The CD Printing and Duplication Industry – A Musician’s Experience

Things Are Going Well For The Band And They Need Some CDs Printed

Musician, Craig, formed a band with some college friends about a year ago. The band is called The Arch Enemies and he plays the bass guitar and provides the vocals. They have 2 guitarists, a drummer and a keyboard player to make up the rest of the band. They started out by playing various rock covers from the 60’s to some of the latest stuff and then moved on quite quickly to penning their own material. Their original material was noticed by a scout as they were gigging quite often around their locality, and they were approached by a music business manager, who advised them to have a look at recording their music in a professional studio and selling CDs at gigs and online through their website to see what sort of a reception they got.

They started out by getting opinions from their Facebook, Twitter and website fans and they were overwhelmed by the amount of pre-orders they had for a proper recording. They stopped counting at 500 which confirmed for them that this was the right thing to do. So they saved up some of their gig payments and booked themselves into a local studio with a good reputation amongst local musicians and started to get some recording done. Towards the end of the process, Craig was elected to look at getting the run of CDs made as he had a lot of experience of creating digital art and of working with computers. Craig began the process by doing a search on the internet for a UK based CD printing and duplication company that was reliable, delivered high quality products and would deliver to him. A search for “CD printing service” turned up a large number of likely candidates with good customer feedback, so, Craig put in a request to his top 5 for a quote for 1000 CDs with packaging to see what sort of response he would get. Craig claims to be a sucker for good customer service.

Choosing a reliable, trustworthy and high quality CD printing and duplication supplier

Craig’s tactic for choosing the best supplier was to judge them on their response to his request. Two of the companies just sent basic quotes out by email; which were expensive. One company just sent him out a list of very techy questions which he didn’t understand, being new to the industry. The remaining two sent out good informative quotes which seemed reasonable and then followed up with phone calls from sales reps who seemed genuinely interested in helping him out. One of these sales reps was on the same wavelength as him and they hit it off nicely over the phone and so he chose that company to work with.

The CD Printing Artwork

While they were waiting for the master recording to be finalised, Craig started to work on the CD disc artwork ideas. Upon speaking to his contact at the CD printing company, Antonia, he learned that they could supply him with a template in the same format as the artwork software package that he was using, which was really useful as then he could be sure that the final artwork file created, would suit their print process. Antonia advised Craig to be careful if he was intending to use photographic images in the print. Dark photographic images can be difficult to print as they usually end up darker than the original image which can mean that certain images cannot be used unless the exposure is raised to lighten the image which, on some images, can ruin the intended effect. They also need to be high resolution images of 300 dpi or more. Photos taken on a smartphone or a poor quality digital camera are usually too low resolution. Also, Antonia made sure that Craig was aware of potential copyright issues if he intended to use someone else’s photographs or images and, after considering this advice, he designed the artwork to be completely original. color copies for cheap

The next consideration was about the type of printing process to be used. Photographic images have to be lithographically printed but if the artwork consists of solid colours, then the disc can be screen printed.

Lithographic printing is the most expensive method of CD printing but screen printing can be configured to gain some control over the cost of printing. It is possible to use only 1 or 2 colours in a screen print and make use of the silver surface of the disc as part of the design to produce an eye-catching, classy looking print which only requires 2 print screens. This helps to keep the fixed cost of screen printing, low. Antonia warned him that it is not advisable to combine solid colour areas and photographic images in a disc print as they would have to be litho printed which is not ideal for block colour areas because consistency of the colour cannot be guaranteed. Litho printing is much better suited to colour gradients or complex photographic images.

The CD Packaging Options

Craig’s discussion with Antonia about the CD packaging options was an eye-opener for him. He didn’t realise that there were so many different options available. They considered a couple of options for selling CDs at gigs and for selling online. For the merchandise stall at gigs, they needed a lightweight option as space comes at a premium on the van which is filled with their equipment. In order for them to get as many CDs on sale at gigs as possible, they opted for a card wallet with a full colour digital print. These are flat and lightweight and many CDs can be packed into a small box where they are safe from transportation damage.

For selling online and through independent record shops, they opted for standard polycarbonate jewel cases. These cases are the type that almost everyone who has ever bought a CD album will be familiar with. They allow the inclusion of a digitally printed booklet in the front of the case where they could put their band images, lyrics and acknowledgements. There is also a printed rear tray card which goes under the CD tray and is generally used to display the track listing on the CD along with the copyright information.

Again, Antonia was able to supply Craig with templates for the booklet and the rear tray card artwork. These templates included an allowance for print bleed of 3mm which extends outside the cutline and is intended to prevent the appearance of tiny white lines around the edge of the cropped, printed paper part due to minor print process discrepancies.

For all artwork, on disc and paper, Craig was informed that he should ensure that any text is at least 4mm inside the outer cut lines.

The CD Duplication Process

About a week after his discussion with Antonia about the CD printing and CD packaging printing, the band received their finalised master to check that they were all completely happy with it. The studio had done a fabulous job and the master was sounding great. During another chat with Antonia, they had touched upon the issues of ISRC codes and CD text, which Craig made sure were included with the master. ISRC codes (International Standard Recording Codes) are unique identifiers for recorded tracks which identify the band as the copyright holders and means that they get any royalties due if their music is played in public or on the radio. The CD text just means that devices capable of showing the text for each track, will do so. Once everything was sorted with the master, the band were then in a position to be able to get the duplication done. The discs would be printed first and Antonia explained that the printed CDs would then go into the duplication suite which is a clean room environment housing hundreds of optical disc drives in banks. These drives are all daisy-chained together and linked into a master control unit. The master disc is placed into the master drive and the information contained is duplicated onto all the blank printed discs.

Loading and unloading of the CDs is all carried out by an automated system as it would be too laborious and time consuming to do by hand. The automated system can load and unload hundreds of discs at a time which is great for large orders and enables them to be completed quickly and cost effectively.