By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
Vinyl sales are up, and more and more of your fans want those really awesome LPs to add to their collection. But before you can get them in the hands of your fans, you have to order them.
Ordering vinyl records can be a little complicated. We want to take some of the mystery out of the ordering process, so we’ve outlined the six things you have to keep in mind when placing your vinyl order.
1) Who’s your audience?
The first question to ask when you’re thinking about ordering any merch item is “Who will be buying this?” Take a look at your core audience and find out what they want. You could even send out a poll in your next e-newsletter (you do have an email newsletter, right?) asking if fans want vinyl, and if they do, would they prefer a turquoise record, or extended liner notes?
Doing some initial market research and reaching out to your listeners before you purchase vinyl will help to ensure better sales down the line, and will set the stage for fan engagement when you do release the record.
2) Get Your Music Mastered For Vinyl
This is the MOST IMPORTANT step in the vinyl manufacturing process.
Normal mastering for CDs and online distribution is completely different than mastering for vinyl. Vinyl is a truly analog medium, and the mastering techniques that make your music sound radio-ready will have the opposite effect on a record. Normal digital mastering can make your music sound washed out on vinyl, and can even cause skips and other playback problems.
It is VITAL to have your music mastered by an engineer who is experienced in vinyl mastering. Be sure you figure the costs of mastering into your purchasing budget for vinyl.
3) Time Limitations in Vinyl
A CD can play about 74 minutes of music. A digital release will play for as long as you want it to. But vinyl is different. Each side of a vinyl record has a strict amount of playing time that can’t be exceeded.
The reason for these strict time limits–besides the actual physical space allowed by the record– is that closer to the center of the album high frequencies become distorted, and volume level decreases.
4) Keep Vinyl in Mind When Creating Your Track Listing
The closer you get to the center hole of the record, the quieter the volume becomes. If you know in the beginning stages of the album release process that you will be releasing on vinyl, try to order the tracks on your album with the limitations of vinyl in mind.
Ballads or other soft tracks will sound better towards the inside of the record, and loud, boisterous tracks are better suited to the record’s outer edge. Try to arrange for your soft songs to be in the middle and at the end of your album so they will be cut towards the center of the LP. If this isn’t possible, you will want to have less than the maximum allotted time, so there are less discrepancies in volume and EQ.
5) Have Great Artwork
When your album is only released digitally, sometimes album artwork can be an afterthought. Fans don’t really see the artwork, and if they do, it’s usually on a tiny screen. But with vinyl, your album artwork is on full display. It’ important to invest in making your album artwork fantastic.
Spend some time making sure your art is in the correct format for printing, that the art is high quality, and has proper bleed. You also need to make sure that your album artwork is representative of your music and brand.
6) Keep Turn Times in Mind
Digital distribution can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 weeks. CD manufacturing usually takes between 3 and 15 days. Vinyl manufacturing takes a solid 4 months (16 weeks). If you want to release digitally and on vinyl at the same time, you will need to do some serious planning in advance to make sure you can get your vinyl before your release date. If you need vinyl sooner, Nationwide Disc has created a way for you to get vinyl in as little as 30 days. Click Here for more information.
Have any other tips for ordering vinyl that you think other musicians should know about? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
First, you hear the low hum of the machine. Then a pop and a hiss, followed by the first lilting notes of a song .
You could have popped your headphones in and listened from your first gen iPod. You could have pulled a CD out, or even hooked up your phone to your car via Bluetooth and listened to your music that way.
But you, like an ever-growing number of people, have chosen to purchase the album on vinyl.
Whether you are an avid collector of vinyl records, or if you’re a bit puzzled by the trend, it’s impossible to deny, vinyl is making a comeback in a big way.
Every year since 2008, vinyl sales have been increasing. In 2014, vinyl sales were up 52%, while regular album sales were down 9.2% from the previous year (Billboard Magazine).
Right now, vinyl is one of the best selling music products. The phenomenon is crossing genres, and affects independent musicians and major labels alike.
