Getting started releasing my own music was a learning curve. Not only did I have to write all the music (which was fun!), but I had to look at everything that a record label traditionally does, and take figure out how to implement it myself. One aspect was figuring out how to ship a CD. I looked over the different options and figured out a solution that works for me.
I’ll give you a quick overview of those options and why I chose the method that I did.
Options for shipping a CD
There are three options available to you:
Third party fulfilment
I’ll quickly outline what these different options are:
Drop shipping is when a third party company creates and ships a product on a per order basis. For example, let’s say Fred buys your record. Your drop shipping company will print a record just for Fred, and ship it to him.
Drop Shipping Pros
You have to do almost nothing
Everything is automated
Low upfront costs
Drop Shipping Cons
Per unit cost is expensive, so you make less profit per sale
This is when you take care of every aspect of order fulfilment yourself. Your turn your office / bedroom / house into a warehouse to store and ship your records / merchandise. If you choose to do self-fulfilment, then you need to consider:
Online purchasing system / storefront
So as you can see, there is already a lot for you to consider.
Online purchasing system
How are your users going to buy your CD online? You could use third party solutions such as Bandcamp or Shopify; or you could use a solution which integrates with your own website, such as Woo Commerce. Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation and what you want to achieve. I’ll write an article in the future about these options. I’ve tried Woo Commerce and Shopify myself, and personally, I prefer Shopify.
You need to find a company that will physically create a CD for you. When it comes to CDs, you have two options:
Duplication is for small jobs (usually up to 1000 copies). This is the same process as you would use to ‘burn’ a CD on your home computer, on a more industrial scale. Duplication also has a fast turn around time.
Replication is for bigger jobs (500 units upwards) and while it has a higher setup cost than duplication, at higher volume it is cheaper. Replication involves creating a glass ‘master’ disc and then physically stamping blank CD. It takes longer than duplication.Please see our sister company www.replicationcentre.co.uk for more information on this.
The best company I have found in the UK for duplication is The Duplication Centre. They usually ship my order within a couple of days and they give things a once over to make sure the order is ok. They also keep your order on file, making it really fast and easy to get a second printing done. If you sign up to their mailing list, they usually send out some special offers for free extra units every few months.
If you are in the UK, they are highly recommended and you can check them out here. Check them for yourselves – their policy or approach may have changed since writing this article.
How are you going to post your CD? You need some sort of packaging. You want to balance having something low cost, with having something that can protect your product – if your CD turns up smashed, scratched or damaged; even if it isn’t your fault, your fans will be pissed off.
The best packaging solution I found are card wallets from lil packaging. They are durable, protect from light impact, scratches and drops. They also ‘expand’, so you can put a thin card wallet promo CD in, and have a slim package; or you can put a full size jewel case in there and the card wallet will ‘expand’ a bit. Check out the photos.
Here are some photos of what the CD mailers look like (got a big box of 150 I think it was, to hit the price break and get a cheaper per unit price):
There are a few options for this. For most people getting started, taking a bag of packaged CDs down to the local post office is probably the best solution. Get yourself a sharpie and write the addresses on the front of your card wallets by hand. You will want to check postage rates so you don’t get any nasty surprises and set up your shipping on your website / online store appropriately.
A great way to check the weight of your item is to grab a cheap set of digital weight scales that are accurate to roughly 2g (and if you use imperial will switch to ounces). Then you can accurately measure the weight of your CD / merch and make sure you don’t get any surprises at the Post Office.
As you might have noticed, one aspect of self fulfilment is that, when compared to drop shipping, there are upfront costs to handle. Rather than having a CD made per order, you now have to buy 20-100 units at a time and the packaging to go with them… and your sharpie. So you start to need a bit of capital. However, you will find that your profit margin is much, much higher per unit, than drop shopping.
You should be able to get the CDs created and packaging for less than £3 per unit, so if you are selling your CD for £10-£15, that is a profit per unit of £7-£12.
Self fulfilment pros
More profit per unit – this is a LOT cheaper than drop shipping, so for a given product price, you will make much more money
You can customise the user experience more
Better control over data
Self fulfilment cons
Your house turns into a warehouse
You have to do more planning, to source your products and packaging.
You have to pay a lot more upfront
Self fulfilment conclusion
While it is a bit more work, this is probably the best way for most musicians getting started to go. The work involved is not really that much at all, and you make more money per sale.
