Choose quality over quantity for your next CD release

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How nice would it be to hand someone your CD without a disclaimer? One way to do that is to make the most of your budget and don’t overreach on your next CD release.

CD release
Finding the funds for your recording project is one of the first hurdles you have to cross when embarking on your next CD release. All too often, I’ll see an artist work to find the funding for her recording only to fail miserably at project management. Too many independent music artists are engrossed with recording a full length CD, so they focus on how to achieve that goal within their budget rather than making the most of the money they’ve raised. They choose quantity over quality.

Professionally, this is a poor choice.

My advice is to ask yourself one question: What’s your intention?

Do you want to be perceived as a professional artist, or do you want to record a vanity project? In other words, are you planning on selling (hopefully) large quantities of your CD, or are you recording this for your own personal benefit? If you intend to sell your music, you need to understand and recognize that you are competing with all your favorite artists, the ones who inspired you.

Quality stands out in a crowd. Your recording – and every song – has to be great or you will not rise above the crowd. Your mother and your friends might understand and look past the fact that your project sounds amateur. Consumers won’t. If the songs don’t blow people away and the record doesn’t sound amazing, it won’t sell. If consumers don’t buy your record, that means no one is listening to it.

If no one is listening to your CD, that basically means you have a vanity project. A vanity project, in this scenario, means it’s just for you, your friends, and your family – which is totally fine, unless your dream is to make a living making off your music.

Step 1: Reality check

It’s confusing to me to hear artists wax on about how they want to record albums like their heroes did, back when they “made the records they wanted to make.” However, the artists they speak of were on major labels with incredible infrastructure in all aspects of the record making process.

These artists wrote world-class songs, often with hit songwriters, and worked with world-class musicians – often not the same musicians in the band! Your musical heroes worked with professional engineers and producers and recorded in A-list studios.

So they “made the records they wanted to make” with a top-flight team of professionals who earned their livings making records – which, by the way, is a vastly different skill set than recording music.

Don’t you think this is an important fact to consider? Unless you have the proper skill set and an incredible in-home studio, if you want your project to be competitive at the highest levels, you will not be able to record everything in a home studio all by yourself.

The good news is, it is easier and less expensive than ever before to gain access to quality recording professionals and a pro studio.

Step 2: Choose quality over quantity

Being in the recording business, I constantly see artists set their projects up for failure before they ever enter the studio. They are convinced they HAVE to record a full length CD because it’s always “been their dream” to do so.

Bur is the dream really to record one album of 10 songs, or is the dream to be a professional artist who finds an audience and makes a living selling music to a dedicated fan base?

The problem is, a smaller budget won’t allow for quality AND quantity. The artist then chooses quantity – his 10-song project – and goes shopping for a place that will deliver it on his budget. I promise you, if you are looking for a studio that will charge $250/song or $25/song, you will find it. The quality of your recorded tracks will reflect it, but you will indeed have the 10 song CD you always dreamed of. But did you win or lose?

What if you focused on quality instead of quantity?
True story. We were approached by an amazing Canadian singer/songwriter named Tanya Marie Harris who was ready to record her next project. I remember her saying, “Johnny, for what you and Kelly are charging me for two songs, I could record a whole CD up here in Toronto.” I remember preparing my usual response of “Well, we aren’t your guys then…” when she followed that up with, “but it would be mediocre and I need something awesome. This is my last shot and I want these tracks to blow people away.”

Tanya recorded two songs and is building a real career on the strength of those tracks. We recorded “A Woman Scorned” and “Secondhand Dreams,” which currently has nearly 2 million YouTube views and is getting more spins on radio every day. Tanya signed a deal with a Nashville management company and is touring constantly.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is better than quantity. One home run is better than 2 doubles.” He put his money where his mouth is. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their very first run of Apple computers out of Wozniak’s garage. They had a limited budget and chose to manufacture 50 quality computers over a quantity of 500 of a lesser quality. The rest is history. Are you ready to make some of your own?

Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Los Angeles artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. In late 2013 Johnny Dwinell wrote the bestselling Music Marketing On Twitter book. Thousands of artists and songwriters have improved their understanding and execution of social media with the help of this free book!

Image via ShutterStock.com.

Learn How to Make a Great Master

Read More
Should your next music release be an EP or an album?
Crowdfunding for musicians: tips, tactics, and trends
Being Successful in Today’s Music Business: Working Backwards
How to choose a recording studio
Planning your album: your CD release (and post-release)
9 things NOT to do with your next song demo

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5 thoughts on “Choose quality over quantity for your next CD release

  1. Some of us are putting our music out there just because it would haunt us if we didn’t. Call it vanity if you want, but I call it allowing me to move on and get some sleep! And besides, I’ll have you know I’ve raked in a whole 42 cents by streaming so far, proof it’s not just for vanity’s sake!

    1. I totally agree with Lily. we’re artists. what’s the point in creating and producing stuff if you’re not going to put it out there and I am talking about your best foot forward. I want a 15 song CD, I’ll make one and decently produced too and don’t give a shit what others/people think. that’s my prerogative as an artist!

  2. Ryan- I can agree with almost 90% of everything you’re saying here as it’s very on point and you’ve clearly thought all these things out . However, where I would beg to differ is on the point of you saying that you rarely if ever buy an artist music . I can totally relate to not buying physical CDs anymore – that’s fine. And I can understand streaming things to check them out or watching videos by an artist on YouTube for convenience ans enjoyment. However you wouldn’t walk into a movie theater and not pay a ticket, you wouldn’t go to an art show and like a painting and take it off the wall and walk out without paying for it. Someone put time, money, energy and a great deal of effort to make both of those creative forms of media. It’s the same for music and because of the fact that artists today give out so many songs for free like their hit singles or would-be hit singles there’s no excuse if you love their album to not buy it. Spending years listening to single songs and albums in high quality digital format that you take with you and enjoying them all without paying for them makes you or anyone else somewhat of a selfish person with no respect for the artist, not a superfan of any kind. Sympathy for the devil is worth $.99. A day in the life by the Beatles is worth $.99, Black hole Sun by Soundgarden is worth $.99, Honesty by Billy Joel is worth $.99, Master of Puppets is worth $.99 especially for these being songs that you can literally enjoy for the rest of your life as long as you live, every day, at anytime – all for a one time price of about $.99 each. It’s very shallow and fraudulent to feel like you’re making an emotional connection to a songwriter’s song and then refusing to pay for it just because it’s like walking into a room and taking cookies from a bakery just because the bakers not watching. You ask why should I pay for it because it’s the right thing to do. And you don’t need any more reason than that. That song took a lot of time effort and energy to produce that someone for the heart and soul into the least you can do is give him a dollar for once for the entire length of your life, of which that songwriter will only likely see pennies. It’s the least you can do for someone that’s providing you something that gives you so much joy in your life

  3. The funniest part of this advertisement err ‘blog post’ is that you use CD’s as a reference point then quote an artists YouTube plays as a benchmark of success. How many physical CD sales did that translate to? I’m guessing not many.

    To reinforce the author’s point – save the money you would have spent printing CD’s and spend it on what matters – recording and promotion. I’m sure part of Johnny’s innovative artist development includes transitioning away from printing CD’s. Unless you feel confident you can sell a run of vinyl I wouldn’t bother making any physical media.

    I have not purchased a CD in at least 5 years. And despite being a music superfan I rarely if ever actually buy any artists music – why would I when it’s free so many other places?

    But I have spent thousands of dollars on devices to obtain and listen to music. And these companies contribute almost zero dollars to supporting musicians.

    Thoughts?

    1. Yeah. You’re a thief. And you’re likely one of those people who would scream bloody murder if someone ever stole something you created (imagine working for a month, and someone stealing your pay, would you mind?). It’s people like you who have ruined the music industry.

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