Recording, CD Duplication and Promotion for the DIY Artist

By: lazysubmit

As an unsigned artist, most of your time will probably be spent chasing that elusive recording contract which (you hope) will propel you to fame and fortune. But there are artists out there who are making a living, selling their music and enjoying a good public profile without ever having signed on the dotted line. Although a record deal is, for many, the most logical first step to a career as a recording artist, it is possible to go it alone. And there can be excellent rewards for those with the motivation and business sense to do so.

One immediate advantage of selling your music independently is that you retain complete creative control. You don't have to put up with tone-deaf executives in suits telling you your sound is "not commercial enough". Even better than that, the same tone-deaf executives will not be dipping their fingers into your hard-earned funds. With many signed artists getting less than a tenth of the revenue from their record sales, the DIY artist can sell half as many records, but still earn twice as much cash!

So what does a record company do that you can't? Well, for starters, they will pay for a studio and a producer to record your music. Probably a very expensive studio, and a producer on a six-figure salary. Except they're not really paying for it - you are! Advances for recording costs are deductible from future earnings, meaning you don't get a penny until you've paid off your costs. So before you consider getting yourself thousands of pounds into debt with a major label, consider the fact that you can produce a CD that is ready for duplication using relatively cheap equipment that you can buy yourself. There are plenty of people out there making hit records with nothing more than a PC and a pair of relatively cheap monitor speakers. Get your own technical skills up to scratch and there's no reason why you can't be one of them.

OK, so once the CD is recorded, what next? You need a record label to arrange for the manufacturing, right? Well, no, not really. There are plenty of CD duplication companies out there that you can contact directly, and some of them can produce shop-quality discs for surprisingly low prices. Companies such as Discworks (http://www.samplez.co.uk) will produce CDs for as little as 60p a go, even on short runs of 100 or so. If you want to push boat out and order a few thousand, you could end up paying as little as 25-30p a disc - not a bad markup if you're selling your albums for a tenner! Most CD duplication companies can also arrange to design and produce your artwork for you, master your music to a commercial standard, and in some cases even help you to arrange distribution. It's definitely worth thinking about contacting one of these companies before you sign your soul away to a major label.

So, now you've got your CD duplication sorted, what's next? Well, if you haven't already sorted out some distribution through a CD duplication company, you need to get your discs in the shops. You can try approaching a distribution company directly: if they think they can shift a few of your CDs they might be able to offer you a good deal. Or you can keep it DIY, and distribute it yourselves to local shops (most will accept CDs on a sale-or-return agreement)and over the internet. A lot of people buy CDs via mail order on the web, and there's also the download market to capitalize on. There are several sites offering to host paid download services for unsigned bands. You can sell a surprising amount of music without having your CDs on the shelves of every Virgin Megastore or HMV in the country.

So there it is, you can do your own recording, source your own CD duplication and distribute your own music. What's left for a record company to do that you can't? Ah, of course...marketing. Major labels have multi-million pound advertising and PR budgets. You don't. So how could you ever hope to reach as many people as they can? Well, the short answer is, you can't. But with the internet (and particularly networking sites like myspace), your live shows, a decent mailing list (collect email addresses from your fans at every available opportunity!) and some carefully worded-press releases, you can generate a reasonably effective publicity network for next-to-nothing. All it needs to cost is a bit of your time.

So there you have it. If you want to succeed independently, the means are there for you to do so. With the present availability of low cost recording equipment, cheap CD duplication, and the internet for DIY promotion and distribution, everything you need is readily available. Of course, it's not quite as easy as it sounds: DIY success requires a lot of drive and a good business head, as well as lots of hours of hard graft. But, do it well and you could reap some great rewards.

There's just one final thing to bear in mind: you don't have to choose between going it alone or signing a deal with a label. It's not a question of one or the other. Anyone wanting to succeed in the music business should try the DIY approach, even if the ultimate aim is to get signed. Why? Well, because a band who is selling records by themselves is a far more attractive prospect for a label than one who's totally unknown. If you can show your future record company that you are doing well enough without them, that's PROOF that your music sells. And that means less risk and more profit for them, and therefore the potential for a better deal, with better contract terms, for you!

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