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
According to a professional study, an average item which entices the impulse buying must be low-cost and purchased frequently with little cognitive effort required from the customer. DVD perfectly fits all the criteria. A professional survey conducted by the UK online research company showed that DVDs have been the top impulse items bought within last year by the majority of respondents. DVDs outnumbered even shoes which for the long time had been considered as women’s favourite impulse choice. Entertainment has this unquestionable advantage over other branches – to create and enhace the spontaneous urgence to consume more and more…
Impulse-based selling: a daily routine for packaged media and a challenge for online retailers?
But once diagnosed, the spontaneous gap in consumers’ rational behaviour, the scientifically proven state of psychological disequilibrium can’t be left unmanaged. It’s all not about answering consumer needs instantly, but rather anticipating them. Here is the review of some popular tricks used by sellers to transform a sudden and spontaneous desire of buying into a solid part of volume sales.
The peak season for impulse-buying for packaged media is of course November and December which generate 40% of annual sales. In the holiday periods, the standard amount of shoppers increases and so does the likelihood of following the consumer choices made by others. Supermarkets are the crucial facilitators in driving these kinds of impulses through catalogue promotions, special events, sales and POS (Points of Sale) installed in the checkout space.
No doubts it is far easier to allure those customers who can touch the item before definitely parting with their money. Online retailers have a more though clientele to allure since those who buy online seem to do so in a more structured and responsible way. Besides, there are still no sufficient tools developed to boost the emerging phenomenon called ‘online impulse buying’. Recommendation engines, previous order history, reviews etc. are not enough. Online selling is 100% different from the high- street retail where you can reach consumers directly. And even the widely blessed advantage like offering a countless amount of products is limited by…the size of consumer’s computer screen! Since it turned out to be a fallacy that impulse – buying is driven entirely by price, maybe creating a fully bespoke online stores could tap all the impulses effectively? Price is important for those who are sensitive to it and therefore shop at supermarkets, but there are many other factors at each stage of the consumer segmentation. For example, those who pay attention to product’s quality are the most demanding and picky.
If you have ever found yourself trapped by any of those selling strategies you can be sure that your buying choices had been planned far in advance and there is hardly anything spontaneous when comes to marketing and sales.
BD - Live's ability to connect with social networks is essential to its success
Blu Ray disc format is opening doors for a wide range of advanced applications and can be a powerful marketing tool. Whilst the BD player was designed for watching movies, BD – Live can enhance this experience and at the same time integrate its fans communities online.
It’s also a perfect tool for collecting marketing data and who could want more? In order to make an optical disc BD – Live enabled you have to put some software on it. This process is called boot – strapping and later allows you to connect with the server, searching for any software updates.
With this, the path to promote market relevant content becomes widely open. Extra information about cast, crews, various aspects of the movie production and film trailers can be brought to the screen. If you want to extend, if not exceed the experience, you can immerse into an online communication with other viewers. The access to extra movie content can be via electronic sell – though ( EST ) or by video – on – demand ( VOD ) transactions. Attractive, frequently updated and well managed content is the key to keep the fans interested as well as bring in new ones and to integrate them around films or brands through social networks.
From the mass merchandisers perspective, BD – Live looks like a fulfilled dream. It makes the consumers’ response fully measurable and accessible, so it can be aimed at a precisely selected group of clients, providing a cost effective campaign with a high response rate. Every prefernce can be tracked: what is being watched / purchased, for how long and at what frequency. This makes the e – commerce opportunites indefinately rich, especially in branches like entertainment, automotive, software, travel and leisure.
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!