There's not many better feelings then having all the songs from your debut album or mixtape finally finished and compiled. You have something complete to show for all those months of songwriting and recording, and you're close to letting your fans hear what you've been working on.
As well as looking for places to promote your first release and getting together a cover design (if you haven't already), a next step is deciding how many physical copies of this release you're going to press up.
Not yet sure how many will be best? Well this is what I'm going to help you decide here today.
Before that though, let me quickly look at why it'll be worth you pressing up some CDs, instead of keeping your release digital download only.
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Why You Should Create Physical Copies Of Your Music
Now the main reason I encourage musicians to press up a physical CD for their main releases isn't because it'll increase sales from their website. Because the truth is, unless you already have an established fanbase, it probably won't. Instead, the main reason you should do this is because it'll give you something to sell at any gigs you may play. And if you gig regularly, CD sales can become a significant part of your income as a musician.
I've seen musicians play gigs for free or very low wages, but still have a decently profitable night based simply on their CD sales. Even if you only manage to sell 5 CDs on the night for $8 each, that still makes the gig that bit more worth while. That said, I've seen musicians sell quite a bit more then that when they've played the right venue and event type.
If you're not planning on gigging as part of your music career, the pressing up of physical CDs becomes that bit less important. But if you are, you should definitely get some made up. If your music's good and you put the required work into promoting at shows, you will make your money back then profit.
How Many CDs Should You Press Up?
If you've decided you're going to press a CD up, the next question is how many you should make. My advice?
Start with 100.
That's right, one hundred. Not five hundred, not a thousand. Start out with a modest amount, then get more after if there is a need.
Now I know some people have probably read that and think they can sell much more then 100 CDs. It's their first release and they have big plans for it. That's understandable. The reality though, is unless you already have a big fanbase who are proven to buy your releases, it's best to test the market first.
Musicians, test the market with 100 copies of your first release. If it does well, THEN make more! – Tweet This
If you do this and your CDs are selling well, then you can go on to press up a bigger batch. But before then, making say 1000 discs is a big risk. I'll tell you why.
The Problem With Pressing Up 1000 Copies Of Your First CD
If you've ever looked at the price of pressing up 100 CDs vs 1000 CDs, you'll notice there's a big difference in the cost of each unit. This is because usually under 1000 CDs (or under 300 CDs for some companies such as Disc Makers), the manufactures use a different process to make up different batch sizes.
Your CDs will be duplicated if there's a smaller amount to be made, while they'll be replicated if the number you require goes above a certain amount. This number is different for each company.
While the cost of CD replication is the cheaper of the two when looking at unit costs, most CD manufactures won't replicate unless you're creating a certain amount of CDs. So overall you'll pay more.
While it's easy to think that each CD will cost less so you'll make more profit on them if you replicate 300 or more units, there's one potential issue that many musicians tend not to think will happen:
What happens if you don't sell them all?!
Unfortunately, I see this happen all too often. People thinking they've recorded such a strong product that there's no way they won't sell all 1000 units and have to press up more. While some people will be right, there are others who won't sell any where near as many as they think they will. And what happens is they end up with most of their unsold CDs hiding under their bed, stacked up in their garage, or in some other similar storage space.
Yes those CDs can be given out for free for promotional reasons, but you'll still end up with a financial loss. Something that could have been avoided if the market was tested first with 100 units.
Now I'm not saying you'll never sell more then 100 units, nor am I saying that you should press up 100 units each time. All I'm saying is that unless you have a fanbase which is proven to buy your music, it's best not to rush into things. Yes it is possible to sell a lot of units, but it takes a lot of work on your part. And if you underestimate the size of the task and are left with 950 units still to sell, it's easy to get demotivated fast.
So start out pressing up 100 units, and if you're selling out and feel you can sell a lot more, then get them made.
What's your view on the subject? Do you agree? Or do you feel it's better to press up more units on your first release? As always, let me know in the comments. 🙂