|An Introductory Mechanic's Guide|
to Putting Out Records, Cassettes and CDs
|official web version|
brought to you by [indiecentre]
SIXTH [AND FINAL] EDITION, 1999
by Kristin Thomson and Jenny Toomey
Arlington, VA 22210
For questions and suggestions about the content of this guide,
Simple Machines Records ceased to exist on March 30, 1998, after
eight years of business. With ~10000 xeroxed guides out there and
this web version started in 1996, who knows how many labels and
bands they helped with this vital information. Good luck to them both.
Welcome to the 1999 edition of the Mechanics Guide, the sixth and FINAL
edition. Why the final edition? As of April, 1998 Simple Machines closed
its doors as a label. While this may sound ironic to you - that the indie
label that’s mailed out close to 10,000 copies of the Mechanic’s Guide shut
down - there are legitimate reasons.
We started Simple Machines for a few reasons, the most obvious being because
no one else wanted to release our records. It was fun and within a year we
were putting out records by our own bands and helping our friends. A few
years later, thanks to some incredibly great records and Tsunami's erroneous
tag as riot grrrl flagship band in England, we turned a hobby into a
full-time business. Seventy releases later, we're ready to do something
From 1990-98 running Simple Machines was a significant, hysterical, euphoric,
despairing and, all-together, extreme chapter of our lives. It took over
every part of our house and mind and we've loved almost every bit of it.
In the past few years, however there have been significant changes, both
personal, like Kristin's marriage to Bryan Dilworth and subsequent move to
Philadelphia and structural ones, like the commodification of dissent (thank
you, Baffler) and ubiquitous major label tinkering in all
areas of underground music structures.
Kristin's move increased her already legendary physical and financial burden.
Living between Philly and DC, she made the 6-hour commute every week for
almost 4 years. The structural change ultimately meant that we had to spend
ever-increasing amounts of our time and money on technical areas of the music
business and less and less time on music itself. Putting records out and
keeping them in print became more expensive and money became a large burden.
These extra costs and responsibilities made it increasingly difficult to tour
and run the label at the same time, and without the touring cash cow of
Tsunami it became necessary for us to take on part-time jobs. Part-time jobs
became full-time jobs, and ultimately there was a moment last year when we
realized that if we continued this way for much longer, it wouldn't be fun
anymore, and having fun is perhaps the most sacred of the Simple Machines
commandments. We cringe when reading interviews by indie label owners who
are bitter about their lot in life and yet continue on, whining all the way.
We expected this day to come - this job is one particularly suited to the
young, and their enthusiasm, impatience and idealism. So we leave it to the
diehards, the exceptional and the next generation and made arrangements to
close our doors.
1998 was a perfect ending spot. The success of the new Ida and Tsunami
records secured the financial closure. The label's bigger bands have already
moved on to the next step at majors or major indies (Ida/Capital,
Scrawl/Elektra, Danielle Howle/Daemon) and for the most part the remainder of
the artists who were SMR veterans have new labels to help them out (Franklin
Bruno & Secret Stars/Shrimper, Monorchid/Touch n Go, Sea Saw &
hollAnd/Darla). Plus, neither of us ever believed that this would be our
life's work. We've always had secret projects on the back burner (Kristin is
waiting for the Flyer's talent rep to call her back and Jenny is ready to
build that solar farm), and we were just waiting for the time to set them in
motion. You can be sure that none of these plans involve calling slack asses
for payments or back royalties or copping aliases to push brilliant music on
increasingly cynical journalists.
The folks we've met running Simple Machines are the best people we've met in
our lives. We'll be sad to be out of the loop but it's better to close on a
high note than to let it deteriorate into a parody like so many other indie
labels of yore. We hope you all can appreciate this unusual event as we
attempt to close down the monolith with reputation and idealism intact. On
March 27-29, 1998 we hosted the Simple Machines Finale Party at the Black Cat
in Washington, DC, where 24 bands and over 500 fans kicked out bucket with
At this point, the Simple Machines back catalog is all still available,
thanks to the distribution efforts of the folks at Southern at Dischord. And
because we really do believe in the basic tenets that make up this booklet,
the Mechanic's Guide will live in perpetuity on the [indiecentre] website at
It’s encouraging for us to know that even in a world where the line between
major and independent labels is deceptively fluid, and majors are paying
particular interest to the tiniest of bands, so many people still want to put
out their own music by themselves. We think this guide is a good first step.
We’ve sent out nearly 10,000 of them since 1990 and still get requests every
day. It’s hard to know the actual number in existence as the original
xeroxed copy versions came from us via xerox bandits and we never kept
accurate records so we wouldn’t have to incriminate ourselves if it ever got
Looking back at the original version it’s amazing how little of the key
information we’ve needed to update. Steve Scruz’s basic info on putting out
vinyl and John Henderson’s CD tidbits were right on the money. In the last
one we added a bit of basic info on publishing, copyrighting, “going legal”.
For this one we’ve updated and expanded the list of addresses for companies
that manufacture CDs and records, as well as included more about what we’ve
learned over the past two years.
One thing to keep in mind. This booklet is just a basic blueprint, and even
though we write about putting out records or CDs, a lot of this is common
sense. We know people who have used this kind of information to do
everything from putting out a 7” to starting an independent clothing label to
opening recording studios, record stores, cafes, microbreweries, thrift
stores and book shops. Some friends have even used similar skills to
organize political campaigns and rehabilitative vocational programs offering
services to youth offenders in DC.
There is nothing that you can’t do with a little time, creativity, enthusiasm
and hard work. An independent business that is run with ingenuity, love and
a sense of community can even be more important than the products and
services it sells because an innovative business will, if successful, stretch
established definitions and set a new standard. These businesses also serve
the practical function of employing other like-minded people at cool jobs
which offer flexibility (part-time commitment), sense of community and,
sometimes, a paycheck.
For example, Dante Ferrano changed the face of live music in DC when he
opened the Black Cat Club in 1994. Not only could local bands get a fair
shake at a nice club with friendly people and a good PA, but for the first
time in the past few years, young “unproven” touring bands had a place to
play in this notoriously difficult town. As showgoers, we also got our first
chance to see music at a fair price in a nice venue complete with pinball,
pool tables, and a contemporary juke box. Even in its shaky first year, the
club was sympathetic to benefit causes and community coffee houses. No, this
isn’t the first cool club on Planet Earth, but it set an entirely new
precedent in DC - one that offered us a choice apart from the rock-n-roll
bullshit of some other DC clubs and set a new standard the other clubs must
now meet to compete. DC CDs and Vinyl Ink have done similar things by
stretching the definition of what a record store can be. Geoff Turner and
Charles Bennington offered an alternative to the sterility and costs of high
budget recording by opening a basement studio. Recently they’ve reinvested
that success by expanding to a larger, more professional studio just two
doors down from the Black Cat. There are similar stories all over DC and in
cities all across the country. It’s very inspiring for us to see people put
these basic skills to such a variety of interesting and creative uses, to
establish their own businesses that thrive on ingenuity, enthusiasm and
let's say you're in a band|
Don’t expect record label moguls to approach you with some 3-record,
$1,000,000 deal. In almost every case, if you want to make a record or CD of
your musical project, you’ve got to do it yourself. Or, say you’re not in a
band yet, but there’s a band or bands you love and you’d like to try putting
out a CD/record/cassette of their stuff. It’s probably best to start with a
band you know personally, or one that genuinely wants to help with the
process. That way, no one will be surprised or angry if there are problems
like unexpected costs or delays.