Third party fulfilment
Third party fulfilment involves setting up your own supply chain. This is similar to taking self fulfilment, and taking it to the next level, turning it into a miniature business. You take your manufacturer and you connect them to a shipping company, or, you take self fulfilment and you pay someone to run it for you. Paying someone to run your self sfulfilment is pretty simple so I’ll give you a quick overview of third party fulfilment using an external company.
Orders come through from your website and are automatically sent to your shipping company. The manufacture(s) ship directly to your shipping company, who put your items into warehousing. Shipping company takes incoming website orders, takes the appropriate items from the warehouse and boxes them up (this is referred to as “pick and pack”) and ships to the consumer. They sometimes have in house packaging solutions, so you don’t have to worry about that either.
A third party fulfilment will typically charge you a warehousing fee and a ‘pick and pack’ fee.
Third party fulfilment pros
If you have the order volume, you can scale to huge levels
You still keep a high profit margin per item
Automated, so you have very little to do. Shipping 10,000 units per month with this method will be less work than shipping 100 units a month with self fulfilment.
Postage is cheaper. The shipping company gets preferential shipping rates that are much cheaper than you can get at a Post Office, due to the volume they do.
Third party fulfilment cons
You have to be highly organised with stock management
You have a lot of costs to organise and figure out
You have to organise two companies to work together
You have to integrate your order platform with the shipping company
You need to be shipping a high volume of products to make this worthwhile
I would have thought for most independent musicians (if you have a record label, all this is taken care of for you), starting with a self fulfilment model and then ‘graduating’ to a third party fulfilment model will work best for you. I’m still in the self fulfilment phase.
This is a quick round up of the companies I’ve used that offer a great service with a great price (that are UK based):
These guys offer solutions for all your packaging problems, not just CDs! They do boxes for shipping your merch, boxes for books, boxes for this and that. They got you covered. A vital company for any band (or individual, small business) shipping their own products. Check them out
Whether you want card wallet CDs, digipaks, jewel case CDs, these guys have you covered. Their website looks a little bit old school… but it works. You can get a fully customised quote in minutes. Price per unit decreases with order volume which is nice. Check them out
Even in this age of digital streaming the CD still has value in the music industry.
Listeners, especially those of the younger generation understandably turn to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
The outlook for the humble CD from some perspectives in the music industry may look a little dreary but the reality for many bands and music artists is that they aren’t seeing a slow down in CD sales at all.
Artists still want to offer something tangible to offer their fans.
Time and time again we hear from bands that the Merchandise table is an increasing and valuable source of revenue.
It is true, music lovers always want to buy something to take home with them, whether it be a CD or a T Shirt…they are affordable, and a link to the music they love.
Again the recent resurgence in Vinyl is testament to this, and artists who stock both CD and Vinyl on their Merchandise table have seen that while the vinyl did well, the CD’s sold out quicker; particularly older catalogues. An understandable outcome as Cd’s are easier to produce and cheaper to buy, also more profitable to sell than Vinyl….they also sound objectively better!
It would also appear from recent research that certain genres of music are more CD bias in their demand than others: these being, Indie, Jazz,Gospel,Classical ,Children’s and Seasonal (like Christmas Music).
All this points towards the music industry having room for all mediums of technology,Vinyl,CD and Digital .
Our consumer driven society dictates that we have right to demand that music is made available to us in every way that it can be. While there will always be many digital only albums almost all commercial releases continue to be available on CD also.
The CD’s resilience has been aided on a practical level by the process of Duplication which involves the burning of audio directly into ready made discs.
Duplication of runs of as little of 50 units enable the artist to go directly online and within hours upload audio and art and have the final product within days. Many also opt to have the product shipped directly to gigs as they travel, giving the ability to bump stock if needed and avoiding carrying weighty product with them.
The CD is still going strong!
Want more facts and figures, take a look here: www.fastcompany.com (the cd business isn’t dying)
It may seem like a contradicting thing to say that books and DVDs go well together considering that each seems to encourage separate aspects of the human. While DVD are visually and aurally stimulating, packing with quick information that takes no effort to take in but which can quickly hook you in emotionally and psychologically, a book is a slow-burning, highly informative volume which focusses a little less on the powers of empathy and far more in employing the resources of the imagination.
However, recent studies have shown that these two such contrasting products are mutually beneficial when placed upon the market in a package. In fact, these packages have even developed their own niche – the ‘kit’ market’. Often, these ‘kits’ are one off and best-sellers, for instance the book/DVD combination on Barak Obama, Barak Obama – Words That Inspired A Nation: Essential Speeches 2002 to the Inauguration. But recently there has also been a whole host of kits brought out annually, often related to bands or magazines.