So what do independent musicians need to know about vinyl, and how can YOU use vinyl to help create super fans and make money? Lets look at two of the major factors in play for indie musicians.
Let’s Talk About Fans
Vinyl has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, but it’s still not quite broken into the mainstream. Right now it’s still a niche market, though that niche is getting bigger all the time. Fans are looking for a way to really experience the music (that’s why concert ticket sales are also rising!). People across all age groups and demographics are buying vinyl.
The people who buy the most vinyl are avid music consumers across formats. They are the kinds of fans who will pre-order the album even though they can listen on Spotify for free, and who buy the merch bundle instead of just the t-shirt.
The great thing about that? Those are the fans you want in your court. Those are the fans you want to forge lasting relationships with. And vinyl is a great way to do that.
Not only is there great demand for vinyl among the heavy music consumers, vinyl is reaching it’s way into the lives of more casual listeners. Record players are inexpensive, and major retailers like Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters have started carrying LPs in their stores. Vinyl is creeping back into the mainstream, and people are buying.
Show Me the Money
One of the concerns we hear most often from independent musicians is that vinyl is simply too expensive up front to justify having it as a regular staple on your merch table.
While vinyl does have a much higher initial cost than other formats, if you plan your purchase right, vinyl could put a lot more money in your pocket than it originally took out.
At Nationwide Disc,the average cost for 12” vinyl LP is between $9 and $11, depending on how many your order. That is a larger upfront investment than digital distribution or CD manufacturing, but vinyl can bring a big return on your investment.
The great news for independent musicians is that you can sell that vinyl for more than double what you paid for it, or more!
Making Money With Vinyl Exclusives
The base retail price for a 12” record is usually around $25. That means that with the sale of one record, you are making double your cost. That’s 200% profit! And that $25 price tag can go up pretty quickly if there is any exclusivity associated with the pressing.
Limited edition pink vinyl? Sell it for $30. Exclusive liner notes that only come with the vinyl? You could sell that for $35. Brand new, exclusive-to-vinyl cover art? $40. Super-limited edition (as in only 15 of them exist) test pressing? Depending on your fans, you could sell those for upwards of $100! All these things are examples of things that you can easily do to increase the retail value of your record.
And the great news is, fans who are ready to buy vinyl are ready to pay for these upgrades. They are generally the kinds of fans who deeply value the music they listen to, and the artists that create it. They get excited about forging a deeper connection to the artists they love through a physical album that looks—and sounds— amazing.
So now that you know some of the benefits of vinyl for the independent musician, check back next week for expert tips on manufacturing and marketing vinyl records.
Have you tried pressing your music to vinyl? How did your fans respond? Let us know in the comments below!
With digital music sales declining and music streaming robbing artists of yet another income opportunity, one of the few remaining viable revenue sources for indie musicians is a merch table.
I know. It doesn’t sound thrilling, and it carries nothing close to the rush of performing on stage. You’re an artist and performer, not a product pitch person. But, if you want a sustainable music career and not just an expensive hobby, you’ve got to learn to sell merch. It’s harsh, but true.
Think about the musicians you admire, the big artists who have already “made it”. When was the last time you went to their concert and didn’t see merchandise for sale? Never, right? That’s because these major artists understand the importance of selling merchandise. They rely on that extra income. When done correctly, it’s entirely possible that their profit from merch sales far outweighs their cut from ticket sales. If merch sales are so crucial to the success of these big artists, why would you shrink away from adopting the concept for your own career?
You shouldn’t. It’s time to stop making excuses and start making some choices. The longer you procrastinate, the more income you risk losing. Take some time today—now, even—to figure out what merchandise works best for your band and your fans.
Unless you are bringing in big money without merch sales and don’t need any extra, read on.
Choosing Your Merchandise
Let’s start by talking about the merch itself. Selling merch does require an investment, and choosing the wrong items—those that don’t end up selling—can result in money lost. Since your goal is to increase your income, that’s an especially frustrating and disappointing result.