We won’t talk much about actual recording methods, except to say that the
possibilities are endless. Real recording studios, equipped with the giant
8, 16 or 24 channel mixing boards that record onto reel-to-reel magnetic
tape, DAT/ADAT machines or even compupter hard drives can make any Joe Schmo
sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Of course, buying all that equipment
costs a lot, and the hourly rates reflect that. Studios charge between $20
and $50 an hour and sometimes A LOT more. But who needs all that snazzy
stuff anyway? Some of our favorite records were recorded on simple 4-track
Because recording costs so much, who pays for it - whether it’s the band
themselves or the label - becomes the first big question. When we first
started Simple Machines we couldn’t pay bands to record specifically for us.
We’d tackle this two ways. First, bands often record extra songs for records
or tapes that they already are planning to put out. If this is true in your
ideal band’s case, it’s just a matter of convincing them to give you a
song/songs to put out. This arrangement works especially well for
compilation releases, where you’re only asking for one song from a number of
bands. Second, some bands go into the studio to record for their own
interest but don’t have any specific plans for releasing it. What you can
offer these bands is to do the work of turning their recording into vinyl,
CDs or cassettes, with the understanding that they will probably not get paid
back in money, but instead given a small quantity of records which they can
sell themselves to pay for their recording expenses. You can also offer to
sell the band records at cost or a little above. The band can then sell the
7”s for $3 and make a profit too. This is an especially nice arrangement if
the band is touring because they can sell singles to make extra gas or food
money while they are on the road. But they won’t be selling to the same
people that you will be trying to sell to ...no competition, no bad blood.
Once you have a "studio quality" tape of the material to be pressed, you need
to choose a format for your release - 7", 12" record, cassette or CD. Some
choices, of course, involve more money than others, but don’t let that stop
you. A whizbang cassette dubbed in your own home, with a snazzy cover can be
just as impressive as a CD. In the 90’s we’ve seen the big record companies
completely phasing out vinyl releases. Have you noticed that most chain
record stores don’t even have places to display records on sale anymore? If
the role of vinyl continues in this direction, the most affordable method of
putting out small, alternative bands will be on cassette and CD, where
manufacturing prices have dropped dramatically in the past couple of years.
That’s fine with us, though. Don’t fetishize format. It’s all about getting
your music out anyway.
Since we started by putting out 7" records, we’ll begin by describing the
step-by step process from that angle. Some of the steps are different for CD
releases, but we’ll deal with that later. For now, onto records.
how to make a record|
Manufacturing the actual record is a five part process:
- Creating a "master" from the tape
- Processing the masters
- Printing the record labels
- Pressing the actual vinyl
- Packaging the records for sale
As with nearly anything, there are many ways to accomplish these five steps;
the smart label seeks the most affordable route to her/his ideal record, as
(hopefully) he or she clearly realizes the distinct possibility of losing
her/his shirt on this and doesn’t wish to jeopardize future releases and
current friendships with dumb business moves.
There are a good dozen pressing plants/services in the U.S. (not to mention
foreign companies), and a majority offer package deals, where you provide the
tapes, cover art, label information and cash, and they provide the you with
sale-ready records. But you pay a price for this convenience. When you opt
for a package deal, you are leaving the important choices about who is going
to master your records and how the packaging will finally look in the hands
of strangers. Unless you are willing to compromise the quality of the record
and/or packaging, it is best to do it yourself and find the best companies
to individually handle the five steps for you. This can delay your records
significantly unless you become a pest, calling the slowpokes (whoever they
are) every day until they come through for you, but an energetic person can
find this fun.
Creating a Master
Mastering is creating an original record by cutting a wobbling groove into a
smooth lacquer disk - a delicate process which can be easily screwed up.
Although many record plants offer mastering service as part of a package
deal, there are a good number of places or people which specialize in
mastering. Leaving this step to the pros means that you won’t have to worry
about the engineers sitting around swilling beers and mastering your record
in their garage on equipment they picked up at the Saturday swap meet. It
also means that if they do screw up, they will remaster your record free of
Vinyl mastering prices vary wildly depending on your source tape, the format
and length of your record, and the mastering method you choose. Standard
methods are analog lacquer mastering from a 1/4", half-track reel of magnetic
tape (1/4" is the width of the tape) or a DAT. The usual job from a 1/4"
tape or a DAT source tape costs anywhere from $45/side to $75/side for 7"
mastering. There are more expensive methods of mastering, but we think the
prices far exceed the perceptible difference in fidelity. When you send off
your master tape, enclose a simple letter for the engineer, including the
band name, song titles in the correct order and length of each song. You
should also describe any parts on the tape that deserve special mastering
attention, but be aware that there’s only so much a mastering engineer can
correct or improve. They can deal with stuff like "add more high end or
mid-range", but they can’t "turn up the guitars". We highly recommend that
you send a tape that has been equalized and mixed to your satisfaction,
because only you and the band know what you want it to sound like, and a
mastering engineer may not have the same idea as you about what "loud
Now is also the time to pick a catalog or "matrix" number for your record,
and let the mastering and pressing plants know what it is. Certain pressing
plants require that the record side’s matrix number be etched onto the inner
groove of the record; this number consists of a combination of letters and
numbers which identifies your record label, the release number, and the side
of the record. For example, the ‘B’ side of Leopard Gecko Records’ third
release is LG003B. This information also needs to appear on the labels so
the pressing plant people can correctly match the labels with their
Did you ever wonder how those secret messages get on the inner groove of
vinyl records? It’s not actually a bored worker at the vinyl pressing plant
sending secret messages out on freshly pressed records. Those etched
messages are inscribed by the mastering person in the lacquers. If you want
a special message etched on the hubs, you’ll need to include that on your
If the quality of your original tape is shaky, or you’re putting out a
compilation record, where the different songs have been recorded at varying
levels, it’s probably a good idea to pay for reference acetates. The prices
for these range from $110 (KDisc used to charge) to $60 (Masterworks). This
will give you an exact replica of the mastering levels to listen to before
it’s transferred onto the permanent metal plates, so getting acetates assures
that if there are any glitches you’ll catch them at the beginning. But at
around $100, these can add a significant cost to the process, so don’t feel
like they’re necessary. Since they’re not permanent vinyl, acetates can only
be played about eight times before the quality begins to deteriorate, and you
shouldn’t pick the needle up before each side is completely finished. If in
doubt, ask your mastering plant to send you instructions about listening to
them. If you or your band are pretty sure about the sound quality of your
master tape, more power to you...rock on in your youthful abandon.
