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What You Need To Know When Manufacturing Your Compact Disc

You’ve made a CD, now you need to get it manufactured. Who do you trust with your precious project? Choosing a CD manufacturer and getting a good deal can be frustrating and confusing. Here are some tips to help you "do your homework" and get the best deal.

You can find many audio manufacturers advertised in most music related magazines, or on the internet. Ask your studio who they recommend. Beware! There are many "fly by night" companies out there throwing around "low" pricing. The lowest price doesn’t always mean the best overall deal. Things like quality, turn-time and most of all professional and prompt service should influence your decision. Due to the number of variables involved, pricing can sometimes be confusing. Some manufacturers have all-inclusive "package" deals. A lot of times these are economical but may not fit the needs of your project. Ask about any "hidden" charges like shipping, or fill deviation. This market is very competitive so most manufacturers are willing to deal. Send a written quote from one company to another and ask if they can beat the price. ALWAYS get a written price quote before you begin the order.

Was the sales rep professional and did they sound genuinely interested in your project? What experience does the company have? Have you seen there ads in respected magazines and internet sites? You’ve got to know that a company is well established and respected and you’ve got to have trust in their services before you hand over your precious master!

A manufacturer is going to ask questions about quantity, packaging, inserts and artwork (see below) in order to get you an accurate quote. Make sure you have the proper information available prior to shopping around.

QUANTITY – Most companies will manufacture as low as 300 units with price breaks at 500, 1000, 2000, etc. My experience is that 1000 units is where the price begins to be the most economical. For example: My company sells 500 packaged CDS at $750.00 while 1000 is only $440.00 more. Plus, the industry standard for printing CD inserts is a 1000 minimum, so even if you manufacture less CDS, you still have to pay for art, film and print of 1000 inserts.

PACKAGING – Unless you are doing a very large quantity, a standard jewel box with insert and wrap is the most economical and popular packaging. If you are not concerned with "fancy" packaging you can save some money by not including a printed insert and package the CDs in a paper or cardboard sleeve.

INSERTS – If you are packaging in a standard jewel box, there are several insert sizes to choose. Unless you have an unusual amount of images and text (such as lyrics) to include in your artwork, I would suggest a 4 panel CD insert. A 4 panel insert is one page folded, (like a birthday card), plenty of room for several graphics and a good amount of text. CD inserts always come with a "traycard"; the insert that sets in the back of the jewel box. To save money, use a 4/1 print. (Outside color, inside B&W). Make sure you know the size of your booklet and the colors before calling for quotes. You’ll need to decide the number of colors you want to imprint on the actual CD itself. 2 colors are standard for most manufacturers, and I’ve found are usually sufficient for an attractive design.

ARTWORK – This is the most confusing aspect of CD manufacturing so do your homework before you begin the project. There are 3 steps to producing a finished CD or Cassette insert: 1)art design, 2) film output and 3) printing. Most manufacturers can do all 3 steps for you or you can provide any of the appropriate materials directly to the manufacturer. IMPORTANT! If providing your own art materials, make certain that you follow the manufacturer’s exact specifications.

1. Art work design - This is taking your photos, ideas, credits, lyrics, concepts, etc. and designing them (usually using a computer graphics program) to the exact specifications of a CD/cassette insert. Unless you or someone you know has experience designing specifically for CD inserts, I would strongly advise that you let the manufacturer’s experienced graphic art department design the project for you.

2. Film and color proofs - Film negative and color proofs are generated and used to make the plates for printing. BE CAREFUL: Some manufacturers quotes do not include film or assume you are supplying film. Make sure you get a film price if you need this service.

2. Printing - Most CD printers use the industry standard CMYK, 4 color process printing method, and "gang" several projects together to help cut costs.

TURN TIME – Most CD jobs can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 6 weeks depending on what services are needed and manufacturer work load. (October – December is traditionally a busy time for audio manufacturers due to Christmas products.) Beware of manufacturers who "promise" a quick turn time just to get your business. I would trust a manufacturer who gives you "realistic" time estimates.

Finally, when choosing a manufacturer, do your homework but also go with your instinct. There are many companies out there that can give you a low price while still providing excellent, quality, service and turn time but you’ve got to do your part. One day you’ll be signed and someone else will be handling all this for you anyway, but until then, make sure you do your part to have all the proper information together then start making some calls! Good luck!

Jim Cocke of Crystal Clear Sound - The country's fastest growing CD and cassette manufacturer. Crystal Clear Sound can do it all! CD, CD Rom and CD-R replication, digital bin cassette duplication, art design, insert printing, digital mastering and editing, competitive, low prices, prompt professional service, unsurpassed quality, trusted experience for over 30 years!


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