You might be tempted to jump out and make large purchases of product to place on your merch table only to find that you missed the mark. Or, you might be so afraid of winding up with 700 CDs (or stickers, or shirts) left over in your closet that you haven’t ordered anything. Neither is a good place to be.
The following four tips can help remove some of the mystery when ordering merch and, hopefully, prevent you from making mistakes.
Popularity. Some items—your music on CDs or t-shirts with your artwork on them—are obvious choices, but others aren’t so clear. Ask yourself what your fans want to buy. If you’re out of touch with your fans or haven’t been selling merch, it might be difficult to answer this question. You can start by talking to or observing other artists in your genre or area who are already selling merch. What products are they offering, and what are people picking up and buying? Also find out what hasn’t worked.
Once you find a winner, stick with it; don’t tinker too much with perfection. If an item is a loser, dump it. Replace badly performing product with new choices. Don’t allow your merch table look empty and unexciting.
Quantity: how much should you buy to start? Once you’ve decided on a product to offer, how much should you buy up front? While it’s okay to be optimistic and hope for big sales, it is wise to test the market first. This might mean paying a higher per-piece price at first, but that’s better than a low per-piece price on a large order of product that doesn’t sell.
For example: you decide to sell a beer mug with your logo on it and think you can get $8 each on your merch table. If you buy 500 mugs, your cost is $3 per mug, which means your profit would be $5 per mug. Sounds good… if all the mugs sell. Or, you might decide to test the market and buy only 10 mugs, but then your cost jumps to $10 per mug. This means you lose $2 every time you sell a mug for $8. What should you do? Start with 10 mugs. While you do not want to be in the business of losing money, a $100 loss for 10 unsold mugs is nothing compared to a $1,500 loss for 500 unsold mugs.
It might cost a little more up front, but applying this practice to all new merch products will save you big money in the long run.
Price point and margin. These two items work hand in hand. Price point is the amount you charge your fans for the product, and margin is the amount of gross profit you make from the sale. For example: if your t-shirts cost you $7 each, and you sell them for $15 each, then your margin would be $8 each. This represents a reasonable margin of 53%.
Only two things really matter here: how much you have to spend to purchase the merch, and how much income the merch generates. The less you have to spend to generate a large income, the better. Spending ties up money and that money is at risk. Keeping your costs low is important. However, you don’t want to sacrifice quality on product or price things far higher than their actual value. Merchandise that falls apart or looks cheap probably won’t sell well, especially if it’s priced like high-quality merchandise.
A good merch decision has a low cost and a high sales price. If you can invest a small amount and still have the potential of high margins, then the item is a home run. The most obvious example of this for the indie musician is a CD in custom packaging.
Here’s an example: You purchase 200 duplicated CDs in 6-Panel Digipaks with overwrap. Your cost after shipping and handling is a total of $442. The per-piece price is $2.21. Now, a typical sales price for this type of CD is $12 – $15 dollars. If I use $12 (the low end) in my example, your margin is $9.79, or 81%. This is a great margin! You have to sell just 25% of your product to recoup your entire investment.
A bad merch decision involves high cost and low margins. For example, spending $25 each on products you can only sell for $35. Yes, you might make $10 on each sale, but you tied up (risked) $25 to make $10. This is not a good strategy. Products with a higher cost don’t allow you as much room to adjust the pricing if it doesn’t sell well; on the above item, you can only discount the price $10 before you start losing money on each sale. You also have to sell a greater quantity (71% of your order) just to break even on your investment.
Remember this important tip when choosing products to sell: Pick products that require a small initial investment, have great margin, and don’t require you to purchase huge quantities to make the numbers work.
Turns. This is a retail term that describes how often you sell out of your stock of an item and have to buy more. If a product has a high turn rate, it is selling well, and your initial investment is being recovered quickly.
A target turn rate for an independent musician might be between 4-6 turns per year. That means you limit your purchase of a product to the amount you will sell in 2-3 months—no more.
Products that do not turn well might sit on your merch table for 6-12+ months, becoming “worn and tired”. Put a sale price on these products, and get rid of them. Try to get your original investment back, if possible.