The Processing Process
Once both sides of your record have been mastered, metal "stamper plates"
must be formed from them. This is called "processing" or "plating". These
stampers are reverse molds of the originals and are used to press your
records. Generally, the pressing plant will send your master lacquers to a
plating service once they receive them. It may be cheaper for you to work
directly with the processing engineers, but it may also be more of a hassle.
Two-step processing (versus one-step or full—who the hell knows what the
differences are) costs about $50/side for a 7" or $70/side for a 12". We’ve
always let the record pressing plant take care of this intermediate step and
have never been unsatisfied.
Printing the Record Labels
At roughly the same time you are sending your tapes off to be mastered, you
should be sending off artwork for the labels. Most record pressing plants can
have labels printed for you for a reasonable price, but your choices on inks
and paper colors are fairly limited. If you want to have cooler-looking
labels, your best bet is to ask every label printer you can find for a price
sheet and a booklet of sample label designs. We’ve had labels done through
Hamlett, which is just down the street from United in Nashville, TN. It’s
only slightly cheaper, but he does have a larger selection of stock papers
and ink colors. Typesetting, layout work, and negatives tend to be expensive
at the printers, so you’re better off doing your own layouts. Most companies
will accept a paper positive of the artwork, and if it involves two colors,
you can do a paper or acetate overlay, or do the layout on a computer and get
digital files output to paper or film (more on these terms later). We’d
suggest that you put the band’s name, song titles, your record company’s name
and address, copyright information, RPM’s and matrix number on at least one
of the two labels, but it’s your record. Once your label artwork is ready,
send the artwork along with a description of the label design(s) and ink
color(s) you wish, the name of your pressing plant, your record’s matrix
number, and your cash to the label printers. Most printing services will
require 4-6 days to print your labels, after which they send them to the
pressing plant to meet up with your records. One last consideration: if you
EVER plan on repressing your record, it’ll save you a load of money if you
order extra labels at the start, since the cost of 2000 labels is only a
couple of bucks more than 1000.
Pressing the Vinyl
Now, the most important step: pressing the vinyl. As stated previously,
there are about a dozen pressing plants in America, and even more overseas,
although their numbers have been decreasing. Choose your plant based upon
its location (shipping costs are killer, so the closer to you, the less in
shipping costs), the amount of money you have to blow and what your looking
for; if you’ve got the cash, you can find anything you want SOMEWHERE
(picture discs, specially-shaped records, 5"s, 10"s, flexis, 78’s, weirdo
vinyl colors...). Most plants will press in quantities anywhere from 100 to
50,000, but quantities under 500 are noticeably more expensive. Here’s a
price breakdown based on an order of 1000 records:
7" on black vinyl 35¢-55¢ each (cheapest is United
7" on color vinyl 48¢-64¢ each (United, Erika, Rainbo, Alberti and
Bill Smith have good color selection)
12" on black vinyl 78¢ each
12" on color vinyl $1.00 each
10" on black vinyl 90¢ each
Here’s how to deal with them. First, figure out what you need them to do for
you. Note that not all record plants offer the same options, so call them for
a price list and order form before sending your order. Enclose a letter
with your order to let them know every detail of your project including:
- who is making your masters (or stampers)
- who is printing the labels (if it's not the record plant itself)
- the matrix ID for the project (e.g. LG003)
- large (50's 45-style) or small (LP-style) center hole
- format (7", 12", 33 1/3 or 45 rpm)
- color (if applicable)
- number of records you want.
You’ll have to pay at least 50% of the total cost before the job is done, so
be prepared to send a certified check/credit card info along with your
letter. They’ll send you 3 or so test pressings of your record so you can
listen for mastering/processing defects before pressing the entire run. Test
pressings are nice because they let you listen to what your music will sound
like on their vinyl. But, if you find anything wrong you will probably have
to pay to have your record re-mastered and re-plated if the fuck up is in the
mastering or the plating stages and not just the pressing. If you’re
satisfied with the TP’s, phone the plant and (in theory) 10 days later you’ll
receive your vinyl COD (have your payment ready!). The best advice we can
give you is to be patient and but keep calling and checking on your
order.....you’ll eventually get what you paid for.
Packaging For Sale
When you receive your records from the pressing plant, all that’s left is to
package them for sale. Obviously, there are a jillion different packaging
schemes, (every one of the Teen Beat Sexual Milkshakes 7" came with 3D space
asteroid glasses, and Steve from Meat Records had his mother sew 20 special
edition covers out of the grossest blanket we’ve ever seen for the
Slushpuppies double 7"). Don’t be afraid to be creative, but pick a design
which suits your budget; a carefully designed well xeroxed/printed sleeve is
beautiful all on its own. In general, print 7" sleeves and inserts at local
print shops, but always ask for estimates! Specialty printers like Barefoot
Press do amazing work on 7" sleeves and inserts, as well as cassette covers
and CD booklets, and they like to use recycled paper. If you’re interested
in full color sleeves or the kind that are like mini LP jackets with glued
edges, you’ll need to use a printer that’s set up to do that work. Barefoot,
Punks with Presses, Dorado, Erika and Ross Ellis can all get this done for
you for prices from 35¢ up per 1000.
More often than not you have to have cardboard 12” jackets made through a
pressing plant or specialized LP jacket printer like Dorado, Erika, Stoughton
or Ross Ellis. Some labels have been more inventive, like Guy Picciotto’s
snazzy label Peterbilt sliding their 12” LP’s into manila envelopes and the
CRASS folks wrapping records in enormous posters, but that’s pretty unusual.
Most pressing plants will offer to stuff your records into your jackets and
shrink-wrap them. As rotten as it is to add to this world’s plastic fetish,
12” records travel more safely when shrinkwrapped. But if you’re doing a 7”
record, save your money and put the records and inserts inside your sleeves
yourself. It’s also a good idea to enclose 7”s in plastic record protecting
bags, which you can purchase for about $27/1000 through Bags Unlimited.
By the way, records need to be stored properly. Keep them
in a fairly cool and dry environment standing upright (as opposed to stacked
on top of each other). Shrinkwrap tends to stretch and tighten with
temperature changes, which can seriously warp LPs. Be very careful!
how to make a cd|
But now it’s almost the Year 2000...distributors are ordering less and less
vinyl (or in some cases none at all), most radio stations rely on CD players,
and most chain stores are either cutting back or eliminating their vinyl
stock altogether. Why not consider releasing a CD? For the most part,
manufacturing 1000 CDs is less expensive than making 1000 12" albums.