The book on Barak Obama was in danger of falling into the highly intellectualised, dry realm of academia but the accompanying DVD brought it to life and expanded the consumer market considerably. As Brian Brodeur, one of the key figures in the book’s video-editing process, says, “The DVD and package made all the difference… I don’t think a book of speeches is going to do those kinds of numbers. The value-add of the DVD is what put it over the top.” And it’s true; rather then selling a few copies to a small market of consumers with very scholarly attitudes, the DVD allowed the book to appeal to the average Joe. The kit sold 7,500 copies in its first two months of sale alone!
So, a DVD can obviously help a book to sell, but is the reverse true: When approaching DVD duplication services, should we also approach a publishing company alongside to create a book for our DVD?
The evidence suggests that the market is open and eager for more such kits, the multimedia content appealing to a greater audience and adding value above the value of the product alone. This has been seen with several more DVD-based kits. For a start, the back-copy DVDs of Rolling Stone and Playboy magazine. Each company approached Bondi Digital Publishing in New York, hoping to create a DVD of all the issues of their magazines since beginning of print. For Playboy, this went all the way back to 1953, while for Rolling Stone a more modest 1967. Still, both jobs were massive undertakings, with each page of each edition of the magazine needing to be scanned and digitalised.
It was posited that a book of the company’s respective histories should be published in conjunction with these DVDs, forming a kit, and there is no doubt that this decision on the DVD duplication services part added to the overall value of the product, combining two new and interesting collector’s items in one kit. As David Anthony, Bondai Digital’s president, recalls, “It began as a DVD-ROm only software product, but then we realised that adding a book would give us more retail reach.” The Playboy DVD kit also came with a re-print of the first edition of the magazine ever sold. These kits have, according to David Anthony, ‘met sales expectations’, which were high in the first place!
More unusual formats, for instance Esteban’s famous guitar lesson DVD/ book kits, are becoming available as well. Esteban’s kits are rumoured to sell more copies per year then the guitars the two giants of the instrument world, Fender and Gibson, sell per annum – combined! He must be a very happy man, as must his DVD duplication services be!
So, what are the issues with these top-selling kits? Well, to start the packaging can be a nightmare to conceptualise. What do you do with a DVD that needs to look like a book in a bookstore and a book that needs to look like a DVD on the shelves of HMV? But, as more and more kits come onto the market, more ideas are coming through and it is becoming ever-easier to piece together a product which looks classy and original.
The other problem many DVD duplication services encounter in the process of creating these products, is that the publishing and DVD duplicating worlds know very little about one another. This makes collaborating tricky, but can be incredibly successful, each business learning a bit about the other, and each one complimenting the other with the services they provide. The difficulties come when sourcing data for the product: During the Obama kit’s production, Barnes and Noble are said to have sourced some very poor quality film of the president’s speeches, which had to be re-sourced and acquired all over again!
However, this problem too has been fading with time, as each industry learns more about the other they are better able to collaborate and come out with some very stylish kits. As Brodeur says, “I think one of the reasons we’ve been putting together some great kits is because we now know more about what the other [industry] does.”
So, with issues in the production process which are constantly becoming less of a problem and a wide market eager to consume your product, why not consider making a kit next time you approach DVD duplication services? The profits are higher than the input by far and you would be helping a new and exciting variation on products get up and running!
Unsigned bands can have a tough time getting there music published - so here's some helpful hints!
In today’s harsh music industry, it can be really difficult to get your voice heard among the rest and get your music published. But there are ways to do it without having been signed or having an agent. In this article, I hope to explore the various ways this is possible and help you to get your sound on the market and being played!
Firstly, of course, there are the basics of the internet. Having a website can greatly increase your fanbase as friends share the link with each other and word of your music spreads through cyber-space. If you are a bit of a whizz, you can create your own website, or hire someone to do it for you if you have the spare cash. If you lack both money and know-how, you could always use a website-creator, like blog website WordPress, which can put in the basics of the site for you and allow you enter in the information you want and upload photos and music.
Aside from having your own website, also abuse the growing rash of social networking sites. Myspace music pages are an invaluable way of getting your music out there. You could also start up a Facebook Fan Page or even a Twitter account to gather your followers! And don’t forget to post music videos on YouTube as this is a great way to get lots of new fans and links!
But how about how to get your music onto the market? Well, believe it or not there are lots of relatively easy ways to do this! Firstly, Amazon is a fantastic site for selling your own wares. Simply go to their website, find the ‘Sell your stuff’ link and, for a comparatively small fee for what you will make selling your CDs on here, you can sell as many CDs as you want! I would advise, however, if you are selling on an official website like Amazon it will probably be worth your while to get a UPC barcode for your product as then you can sell worldwide and also will be able to branch out into more mainstream retail very easily.