In the clothing industry, turn means everything. If a store can’t sell its entire inventory by the end of a season, it dumps the clothing at about 10% of the original price just to move it out of the store. Otherwise, the buildup of out-of-season and last year’s fashion means a waste of their customers’ time and a decrease in customer traffic.
The same principle applies to musicians and merch. Don’t let your merch become worn, and don’t buy more product than you can sell in three months.
Poor turn ratios of merchandise cause more businesses to fail than any other single item.
A Few Points About Your Table
It’s important to have a merch table that looks good with product clearly displayed for sale. Simply throwing it out on a table isn’t going to impress your fans. Consider a table covering and skirt. If possible, add nice displays; custom-printed corrugated displays are cheaper than you think.
Mention the products and your merch table in a tasteful way while you are performing. Offer to sign anything purchased that evening, or—if business is unusually slow—offer to give something away.
Make sure your table is manned the entire time you are in the venue. This means when the doors open, while all acts are playing, and as people head out. Being personally present at your table is also advisable.
Above all else, capture names and email addresses from everyone who purchases your product (and, if you can, those who don’t). These fans represent your best opportunity to sell more products in the future.
Do not treat merch as an afterthought. If you aren’t behind your own merch, what makes you think your fans will be?
Real Examples on How to Not Sell Merch
I just got back from a short trip. We stayed in a wonderful little resort town, and I had the opportunity to listen to some live music—two talented and entertaining acts at two different venues—while I was there. The crowds weren’t huge—sixty-five people at one venue, and 120 at the other—and, like me, most people were visiting the area and hadn’t heard of the musicians. However, quick glances around the room indicated that everyone was enjoying the performances.
This is a prime situation to sell merchandise. You have captive audiences who are clearly enjoying your work and who haven’t likely purchased your product before. Additionally, based on the setting, the audience could afford to spend a little money on something to help them remember their evening or trip. A tastefully displayed quality product would have been a hit.
Yet, neither musician had any merch displayed.
During breaks in the shows, I approached the musicians to compliment them on their performances, and I asked if they had any music for sale. Both musicians dug around in a bag before producing a couple of CDs. The packaging was very basic: a slim line jewel case without any printed material. Both artists priced their music at $25 per disc, or all three discs for $50. The packaging and lack of display suggested that the artists did not think much of their own music, while the high prices said otherwise.
While I bought CDs from each artist, no one else did. Either the audience didn’t realize there was product available, or they were put off by the high price for a poorly presented product. Had the artists offered quality product on a nice display, they might have made several hundred dollars in merch sales that night.
Super Fans Make For Super Profits
Untapped audiences, like those in the above anecdote, are a nice find, but they aren’t your main targets for merchandise sales. Instead, you should focus on selling to your existing fans, especially your “super fans”. Super fans like and support almost everything you do, and this includes buying your merchandise.
Knowing this, try to set goals. If you want your super fans to purchase $100 of product a year, do you have enough new high-quality merchandise available to reach that goal? If not, it’s time to make some changes.
This might mean that you need to focus on releasing new music to sell. Fans love new music; if it has been a while since your last release, odds are good that your fans are more than ready.
An artist friend of mine just released a new album and sold 350 CDs at just three shows. He made more money on this new release in one week than he made in the last 12 months on merch sales. He already recouped his entire investment in the CDs, plus some. The best news is that his new release continues to sell, and he still has product available. You should also know that this happened after he confided in me that he thought his fans were “worn out” on his music. He could not have been more wrong.
If you’re wanting to establish a long-term, sustainable career as a musician, it’s time to accept the fact that selling merch is in your future. Do it well, though, and it will be more than worth your time and effort.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
If you’re considering selling merchandise at gigs and including physical CDs (both are great ways to increase your profits from music), then you’ve probably wondered if it would save you some money by making those CDs yourself.
Your choice should primarily focus on just three things: quality, cost, and available time. Some options for printing on a disc face should not be considered regardless of your situation, but you still have a choice to make—should I do it myself or get professional help? For the most part, professional production will provide a less expensive and better product than DIY disc face printing, but DIY might be best if you’re on a super-tight schedule. Read on for some crucial tips.