Even if you never plan on putting out a CD, you might be surprised to know
that a package deal for 1000 CDs costs between $1700 and $2000. When you
break that down it comes to $1.70 to $2 per single CD (not including the big
variable of recording costs). And this is just 1000 CDs. The manufacturing
price dips much lower when you get to the major label level who make 10,000
CDs at a time (and in many cases also own their own CDs pressing plants).
This may get you thinking...then why are major-label CDs usually about $16 in
the stores? That’s a huge markup! It’s not a short or easy answer and a lot
of it has to do with the extra money spent by major labels on expensive
recording, videos, promotion, salaries, you name it. It also has as much to
do with your basic profit making forces (i.e. how much will the consumer pay
for this?) and the cumulative effect of a music industry that’s spent the
past decade convincing the public that CDs are a $12-$18 necessity, cajoling
them to re-purchase all their favorite albums in this new format so they can
finally hear subtleties they had been missing on vinyl and thus sucking
everyone into the CD realm for good. We don’t deny that CDs sound great -
it’s the music industry that sucks. What’s ironic about the development of
the CD is that two of the main features they were trumpeted for - lasting
forever and being able to hold twenty more minutes of music - have not been
realized. Most rock albums are still about 50 minutes and everyone knows a
scratch on a CD can result in those annoying digital skips. When cool record
labels like Dischord put out 2 albums and a single on one CD and sells it for
$10, or when Homestead squeezes 70 Sebadoh songs on one CD, then they’re
really worth it.
The first thing you’ll need is a finished tape. Unlike making an album, you
could theoretically record a cheap cassette in your bathroom and turn it into
a CD with hardly any loss of sound quality. This is because the first thing
that’s done with your tape is a conversion to a CDR, which contains the
digital transcript of your music, plus subcodes used to show the number of
songs, times, etc. Once your music has been "digitized" it can be
transferred from DAT to DAT to CD and back without the slightest loss of
The best format to master from is a DAT tape, which is already in a digital
format, but a 15ips 1/4" stereo reel is good, too. Most places that
manufacture CDs can do the conversion to the CDR and the actual mastering,
but there are folks who specialize in this and it would be better if you
handled this crucial step yourself. Current charges range from $150 on up
for CD mastering, depending on length of album and the engineer’s expertise.
Just like with the records, you will need to inform the conversion engineer
which CD plant to send the master to for manufacturing. CDRs have become more
popular lately for a very good reason - you can listen to the CDR in your
regular CD player after it’s been mastered but before it goes off for
duplication. Since CDs are an exact digital replica, what you hear on the
CDR is what you’re gonna get.
Glass mastering is similar to plating a record. Once a CDR or 1630 is
received, the CD plant creates a glass master, and the glass master makes a
family of metal stampers from which all the discs are printed. This is an
amazing process where a piece glass about 1” thick and about the size of a
large pizza is stuck into a laser machine. Your CDR is placed inside the
same laser machine and the digital information is basically shot onto the
piece of glass that’s been coated with a photo-sensitive substance. Then the
piece of glass is taken out and left to cure, and the metal stampers are cast
off this piece of glass. Once the stampers are done, the glass is scrubbed
clean and re-used for another project. This whole process can take up to 18
From DATs to Discs
CDs have definitely assumed the prominent position in the music world. While
this may not be good news for those vinyl enthusiasts, the explosion of CDs
has made duplication prices fall dramatically. We get our work done at
Failsafe Media in Illinois but we’ve also used Skybow Records in Nashville,
TN and KAO/American Helix in Lancaster, PA, and look in the back of the
booklet for a more comprehensive listing of CD plants. They’re pretty fast,
very friendly, and relatively inexpensive. As with other formats, you need
to send the plant your CDR, as well as info about the band, the catalog
number and the quantity you need, as well as a 50% deposit. Most plants
charge from 70¢ to 90¢ per raw CD based on a minimum order of 1000. You
could do fewer, but it wouldn’t necessarily cost you much less, although
there are some CD brokers who now specailize in short runs of CDs at
reasonable prices. Shop around!
One other small cost is for the printing on the CDs. In most cases a
two-color printed label is free for orders over 1000, but some places charge
about 5¢ per CD for this, or a flat set up charge of about $35 for creating
negatives of any artwork you send them. You could get fancy with lots of
colors or weird patterns, but this will cost extra. CD label layout is very
precise, so ask the CD plant to send you a template with the specific
dimensions before making the films.
Printed Booklets and Traycards
At this point you’ve got 1000 CDs and nothing to put them in. Here’s where
you can do a lot of different things. The traditional CD jewel box packaging
requires a booklet and a tray card, as well as the actual jewel box. A lot
of CD pressing plants will take care of this step for you as long as you send
filmwork and color proofs along with your CDR. In cases where you’re
interested in special papers, weird folds or diecuts you may save money by
having the booklets & tray cards made by a specialty printer (see list in
back) and having them ship the booklets to the CD plant for assembly. Most
of the CD plants have very low printing prices on standard booklets and trays
since they are set up to do it. A set of 1000 4-panel (that’s one piece of
paper folded over) booklets and cards cost a little over $300, and it doesn’t
cost much more to print in full color. As with the record jackets, if you
pay a little extra you can get a lot more covers or booklets. A paltry $100
with the original order will get you a full 1000 extra booklets/tray cards.
But here’s the catch - you must send them final film negatives ready for
printing. Preparing filmwork for printing is a huge topic on its own so
refer to the section done by Barefoot Press in a few pages for the basics.
Always refer to the art specifications from the place you’ve chosen to do
your printing because everyone is slightly different and it’s very important
to get it right and avoid extra charges.
Now you’ve got the paper stuff and the CDs all you need to do is put it
together. The most common way is by using jewel cases. While most of them
are clear plastic with black trays, you can also find colored trays or tinted
plastic in a variety of colors. While you have the option of buying empty
jewel cases and having all the parts shipped to you separately for you to
assemble yourself, you may not want to. John Henderson said he spent over a
week putting together copies of the Beat Happening 1983-85 CD by hand to save
$150, and wrestling with tray cards and jewel case parts just wasn’t worth
it. For about 30¢ a piece, a giant machine at the CD plant will assemble
the CD, booklet and jewel box for you. For about 5¢ extra they’ll shrinkwrap
them, and for another 10¢ or so they’ll apply barcode stickers or those
ultracool topspine barcodes that have the band name, album title and barcode
on a removable strip on the top of the CD.
