“Don’t spend a fortune on your first recording – you probably won’t make the money back, because you’ll end up giving most of them away as promo. Work with people that like the music you play if possible. Make sure you know the songs before you go into the recording studio – time is money. Recording can make or break relationships in a band, as you’ll soon figure out who’s not playing well or who doesn’t know their parts when you’re all stuck in a room for two days! And if you want your recording played on the radio, get it mastered professionally. So many bands spend a fortune on recording and run out of money for mastering, and mastering can make or break a recording.”
Sarah Blaby, Remake Remodel

It is very easy to make CDs of your recordings. Many people can now burn individual discs at home on their computer or on domestic CD recorders. For demo purposes, the quality of these discs is no problem and for a very limited quantity they’re very cost-effective. For something a little more professional there are many places offering limited runs of 100 or more discs with printed labels and cases. These are also very cost-effective for demos. These are CDR discs.

If you wish to produce commercial quality CDs to sell at gigs, from your website or through independent retailers, you will need to have your CD manufactured from a ‘glass master’ and have a run of at least 500 made. Often CD manufacturers do a minimum first run of 1,000 copies.

Here’s a checklist of how to budget your manufacturing once you have your master recording: ARTWORK: Cost of person to do artwork to the manufacturer’s specification. How many pages in the booklet? How many colours in printing and on CD? Back cover artwork, one or two sided if tray is clear?

PACKAGING: Cost of CD jewel cases and trays. Other types of covers (for example, digipack).
MASTERING: Cost of glass mastering.
MANUFACTURING: How many discs at how much per disc? The more discs, the cheaper per unit.
ASSEMBLY: Cost for manufacturer to put
CDs in cases – is it cheaper for you to do it?
GST: Don’t forget to include this.

You have to be sensible with the quantities you manufacture. Although it is cheaper per CD to have more done initially, you don’t want to be stuck with boxes of unused CDs. Once you have done the first run you can have new copies manufactured quite quickly without the initial set-up costs.

Your first batch of CDs will include the ones you use to send to media for reviews, radio stations or in your demo packages to record companies, managers, booking agents and publishers. The rest you can sell.

While it’s possible to distribute your own CDs once they’re manufactured, it’s a very hard job to get them into retail outlets in your home town, let alone around the country. This is a job done best by major record companies but is also available through a number of independent distributors.


Distributors can work on many levels. They can like your demo and want to sign you like a record company would, offering to pay for your manufacturing and even some money towards promoting the release. They rarely pay for recording. For their services they’ll want a distribution fee, usually around 25 to 30 per cent of wholesale cost and maybe even an option on your future releases. As with all contracts, this is very flexible and negotiable.

The most common form of P & D (Pressing & Distribution) deal sees a distributor or record company manufacturing your CD and getting it into shops. You will need to have your CD recorded and ready to go, and show the distributor/company that you’re actively working to promote your act and your new release. It’s rare your distributor will cover your marketing and promotion costs, so you will only get yourselves a P & D deal if they see some return for their investment. This means doing gigs, getting reviews and interviews in the press, having your music played on radio and advertising your gigs and CD. Distributors don’t have the same resources as record companies. They need to see you can promote your music so they can get it into shops and sell it.

The advantage to you is that you will make more money on a CD sold by a distributor than you will on a CD sold by a major label. You will also own the copyright on your music and have the freedom to take it to another company in the future if you want.

If you sell CDs yourself you can take them to some independent retailers who may take a few if you are playing gigs, promoting yourself in the press or getting some airplay. You can offer them on consignment, which means you give the CDs to the store and have them sign a receipt for an amount per copy. When you come back in a few weeks they pay you for copies sold or return copies not sold. Make sure they know how to contact you if they sell out and need more stock.

CDs can be easily sold at gigs, at the door or from the front of stage (with permission from the venue). This will give you the greatest profit per disc as there is no distribution fee or retail margin. Of course, you do have to account for all CDs sold and factor in the GST payable on each disc.

The other way to distribute your disc is via the internet. You can sell them off your own site and have links to other artists or like-minded sites. You can offer a downloadable sample of your music and the ability for people to purchase the discs. You need to have an order form on the site which people can print out and post with a money order or cheque, or you can offer online sales by setting up a credit card facility. Ask your bank about this. This credit card facility can also be used at gigs.

If selling online or by mail order you need to factor the cost of packaging and postage locally and over-seas into your selling price.

  • Deciding on a form of manufacturing
  • Budgeting the manufacturing of your CD
  • Deciding how you want to distribute your CD


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