To help you make your decision, we’ll look at the various options and add up the related costs. This article will focus on duplicated discs since this is the only option available to DIYers.
CDs With Printed Labels Applied
Short of writing on the disc face with a permanent marker, CDs with a label applied to the face is the standard image most people associate with DIY CD printing. We do not recommend this method unless you have absolutely no other options. Labels are expensive, cumbersome, unprofessional looking, and—most importantly—they can come off of the disc and create a real problem for your fans. Can you imagine your fan’s reaction to your disc jamming their car’s disc player? Not good.
Pros: This method is something you can do at home with most standard printers, and it gives you a solution for short run projects. This option is more acceptable for very short runs (10 discs or less) or when you have absolutely no time to get your discs made by the pros (i.e., the gig is tonight and you have to get these on the merch table in just a few hours).
Cons: For one reason or another—whether the image smears after handling or the label is slightly off-center—this method always looks homemade, which can cheapen the value of your product. CDs with labels are also fairly expensive; most of the time you can get a better product that is also cheaper by buying your CDs from a professional supplier. Lets discuss each of the potential problems in more detail:
An off-center label can cause balance issues with the CD, affecting playability; this happens a lot since it is difficult to place an adhesive label on the disc at just the right spot.
A wrinkle in the label can cause issues with players (particularly slot-loading players) as the CD may become jammed in the player. If this happens, you have to dislodge the CD; in some cases, that requires taking the player apart (not much fun if the player is in your car’s dashboard). Additionally, the label adhesive can wear off over time; this can cause a big headache if the label comes off while the CD is in a player.
Most printers that print CD labels use inkjet technology that is not waterproof. If anyone touches the printed surface with a slight amount of moisture on his fingertips, the image will smear.
Lastly, it takes a good chunk of time to print and apply labels on CDs, and the supplies are not cheap. Your per disc price will still be very high when compared to professional production.
Cost:To make your own CDs with labels, you’ll need a few things:
A printer (starting around $40 and up to $100 for a basic model)
Ink (between $35 and $80 for a set)
Assuming you don’t have any supplies beyond your computer, creating your 100 CDs with this method could cost $130 bucks or more (buying the cheapest printer available). If you have the printer on-hand and don’t buy the software/kit for design/positioning, the price for 100 discs and labels is roughly $65 – $85, or about $0.65 to $0.85 per disc (depending on ink coverage). You still have to attach the labels to the disc face. Since it is likely that some discs and labels will be damaged and made unusable in the process, you should factor this in when calculating your final cost.
Keep in mind that these costs don’t include putting the content on the discs. External disc burners or professional-grade disc duplicators can take the price up drastically. If you choose to burn the discs on your computer one at a time, then no additional investment in equipment may be necessary, but it can take quite a bit of time to burn the discs.
CDs with Directly Printed Faces
Another DIY method of CD printing is printing on the disc face itself. In recent years, a decent number of home printers with this capability were released. While many models have since been discontinued, there are still some available. The majority of these printers are geared toward at-home photo printing, and this is where most of these models shine. The printers come with a special attachment that allows the printer to print directly on a disc face instead of paper. Please note that these machines are not intended for a production environment. Do not go down this path if you want to print a large quantity of discs or use this technology for an extended period of time.
Pros: This method results in a more polished, professional product than labels, since the design is printed directly on the disc face. There is no label to come unglued. Time is on your side when you need a short run quickly—no need to send the project out to get it done.
Cons:Not every home printer is able to do this; special equipment may be necessary. Many of the same challenges that face labels also face direct print. Most printers that direct print CD labels use technology that is not waterproof. If anyone touches the printed surface with a slight amount of moisture on his fingertips, the image will smear. Direct printing your own CDs is also fairly expensive; you can expect to spend $0.85 or more per disc if you already own the equipment, much more if you need to purchase the printer. Most of the time you can get a better product that is also cheaper by buying your CDs from a professional supplier (if time allows).