There are at least two other common methods of packaging - the digipack and
Eco-Paks - and more creative stuff appearing every day. Digipacks are like
the old-fashioned double album sleeves shrunk down to the size of a CD
package. The have a wide spine and look like little books. When you open up
the package, there’s a plastic tray glued onto the inner right-hand side
that keeps the CD in place. These are very cool, but they’re at least 80¢
each and there’s usually a minimum order of 2500. The official manufacturer
of digipacks is AGI (708/344-9100) but most of the big CDs plants can order
these for you. An Eco-Pack is almost identical, but they avoid the plastic
part in the center all together by sliding the CD into a small slit. We use
a company called C-Case, but as we understand, there is no "industry
standard" for eco-paks, so every CD plant may offer something along these
lines but with a different name. Both are ecologically a lot groovier than
jewel boxes, and it’s an all-in-one deal (booklet/ tray/jewel box/assembly),
so it’s not as expensive as it seems when you add it all up. We don’t see
why you can’t silkscreen a little box, include a xeroxed booklet with your
CD, or even put it in a little envelope with a nifty sticker. We’ve found
some neat white cardboard CD jackets through Bags Unlimited for about 20¢
each that could be silkscreened or printed on. Not only would it cost a lot
less, but CDs are a lot harder to mangle than albums, so you wouldn’t have to
worry as much about damage in shipping and storage. There’s also the
gorgeous letterpressed folders that Independent Projects Press has created,
as well as the pressed cardboard folders from Fireproof Press, both of which
have that special handcrafted look. It’s going to take a concerted effort to
break the jewel box habit, so let’s not be afraid to try different packaging
how to make a cassette|
As we said before, cassettes are the wave of the future...well, for
independent music at least. Cassette releases offer three great bonuses.
First, they’re not that expensive to dub in quantities, and as long as the
cassettes are good quality, they can sound just as good as a record. Second,
if you run out, you can usually find a friend with two tape decks where you
can make more copies yourself. You can buy cassettes in bulk in a variety of
lengths. Third, it’s much easier to make your own cassette covers at the
local Kinko’s or print shop, thereby saving a lot of money. The down side is
that stores and distributors are less likely to buy them from you to sell, so
you’ve gotta hustle them yourself at shows or through mailorder.
We buy our blank cassettes at Diskmakers in Philadelphia. They have blank
cassettes in three grades running from 5 mins to 95 mins, for about a penny a
minute (so a 60 min tape costs 62¢). Diskmakers also offers blank cassette
labels on tractor feed or laser printer type sticker paper, as well as those
clear shell boxes. We know there are companies like World Class Tapes that
offer colored labels and shells for a bit more money.
For those of you who are short of time or don’t want to invest in extra
cassette decks, you can also send away master tapes and have them dubbed by a
large company. Check your Yellow Pages for a place in your area that will
dub tapes for a reasonable price. When calling, make sure they’re using good
quality cassettes (high bias chrome tapes) and that they dub in "real time".
That means that they play the master tapes at the actual listening speed, not
at twice or three times the speed like high speed dubbing decks do which
results in a larger loss of sound quality.
information provided by Barefoot Press
While all the mastering, recording and stamping is in the works, the artwork
should be prepared for printing. The following info should help you
understand the process. The best thing to do though, is to find a reputable
printer to take care of you, especially if you’ve never done this before.
For starters, let’s assume that your artwork is going to be one color. With
thousands of inks and hundreds of papers available, a lot can be done with
one color at a low cost. We’ll also assume that you are not laying out your
artwork using a computer. As we mentioned before, computers have made
graphic design a lot easier, but not everyone has access to them and it’s
very important to know these printing fundamentals whether you’re using a
pair of scissors or Photoshop.
Camera-ready art is exactly that - it’s artwork that’s ready to be
photographed. Printers shoot negatives from your artwork. These negatives
are used to make the metal plates that do the actual printing. Printers can
shoot just about anything; photographs, drawings, charcoal sketches,
cut-and-paste collages, etc, but for best results, all camera-ready art that
involves line art or type needs to be high contrast (black on white). When
anything has a tone or a shade the printer makes a halftone of it. A
halftone breaks the image down into tiny dots or lines. Look very closely at
a black and white photo that’s been printed in the newspaper. It’s not a
photo - it’s actually a bunch of dots! The dots allow the same range of
tones to be reproduced using one color of ink.
The best halftones are from original black & white photographs that are
between 50% and 200% of the finished size. Keep in mind how your choice of
ink and paper will affect the image. The image’s darkest area will be as
dark as the ink you’ve chosen, and the lightest areas will be the color of
the paper. A light color ink on dark appear will provide a muted, low
contrast reproduction. That’s not bad as long as it’s what you want.
It’s important to remember that each color you pick requires a
separate negative. Let’s say your 7" sleeve has a line drawing of an apple -
it’s red with green leaves. If it was totally camera-ready you would have
two separate pieces: the red plate and the green plate. Registration marks
(see diagram) are used to line up each plate so they need to be in the exact
same position on each plate. When you lay the plates on top of one another,
the leaves should line up with the apple.
Another option is to create a mechanical by mounting your art onto cardboard.
Then attach a sheet of tracing paper along the top. The top sheet
represents the green plate, so shade the leaves on the tissue paper. Your
actual drawing represents the red plate. The printer cuts masks based on
your mechanical and shoots negatives from those. You’ll pay more to have the
printer do it, but it may be easier.
All printers refer to ink colors by using the Pantone Matching System (PMS).
This system was set up to ensure that the red you pick out for the apple -
say, PMS #186 - is the same one the printer will use. Any printer, and most
art stores, will have a Pantone matching book you can look at.
There are two ways to print multi-color images: spot color and process/full
color. The 7" described above would be printed as a spot color piece. In
spot color printing the paper goes through the press once for each color and
the press’ ink reservoirs are loaded with the specific Pantone colors that
you picked out of the book. If you’ve picked more than three spot colors,
you should consider doing process printing.
Every color you can imagine can be created with a combination of cyan,
magenta, yellow and black ink (except metallics like silver or gold). In
process printing, each ink is applied to the paper in the right amounts in
the right areas to "build" the right colors. Next time you open a box of
cereal take a look at the edges - you can usually see where the 4 colors
overlap. As we said before, each color needs a separate negative: cyan,
magenta, yellow & black. Keep in mind that the cost of generating these CMYK
negatives from original art, which may include scanning, color correction,
film output and a color match, can become very expensive. If you have a
scanner and a computer at your disposal you can do a lot of this stuff
yourself, but we’ll get to the computer version of this in a minute.
Let’s say that you want a picture on your CD booklet to touch the
edge of the paper. That means you need to build a bleed for the printer. In
order to do that, the image you’ve chosen has to actually extend beyond the
edge of the finished product. The printer then trims away the extra. Most
printers need a minimum of 1/8" bleed. If you don’t set it up that way you
run the risk of having a white border on the edge of your photo (see diagram).