Other websites, such as the America-based CD Baby are online distributors of music, sending out products to companies such as iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody. They do keep a small percentage of whatever you make, but it is a small price to pay for all the services they offer, including business cards, free web hosting, disc duplication and weekly pay to you! Though they are an American website, because they work with online sales and companies which make shipments world-wide, it is still alright for a UK based band to use them. However, if you want to keep things in the UK, you could use a UK based independent music distribution company such as TuneCore. Again, for both of these, you will need a UPC barcode.
But remember that in today’s digital world, people are starting to listen to music online, too. Websites such as LastFM are becoming increasingly popular and they make it really easy for you to upload your own music! Spotify, too, the famous downloadable program, encourages artists to work with them and upload their music for download. Although these organisations do not provide much profit at all, they are invaluable methods of getting your music heard by thousands upon thousands of listeners. This, in itself, will help to increase your sales.
Last but not least, remember to keep playing, keep writing and keep on recording because the more you put yourself out there, the more listeners and fans will come back to you! Good luck getting your music selling and I hope this article has helped!
In this day and age it can sometimes seem like a not altogether straight-forward thing to get your music or film on the market. One of the most overlooked issues is that of UPC barcodes. You need to have one to begin selling your product and in this article I hope to help explain what they are, why you need one and how to get one.
To begin, a UPC (universal product code) is a unique, 12-digit code (provided by the GS1, usually at the same time as you purchase the barcode) which is assigned to your product. Commonly known as barcodes, they are scanned in shops so that the retailers can access the price and information on the product. The way they work, once you have purchased them, is that you put the barcode onto your product and send it off to a retailer/distributor. They will then ask you questions about you and your product and enter it in their system under the UPC barcode you have provided. Thus, when your product is scanned at the register, it looks up that information and your sale is recorded. In order for them to work properly, you need one UPC barcode for each product: For example, you would need one barcode for a DVD recording of a concert, but another one for the CD album recorded at the same concert. In these instances, as with all discs, the barcodes would be placed on the CD or DVD cases.
It should be noted that UPC barcodes work well if you are planning on selling your product world-wide. However, if you are going to exclusively sell your product outside of the USA and Canada, you may want to use an EAN barcode. It is pretty much the same as a UPC barcode except that they have a 13-digit code, not a 12-digit one. UPC barcode readers can only read UPC barcodes, however EAN barcode readers can read both UPC and EAN barcodes. It is your choice, but given that UPC barcodes can be read pretty much universally, I would be inclined to go with them as there is little difference in price between the two.
The reason barcodes are important for selling your product is because it makes it very easy for retailers to sell them on. Most retailers, such as Amazon, will not accept a product unless it has a barcode because their retail systems work based on the barcodes themselves.
You should also be aware that if you are selling a CD or DVD, it is important to get a barcode – whether UPC or EAN – which is registered with SoundScan, or register your product with SoundScan separately. SoundScan is the company which records music and film sales and compiles the music and film charts so it important to get your CD registered with them otherwise it will not be included in the charts or the music and film sales records.
Barcodes can be quite pricey, but there are ways to make them cheaper and they are not difficult to buy. The best way to purchase one is though an agency. Companies such as Simply Barcodes are reliable agencies which will give you a unique barcode for a not unreasonable price. It is not necessary that the company from which you are purchasing your barcode is based in the country where you will sell your product, however this may have some effect on how fast they can complete your order. Most companies will give discounts to registered charities and bulk orders, so if you need more than one barcode it will be to your benefit to purchase them all at once. Many of the companies will process your order within a matter of hours, emailing you the barcode as soon as possible. Some of them also print labels of the barcodes and send them to you so that you don’t have to do it for yourself.
I would caution, however, against companies offering you free barcodes and ridiculous discounts: It is very easy to fake a barcode on the spot and if you end up with a fake barcode it is very likely that it may already be being used by another product. This is a waste of your time, a waste of your retailers time, and ultimately can lead to much confusion and you losing a lot of money. Try an find some customer references which legitimise the company, or a certificate from a certified crediting body. It is also important to make sure that your barcode does not have a ‘sell by’ date, that it is a permanent number designated to your product. Also, try to get a deal on your barcode whereby you do not have to renew it or pay annual fees: A one off fee is the most cost effective way to get your barcode!
I hope this article has been informative and helped you on your way to getting your barcode and selling your product!