Cost:To make CDs with direct print on the disc face, you’ll need a few things: (prices are estimates)
Printers (from $300 to $800)
Ink (from $125 to $270 for a set)
While this option provides a more polished product than printed-then-applied labels, the expenses can add up quickly. Going with a more affordable printer, it can run you over $475 to get started. Even if you already have the printer, the cost of ink and CDs alone starts at $175. This is significant because you can usually purchase your discs from a professional supplier for less money, even if you already own the equipment.
These costs don’t include putting the content on the discs.
Instead of applying CD labels or investing in expensive printing equipment (that you may or may not use for other items), you might consider ordering professionally-created CDs. If time allows (most can manufacture bulk discs in just a few days), then this option will save you money and provide a better product than the do-it-yourself methods. You may have to pay shipping costs (if the company you choose has to ship the CDs to you), but you might be able to avoid sales taxes.
Most importantly, the quality of printing will be better than either DIY option. Check with your supplier to confirm that they use inks that will not smear when exposed to water and that all printing will be done directly on the disc face. No labels of any kind should be used. You might also ask if they can print close to the hub of the disc, which gives you more printed surface on the disc and looks better. Some manufacturers can only print part of the disc face and leave a large unprinted ring (up to 1.25” in diameter) in the middle of the disc face.
Pros: Ordering CDs frees up your time and energy to focus on your music, and you don’t have to worry about putting the content on the CD. Using a supplier has a variety of other benefits, including packaging options, a variety of quantities, price breaks for ordering in volume, and even programs to help make getting the product you want more affordable.
Cons: You’ll need to find a reliable supplier who puts out a quality product at a fair price, and you’ll have to work with production timelines. If you have to get discs for tonight’s gig, then professional production is not likely an option. Plan ahead for next time and save some money.
Costs: You might be thinking that ordering CDs is outside your price range. Think again:
50 duplicated discs with full color face and content on the disc: $43*
100 duplicated discs with full color face and content on the disc: $77
There are so many choices to make regarding selling merchandise, even when narrowed down to a CD. Whichever you decide, be creative and remember the content matters the most!
* Professionally-created disc prices taken from our parent site, www.nationwidedisc.com.
By NationWide SourceEstimated 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.
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.
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.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 7 minutes
Disc Packaging Options
When you go out to eat, you expect the food you order to be good. But if it shows up in front of you looking sloppy, with sauce dripping off the edge or a fingerprint in the roll, you’ll probably suspect that the quality of the food is on par with the poor presentation.
The same can be said for your music. If you’ve spent long, meticulous hours perfecting your newest album only to throw it on a poorly packaged CD, those who see it won’t anticipate a quality product inside. Make sure you put the same amount of care into creating your CD packaging as you have the music itself. To do that, it’s important to know what your options are.
Ten years ago, jewel cases were the go-to option. Nearly every music CD was sold in them, and for good reason. Their clear cases let the artwork shine, there was room for multi-page inserts, and the structure of the hard plastic case protected the CD itself. If you’re like us, you have stacks of CDs in jewel cases lying around somewhere.
But, unless you already have artwork designed for this format and find it difficult to change, you probably don’t want to order this package for your music project. Think back to those stacks of CDs in jewel cases… how many of them have cracks on one side, are scratched, or are missing one (or both) of the hinge tabs that keeps the front attached? How much space do they take up, for how few CDs? Is that what you want to lug around from one gig to another, not to mention pay shipping on? What is the fan experience like if their jewel case is broken or all scratched up? Don’t stacks of CDs in jewel cases send you right back to 1989?
Jewel cases might have been the standard; while they still sell surprisingly well, they’re bulky, fragile, and a little outdated… maybe they aren’t the best choice for your project.
This envelope-style packaging is a very simple and basic way to protect the CD. They get the job done and are very cost-efficient, but they’re not super special. With only the front, back, and disc face, there is little room for extra artwork or information.