Computers and Layout
If you have access to a computer with the right
software and someone who knows how to use it, you can make the design and
layout of your music a lot easier. Applications like Photoshop, Freehand,
QuarkXPress, Pagemaker and Illustrator were created to circumvent many of
the traditional printing setup and layout tasks. With these you can
manipulate color and placement at the touch of a key.
We’re not going to talk about how to layout things on computer, but what to
do once you’re done. Particularly if you’re working in full color, computers
make it much easier to create CMYK films by using machines that output your
files directly to film. A lot of printers can now accept artwork on a
computer disk and output the films, or you can send it to a service bureau
that will output the negatives that you would then send to the printer.
You can usually save money by taking care of the film output instead of
leaving it up to the printer. Before you send your computer files for
output, you need to ask your printer these things:
- what line screen they use
- preferred dots per inch (DPI)
- whether they want the films as negative or positive
- films right-reading or left-reading
- films emulsion up or emulsion down
While this probably sounds like Martianspeak, the service bureaus and
printers know what these things mean. As long as you can tell the service
bureau what the printer’s specifications are, you don’t have to worry about
the actual definitions.
Regardless of how the job is prepared the printer will send you a
blueline or a color proof to approve. A blue line is a proof made on
photosensitive paper from your negatives. Although the image will look blue,
it shows placement and size. This is the last chance to catch any problems,
so double check both the printer’s and your own work. Look for correct size
of images, type, cuts, folds and the finished piece; position of images,
type, cuts; color separations as marked on the blueline; spelling, and
typefaces. Also look for scratches,stray marks and missing artwork or type.
Be aware that once the blueline is approved, any mistakes in the finished
product that are on the blueline are your responsibility.
If you’re doing full color printing, the service bureau that creates your
negatives can create a color matchprint for you. They may cost a lot (like
$100 each) but it’s nothing compared to the cost of reprinting a job because
something is wrong. In fact, most printers require a color proof to be sent
along with the films to ensure everything matches.
Computers and graphics tools have opened the doors of graphic design to more
people that ever before. It also creates new problems: corrupted files,
inaccurate colors on monitors, and so on. In the long run computers can make
things easier but an understanding of the basics pf printing and mechanical
layout is the only way to use these tools effectively. We scratch the
surface here, but you can get a book, take a class or talk to a printer to
get more information.
Designing and having your artwork printers can be fascinating. And it’s
important - a lot of people may "see" your music before they ever hear it.
Take the time to make the outside as unique and interesting as the music
so you've done it. now what?|
See? Not so hard. All it takes is a little money, a dose of ingenuity, and
a lot of perseverance, and you have yourself a bunch of records, cassettes or
CDs. Now that you have your jewels, what are you going to do with them? We
have learned, often the hard way, that selling them (and actually getting
your money back) is the most difficult part. We’re serious about this. With
so many independent records and CDs coming out every week, distributors and
stores have a lot of releases to consider. On top of that, indie stores have
been feeling the squeeze of the chain stores that buy CDs in such volume that
they get special discounts, or those like Best Buy that sell CDs at a loss
just to entice customers into the store where they’ll hopefully buy some even
more expensive housewares. With limited budgets, store buyers stick with
what they know they can sell, leaving only so much money to spend
experimenting on releases from new bands or labels. While this may sound
discouraging, please take this as a simple warning. It is relatively easy to
get through the steps we’ve listed here and create a record, but much more
difficult to sell enough to make your money back. Usually this has very
little to do with the relative quality of the band or record, but more with
the sheer market forces of the independent music community. Even with this
warning, there’s plenty of room for the band or label with some extra energy
Distributors act as middle agents between labels and stores all over the
country. Most of the existing American independent record distributors are
trustworthy folks who do the thankless and invisible job of keeping up with
the massive, and for the most part disorganized, indie music community,
buying CDs and records from the multitude of small labels, and selling them
to the indie stores around the country. Some, however, are corrupt and make
a lot of their money by stepping on tiny labels, or go out of business an
take your money with them (like Rough Trade who went under owing money to
almost every little label). We sell our 7" records to distributors for
$1.75-$2.00, and 12" for $4.50 -$5.25, and CDs for $6.40-$7.00, but the
prices may be higher or lower depending on your costs in manufacturing.
Most distributors will buy 10 to 100 records from you at this reduced cost,
and then (should) pay you back within 60 or 90 days.
Local indie record stores will probably take local releases. Although they
may buy conservative amounts, it’s much easier to talk local stores into cash
on delivery deals, so at least you’ll have some cash in your hand.
Sell Them at Shows
We know - you want to be dancing up in the front row, but
shows are one of the best opportunities to sell records, zines or anything.
Especially effective if the band you put out is playing and they announce
from stage that you have records for sale.
Internet / Mailorder
Ordering records online or through the mail can be fun!
In fact there are a bunch of healthy mailorder distributors in the US,
including K, Ajax, Parasol, Initial and Pal. They’re not as big as
distributors, but they may be interested in carrying your stuff on their
catalog. You should also consider offering your records through the mail
yourself, because that’s the most direct and surefire way to sell your
records. Set up a website. Place an ad in a couple of fanzines and accept
mail orders. Choose wisely, though, because ads are expensive - sometimes
$75 to $200 for a 1/4 page! Think about who will be reading that zine, and
the likelihood of them buying your records before signing that check. For
inexpensive publicity, you can also send promo copies of your records to
major fanzines, which will probably review it. Make sure they print your
address (snail or email) and the mailorder price correctly, so that review
readers can contact you about purchasing your record. If you advertise in a
few fanzines and put catalogs in the records that you sell to stores and get
a few reviews, you’re sure to get some mail. Make sure your prices absorb
the costs of postage and packaging incurred by you. We’ve cut down on
packaging costs by re-using boxes and packages that have been sent to us or
our friends, and we spend a lot of time cutting 7" squares out of cardboard
boxes otherwise destined for the trash. You can also get mailing materials
from local / college radio stations or record stores, which usually get a ton
of promo records every week, all neatly packaged in new padded mailers. The
radio stations end up throwing envelopes out, so they’re usually more than
happy to give them away.
The web has become a completely new way to spread information
and, potentially, sell stuff. Many bands or labels have websites that give
the casual browser immediate access to information about a band’s releases,
their history, even soundclips so you can preview before buying. There are
plenty of websites that act like retail stores out there, from the biggest
down to the indie versions of it like the folks at Pal, Independent Noise,
and Pop Shop. You could set up a website with info and links to people who
have your records in stock, or offer them for sale yourself via credit card
sales. The internet has endless potential, so think of something creative
and give it a shot.
for rocket scientists: publishing and copyrighting|
Since we first created this booklet, we’ve had a lot of calls or letters with
questions about publishing and copyrights. What does the © on records mean?
There’s the high tech and low tech approach and we’ve always done the low
tech, so we can only give you a few starting points.
A copyright is a way of saying you created something, therefore you own it.
