Ordering CDs: How Many Should Your Band Purchase?

How Many CDs Should I Purchase for a First Release?

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Hint: Probably not 100 or 1000

There are many decisions to make when ordering merchandise for your band. In general, you need to figure out which products you want, which supplier you want to work with, how many variations you want, and how many of each you should order. Specifically, when ordering CDs, the questions you face are whether you’ll do it yourself or order professionally-manufactured product, which manufacturer you’ll use, whether you want duplicated or replicated discs, what type of packaging is best, whether or not you need special add-ons, and, lastly, how many CDs you should order.

Is your head spinning after reading that sentence? Ours are. The process can be a little overwhelming. To make things easier, we’ll address just one of those decisions today: how many discs your band should order.

There are a few schools of thought on which path you should take:

The Warehouse Shopper Approach

The warehouse shopper argues that buying in bulk saves you money and, therefore, is the best option, always, no matter what. Someone with this mindset probably has 94 rolls of toilet paper for their studio apartment, 7 unopened tubes of toothpaste on standby, a giant box of frozen burritos (okay, that might come in handy), three 48-oz jars of coffee grounds (which is enough to make 1140 6-oz servings), and multiple bottles of ketchup bigger than your head.

Yes, there are benefits to buying in larger quantities. For starters, you’re unlikely to run out of something. Then there’s the financial aspect: increasing the quantity of your purchase generally lowers the cost per piece. For CD purchases, a CD in a six-panel wallet with shrink wrap runs $369* for 200 pieces, or you can get 1000 for $769. While you’re spending more money overall on the larger purchase, the per-piece price drops from $1.85 to $.77. That’s an impressive savings. On the other hand, you might not be considering such extremes; 100 CDs in six-panel wallets are $220, and 200 are only $369. The only real financial consideration here is the $149 that you will pay to get twice as many packaged discs.

But there are disadvantages to ordering in bulk. First, that price. It’s a bigger up-front expense, even if it saves you money in the long run. While you’re saving up for the big purchase, you may be missing out on the chance to sell CDs to fans who want your music now. These incremental sales can help grow your fan base, and they are still highly profitable sales. Second: volume. When buying large quantities, you have to spend more money on shipping to have the CDs delivered to your house and use more of your valuable closet space to store them. Third: risk. That’s the biggy. No one wants to lose money on a CD release because they still have 75% of their inventory in storage and sales have slowed to a stop. You never get money back on CDs that don’t sell.

The Overly Careful & Cautious Approach

The antithesis of the warehouse shopper approach is the overly careful and cautious method. This shopper buys groceries daily (or constantly dines out) to avoid their food spoiling before it has the chance to be consumed. They don’t replace or restock something until it’s absolutely needed. Nothing is wasted.

There are some benefits to this concept. First, you don’t have to store ridiculously large amounts of anything anywhere. This means no boxes of CDs sitting in your closet for months if sales are slow. Second, your risk is minimized.  Just like there is the smallest possible chance of food rotting before being consumed, there is less chance that you will lose money on large quantities of CDs that do not sell.

But, when you are thinking about your music and your CD… that’s an awfully pessimistic approach to take. If you’ve been performing, have rehearsed night and day, regularly book gigs and draw crowds, and have recorded your music, why would you say “well, we’d better order the smallest amount possible, in case no one buys our music…”?

Also, you tend to pay more for the convenience and low-risk of small quantity purchases.

So… How Many CDs DO You Buy?

First, tune out the shouting on both sides of the argument. Second, know this: there’s not a universal right or wrong answer on this matter. Now, to answer the question at hand:

Think about what stage your band is at.

Is this your first CD order, and you’re not sure how many CDs you’ll be able to sell? If you’ve been gigging regularly and have a fan base, you’ve already “tested the market”. Look at the data available to you from that testing. How many followers do you have on social media? If your music is online, what does your streaming or download rate look like? How many fans show up at your shows? How many times have you been asked if you have a CD for sale? (If you’ve been asked this question, we hope you kept the questioner’s contact information.) If you don’t have existing support and demand, a large CD order is a big risk.

For more-established bands, how did your past orders sell? Is this a reorder of the same product? If so, how saturated is your fan base with this product? If it’s a new release and you’ve had success selling a large quantity of CDs in prior releases, then you will probably benefit from the better per-piece pricing of a larger quantity, and your risk of unsold CDs is not nearly as high.

Plan ahead.

Consider what events you have scheduled. If you’re heading out on tour in a few weeks, is a small order going to last the length of your tour? How easy will it be to reorder from the road? Also, do you have the space to bring along a large order?

How are you going to promote this release? The right type of promotion can help generate demand. Not all artists can pull Beyoncé’s stunt and release a CD with zero up-front promotion and watch it sell faster than water in the Sahara. Odds are, without good promotion, your eager fans won’t know that you have something to offer them, and your sales will suffer.

Know the reasons.

Why are you ordering CDs? Are you including it in press kits? Is it for fans? Is the project a special edition/limited release deal? Press kits and limited release orders might justify a smaller quantity, whereas standard orders for your fans could probably support larger bulk orders.

The Answer

We don’t know what stage your band is at, what you have planned, or why you’re ordering CDs, so we can’t answer this question for you. If you truly only need 100, then order 100. If you’re good to order 1000, more power to you. If the answer is somewhere in the middle—from regular orders of 500 discs, to a smaller order now to help you afford a long one down the road—that’s fine too.

Regardless of your specific answer, there is a manufacturer who can meet your needs. For example, finding a manufacturer who offers replicated discs in quantities of 100 is difficult, but it’s not impossible. NationWide Disc offers replicated disc packages that start at 100 pieces.

NationWide Disc also has its Indie Club program, which allows artists to re-order replicated discs (with or without packaging) from 100 to 500 pieces at half off the original purchase price. It changes the quantity problem entirely. Purchase a small amount of replicated discs in packaging, and then have the option to re-order more if you have a knock down hit with your release. No need to make a risky investment.

For example: Purchase 300 replicated CDs in a six-panel digipak with shrink wrap for $509. Your release is a hit and now you need to order 300 more. Great! On the first re-order you pay just $254.50. In fact, with the 300 piece Indie Club order program you can also re-order again for an additional 300 packages (making the total 900) and still pay just $254.50 for the second re-order. There is a $49 one-time fee to qualify your project for the Indie program. If you do not need to order more than your original quantity of 300 pieces, you have no obligation to purchase any more discs.

The point is, if you don’t see the option you need listed on an order form, call and ask if it’s something they can do for you.

* All prices are taken from our parent site, www.nationwidedisc.com. Prices do not include shipping.

See also: Ordering Merchandise: CD Duplication vs. Replication, Choosing the Right Packaging for Your Band’s CD


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