If you’re wanting to engage and connect with your fans, sleeves could work, but they’re not the best option. If you’re super concerned about saving space (like, you’re flying out for an overseas tour and can only take one bag and your instrument), then they might be a good choice. CD sleeves are also a solid choice for sending demo CDs to promoters or venues, since your press kit will have other material about your band.
A step up from sleeves, wallets are another all-cardstock packaging option for CDs. However, they offer artists a lot more flexibility with design and the amount of information that can be included than sleeves do, since they commonly come in four, six, and eight-panel options with one, two, three, or four pockets and up to four discs. They also take up very little space (slightly more than a sleeve does).
If you’re worried about space and durability but want to offer your fans more than the very-basic sleeve, wallets might be your answer.
Digipaks are the ideal combination of practical materials, flexible design choices, and that little touch of special that your fans want. These factors help explain their surge in popularity over the last few years.
Unlike jewel cases, digipaks are made of cardstock, meaning they won’t break nearly as easily as the plastic jewel cases. This also makes them a bit more eco-friendly, if that’s your thing. (If so, note this: Digihubs, which replace the plastic tray with a rubber hub, take the green thing a little farther.) Depending on the size of your digipak, they also take up roughly half the space that jewel cases do—a bonus if you’ve got a van full of bandmates, instruments, snacks, and merch.
Where digipaks really shine is their flexibility in design. You can order them in four, six, or eight panels and they can hold up to seven discs. If you add a slit or pocket, you could even add a standard insert or booklet on top of that. Think of all the lyrics, liner notes, credits, and stories you could share with your fans in that space, of the extra band photographs and graphics you could include. No more deciding between thanking your wife or your grannie for supporting your passion; thank them both. In fact, thank everyone. And tell that story about that one gig and your drummer. You know the story.
Not only do digipaks allow more room for artwork, photographs, and text than jewel cases or sleeves, but they allow room for more media. You can include multiple CDs or turn your merch into a CD/DVD combo, with a recording of a live show or “behind the scenes” video of the recording process. This upgrades your item from a standard, run-of-the-mill CD to a keepsake.
What About Cost?
We get it. You’ve spent money on instruments, maybe some lessons, band promotions, your website, the recording studio, touring, and so on. Being in a band can be expensive, and buying CDs can involve parting with a big chunk of change. So, let’s look at the costs*. Really.
Jewel Cases:For 1000 replicated discs with the most basic two-panel, full color jewel case available (with over wrap), the cost is $878, or $0.878 per CD.
Digipaks: For 1000 replicated discs in Six-panel digipaks (with over wrap), the cost is $1,036, or $1.036 per CD.
Look at the cost per package. For the same quantity and method of production, the price between the different packages varies by about $.16, just a little more than a dime. A dime. Think about your fan. What would they rather have: a two-panel jewel case or a six-panel digipak? You have a great opportunity to make the best first impression possible by giving your fan the superior digipak packaging. They will appreciate your extra effort, and you have the opportunity to use the design space on the six-panel digipak to tell more of your band’s story. Everyone wins.
Remember, you’ll probably be selling your CD for at least $10. If you include extras (like a second CD or a DVD and a booklet or insert) and use top-of-the-line materials, you can bump that price up a little more. Even at $10 each, one CD sale covers your cost of almost 10 CDs, even if you choose nicer packaging like the six-panel digipak. Another way to think of it – you make 85% to 90% profit on every disc you sell. Nothing else on your merch table generates this kind of profit.
Picking the Right Packaging for Your Band
As far as packaging goes, really consider your options. Again, think about your immediate needs. Are you traveling and short on space? Is the CD going in a press kit? Or is this going out to fans? Then think about the difference that $.16 can make in the product you offer your fans, and the difference it can make in how those fans view your product and your band. Is it going to cause frustration for you with toting it to gigs, or for fans as it breaks and takes up shelf space? Is it going to strengthen your fans’ connection to your band and become something they treasure?
After all the time and money you’ve invested in creating the perfect sound, it would be a shame for that work to be overshadowed by sloppy or even just average presentation. Because when it comes to selling merchandise, presentation really does matter.