You acquire a copyright automatically when your work is "created" - the
moment that you turn off the tape recorder the song is deemed created and the
copyright begins. But don’t confuse this with registering your copyright.
There’s two ways to do that. The simple one is a layman’s copyright, where
you just have to mail a tape or CD with the songs on it to yourself. The
postmark serves as proof that the band, songs, or recording exists as of that
date. Pretty useful, but if you ever got in a serious legal battle with
someone about ownership, it might not hold up as well as a formal copyright.
A formal copyright means you register your songs with the copyright office in
Washington, DC. We’ve never done this, but we know there’s a fee of $20 and
some paperwork involved. If you need more info, give them a call at
202/707-3000. Fortunately, we’ve never had a problem with anyone "stealing"
our stuff, so we’ve always just used the layman’s route.
Secondly - publishing. Initially, the concept of publishing was established
to make sure that the lyricist, composer and performer were all paid for
their individual contributions to a finished song. These days you’re likely
to be all three and publishing is a way for you as songwriter/band to collect
royalties if anyone chooses to air your song, buy your records or cover your
songs. Royalties are broken into two parts - mechanical and performance.
Mechanical royalties are based on the number of records manufactured and
sold, and are usually paid to the band by the record label. Performance
royalties are based on the number of times the song gets played on the radio,
TV, as a video, or each time it’s performed by another artists, aka a
"cover". There are two main organizations that act as collection agencies
for performance royalties, BMI and ASCAP. You can register with one or the
other as a songwriter for free, or you can choose to pay a five-year fee of
$100 to set up a small publishing company. This makes it easier to collect
royalties worldwide and many bands can publish under the same name. Eggs’
publishing company is called "Brettfromsuede". It serves as an umbrella under
which all the Eggs songs are registered, but it doesn’t have to be
exclusively Eggs. They could share their name with any friend or band who
needed a publishing company. BMI or ASCAP keep track of the number of times
any song listed as part of your publishing company is played on commercial
radio or TV or as a video, then pay you. The payment rates vary wildly
depending on the time of day, place, and potential audience size, but an
average radio play on prime time is worth a whopping 6¢. BMI and ASCAP only
track commercial radio and mainstream TV - almost no college radio. So
you’re record may be numero uno for thirty weeks on WPRB-Princeton, but you
wouldn’t receive any performance royalties for that. Why no college
tracking? Because each station has to pay a fee to BMI or ASCAP every year,
and most college stations refuse to participate/cannot afford it. As an
indie band you may wonder why publish at all. Who knows? Maybe it’s not
worth it, but you may have a huge hit and suddenly find every commercial
station in the country playing your song for a week. You could be chalking
up $$$$ in performance royalties right there. If you’re not published, BMI
and ASCAP are collecting those royalties anyway and you’re not getting your
percentage. It’s a strange world. For more info you can call either
organization to request an info package. BMI is 212/586-2000. ASCAP is
The bottom line on this stuff is, it can’t hurt to put the © on your records,
and mail yourself a copy. It establishes its existence and ownership. As
far as the copyright office goes, it’s probably overkill, but it’s up to you.
Publishing is more of a personal or band choice. You can a) choose not to
do it at all, or b) register with BMI or ASCAP either as a songwriter for
free or pick a name and set up a basic publishing company or c) the more
dangerous route - sell your publishing rights to an established publishing
agency for a large cash advance. They will then hypothetically act as an
aggressive promoter and collector. This is a weird and shady world, and if
you get offered a publishing deal, we suggest you talk to someone who knows
more than we do before sell your soul or your songs. If you have more
questions about these two things, please don’t call us. Call the experts at
BMI/ASCAP or copyright office and ask them to send you their info packets.
We get a lot of questions about registering as a legal business. We won’t
presume to tell you what to do but we can tell you what we did. When we
began Simple Machines we planned to put out 6 compilation 7" releases. We
considered the label a hobby, and since we weren’t planning on becoming a
legitimate business, so we didn’t register as one. We did keep track of all
our costs, however and we kept copies of all of our receipts. This way we
could prove how little money we made if the tax collectors came around. Two
years into the project we got the chance to put out the Lungfish record. At
this point we were pretty sure that we wanted to try our luck as a "real
business". It’s really pretty easy. Look in the blue pages of the phonebook
for the business license office or treasurer of your city/county. Either
stop by their office or have them mail you a business license application.
There’s usually a small fee and some paperwork to do, but it’s pretty
straightforward. You’ll also need to check on the zoning for your county.
Many places allow mailorder or small businesses to be run out of private
homes, but there are specific rules about setting up a retail business. We’re
considered a wholesale/mailorder company, which was fine in Arlington, but it
varies from town to town. In the worst case scenario you can apply for
exemptions. You will also have to decide what kind of business to create.
There are basically four options for registering your business. In a
nutshell they are 1) sole proprietorship, where one person takes sole
financial responsibility for the profits and losses; 2) a partnership
(that’s what we are) which means that we equally share the financial
responsibility for Simple Machines or; 3) a corporation. This takes more
legal work and will be more expensive to set up, but if you are going to be a
big business it may be preferable because it protects you as a person from
any liabilities you may incur as a business. You can also apply to be
registered as a non-profit or a not-for-profit. These options are
complicated and are based on the assumption that you have goals other than
At the same time you’ll need to clue in the US government that you exist by
registering with the Internal Revenue Service and applying for a tax ID
number. Most libraries have copies of the form, and there’s IRS offices
everywhere. Of course, once you register you are tax liable, but if you make
under a certain amount per year or if you can show a loss, then you won’t owe
anything. Once you begin to make money, you might want to enlist the
services of a professional accountant to do your taxes. It may seem pricey
(like $500) but it is a genuine expense that you can write off, and they can
really help you organize your returns, find all the loopholes and protect you
in the case of an audit.
so why do we do this, anyway?|
Whatever you do with this information, have fun with it. Remember that the
people you are dealing with are people. If you want your business associates
to pay special attention to your project, then don’t send them instructions
without sending them a letter. We’ve received a lot of mail that did not
contain any real correspondence, so we end up just sending off a packet and
that reduces our interaction to business when it could have been friendlier.
Not to criticize those who didn’t write anything special, but it’s only
natural that we will remember and respond more quickly to those who went out
of their way to communicate and have caught our attention. This is a lesson
to learn for life: if you make yourself into a real person in the minds of
people who would usually deal with you as a post office box it’s much more
likely that they will feel more obliged to treat you like a person. We’ve
gone so far as to send boxes of homemade cookies to KDisc as an added
incentive to master our 7"s well, and Kristin will always be remembered as
the one who mailed John Atkins of Leopard Gecko Records a peanut butter and
jelly sandwich - the ultimate token of admiration and friendship. Write
letters when you send out records, or take a minute to drop a note to a band
or label that does something that you think is cool, and tell them so.
