaches audio. That meant free studio time and free mixing and mastering. Not only was it a huge money saver, but the work was being done by someone we already trusted. Two, I did all the design work for it. This was another huge money saver, but also a time saver. Since design is what I do for a living, I was able to design everything quickly, know that everything was set up properly for prepress, and know that all the images used were free of copyright. Three, we used Discmakers.

None of us had ever had a CD professionally reproduced before (even the professor), so just based on a few vague recommendations from other bands we chose Discmakers. Everything was up in the air. We knew we wanted a lot of them, at least a few hundred. We knew we wanted the typical setup: a jewel case, a printed CD, a tray-card, shrink-wrapped with a barcode. Browsing around on their site a bit, we found a suitable package: 1000 CD’s in jewel-cases with an 8 page folding booklet for $1,590. We signed up for an account and we were on our way. As it turns out, they have design templates that all artwork needs to be submitted in. I downloaded those and placed our artwork in them. They were quite straightforward and helpful.

We were assigned a project manager when we signed up. Naturally, we had a bunch of questions so we called her up right away. Our biggest snag was turn-around. We were about two-weeks behind St. Patrick’s Day and we were really hoping to have a CD release party over that weekend. Their normal turn around is two-weeks, but they don’t guarantee it. Lucky for us, for an additional $200, they can expedite production, overnight the product, and throw in the overs. Then she explained to us their web distribution package, a $39 upgrade which I’ll explain later, and she also emailed me all the paperwork we needed. With all our options and tax, we were looking at a hair under $2,000, or 2 bucks a CD.

I was sitting in a sound booth listening to the final tracks being mastered as I was speaking with our project manager, so time-wise we were in good shape. We were able to get a final burn of our master finished that day while I was scrambling to get all the paperwork read, understood and filled out. Our final product was a big padded envelope with all the paperwork, 2 copies of the master, a CD with all the artwork, and some various notes I included about payment, shipping, and the artwork. We missed the post office deadline that day, but sent it out directly the next morning.

We were able to track the progress of the production of our CD through their website. They even have an online proofing system for approving artwork. Everything went along smoothly and maybe a week later a delivery guy showed up with eleven giant boxes loaded with discs. Woohoo! If this was everything that Discmakers did, I would still be very pleased. Our CD looks great, they delivered it on time, their staff was friendly and helpful, their website was useful and well organized, and their prices were low.

What’s so extra-cool about Discmakers is what they do after the CD is produced. With their web distribution package and about zero effort this is what you get:

  • Your tracks listed on DigStation. DigStation is an online music retailer for Indie Bands. They sell tracks for $0.99 and albums for $9.99 – you get $0.70 a track or $7.00 an album. Not bad, especially for doing absolutely nothing.
  • Your album for sale at CD Baby. Discmakers actually sends them some physical CD’s and CD Baby creates a page for you and sells your physical CD. All the sudden you have an online store for your album without having to deal with inventory or shipping or any of of that. They provide tools for integrating their store right on your own site.
  • Your tracks for sale at every online music retailer ever. Once you are set up at CD Baby, they allow you to opt-in and opt-out of making your songs available to all kinds of online music retailers like iTunes, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, MSN Music, and about two dozen others you’ve never heard of.
  • Your album registered with Gracenote CDDB. Anybody popping it into a computer at home will pick up all the track names automatically.

  • Your barcode registered with SoundScan. Should you sell your album in retail stores, those sales will be credited to you.
  • A critique of your album through TAXI.
  • A free subscription to SonicBids, where you can have your EPK (Electronic Press Kit). Sonic Bids is the defacto standard for press kits.

I would have to say I’m pretty impressed.


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