Music is great, and has created its own community of people who love it and
support it in a variety of ways. Whether you put out records or cassettes,
play in a band, silk screen shirts, organize shows, put out a zine, take
photos, or just go to shows and listen to the music, the whole idea behind it
is that we all have the power to create, and we should do what we can to
foster that creativity in ourselves and our friends. By the way, we’re very
interested in the whole world of cottage industries, so if you have any
friends who have set up small, creative businesses of any kind, please drop
us a line and let us know how we can get in touch with them. Good luck!
[revised April 1999]
This list is a combination of information from direct experience we had with
a certain number of companies and a lot of recommendations from other small
labels that we traded info with via an internet newsgroup. For the most
part, comments are a general consensus about each company, but remember that
everyone can have a variety of experiences.
We've been collecting even more information about manufacturing and
distribution over the past year, so please refer to this insert for the
latest additions. The biggest amendments go to the CD manufacturing area,
where there's been somewhat of an explosion of CD brokers and manufacturing
prices have been dropping dramatically.
Of course, we have to specify that this list ONLY SCRAPES THE SURFACE of
people and companies out there who are mastering, pressing, printing and
manufacturing. Use this as a springboard, not as the final word, and the
prices we list here are only guidelines and are subject to change. Go out
there and collect price quotes, call or write for pricing guides, collect all
the data you can so you can make an informed decision about who you work
And don’t forget about your Yellow Pages. Sometimes just asking around
locally leads to the best deals of all, especially for filmwork, printing, or
getting boxes or mailers made. No shipping, easy to talk to, and you can
support your local businesses.
4485 Utica St, Denver, CO 80212
Their prices for mastering are reasonable: $180 for a 7" and $263 for a 10”
or 12”, which includes mastering, plating, and postage to ship the masters
the the platers. Engineer is Paul Brekus. They also have an incredible amount
of information on their answering machine, so don’t hesitate to call.
EXECUTIVE MASTERING 212/247-7434
300 West 55th St. Suite 4P, New York, NY 10019
7”: $70/side. 12”: $110/side. Excellent source for LP mastering. Quick and
dependable. No CDs, man!
JOHN GOLDEN MASTERING 805/648-4646
1995 East Main St. Ventura, CA 93001
John Golden does a helluva lot of stuff. He’ll master 30-60 min. CDs for
$525, 7” for about $100/side, and 12” or 10” for about $175/side. 12” and 10”
are a little cheaper when ordered with a CD master. John also does CD
packaging and replication.
MASTER CUTTING ROOM 212/765-8496
Joe Brescio 250 W. 49th St. Suite 302 New York, NY 10019
Joe comes highly recommended by a lot of people, and is also a very nice
person. His rates are changing, but here’s what they look like right now: 7”:
$55/side under 4 min., $65/side over 4 min. 10” and 12”: $105/side under 12
min., $140/side over 12 min. If you are feeling long-winded, he’s also added
the option of $165/side for over 22 minutes in length. The price of CDs
depends on the length and complexity of the music, but generally run $125/hr
for about 4-6 hours of work. Not cheap, but under $1000.
MASTERDISK CORP 212/541-5022
545 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036
Well-known place where lots of major label records get mastered. Prices are
hard to estimate, and are dependent upon everything from program length to
engineer, but run around $330-550 for a 7” or 12” and $900-$1200 for a CD.
1020 North Delaware Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19125
Albert at Masterworks is very friendly and fair. Used quite often by a lot of
small labels and a variety of bands. Can make CD-Rs at their place (a master
that CD plants use to make the rest of the CDs). 7” : $130 + shipping.
12”:$300 + shipping. CD=$50/hr + $130-$175 for a DAT prep.
National Sound 313/728-5070
34540 Sims St. Wayne, MI 48184
Ron, the head honcho, is a bit eccentric but knows his stuff. $60/side for a
7" master and 2 sets of plates, $120/side for a 12”. Depending on length,
prices can go up to $140/side for 12”.No CDs, but if you are near enough to
drive there he'll let you watch him cut the master.
RICHARD SIMPSON 213/462-2545
6331 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038
Simple Machines used Richard Simpson to master many 7”s and records. He did
everything for us - 7"s, CDs and vinyl mastering and his prices are excellent.
TRUTONE MASTERING 201/489-9180
31 Hudson Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601
Excellent, solid work for LP laquers at about $175/side
7" and 12" LABEL PRINTING
HAMLETT LABELS 615/256-7429
405 Humphreys Street, Nashville, TN 37203
David makes most of the labels for United Records, but give him a call if you
want good, cheap labels for stuff you're pressing at any plant because the
labels always look really good. I think his prices are about 1200 pr for
$73, but give him a call.
ACME RECORD PRESSING 805/984-3240
124 Ventura Ave. Oxnard, CA 93035
New vinyl pressing plant that’ll do small quantities, even as low as 50! They
can do 7” and 12”s as well as colored vinyl. 7”: 50 cents a piece for50-299
copies + 15 cents each for swanky colored vinyl. 12”: 85 cents each for
50-299 copies + 25 cents each for colored vinyl.
312 Monterey Pass Road, Monterey CA 91754
Many people like them because their vinyl is really thick, but many people
say they're incredibly slow.
BILL SMITH 310/322-6386
127 Penn Street, El Segundo, CA 90245
Recommended by many people for good quality vinyl, but can be a little slow.
12”: 95¢ apiece for 100-1000 copies, and 90¢ each for over 1000. 55¢ apiece
for 100-1000 copies, and 50¢ each for more than 1000. Can also do white,
clear or blends. East coasters should know that Bill Smith ships orders out
via expensive truck freight, not UPS.
12031 Regentview Ave. Downey, CA 90241
A good place to get a "package deal" on your 7". They do pretty good
7"covers (the little glued sleeve kind, full color for only 30c each), and
their vinyl pricing is reasonable if you're getting at least 1000. One plus:
they do good colored vinyl and can do marbles, split colors and shaped
records, if you wanna pay for it. Erika can also do 5”s, 10”s, shaped
records, and picture disks.
75 Varick Street New York, NY 10013
Quality vinyl from these folks, and they seem to specialize in very long
records, touting they can squeeze up to something like 50 mins per side. $785
for 500 7”’s and $1,305 for 500 12”’s.
HOUSTON RECORDS 713/223-5971
3300 Jensen Drive, Houston, TX 77026
A tip from a booklet recipient, who says Houston is just as fast and cheap as
United, but better. Never seen a price list myself.
Cranbury Road, Cranbury, NJ 08512
Dependable pressing plant in NJ with competitive prices and competent staff.
780 Oakland Park Ave. Columbus OH 43224
Overall good reports about this place. A small, family-run business that
doesn’t mind doing smaller runs (lower than 1000) of vinyl records. Good,
think vinyl. Contact is Warren.
486 Dawson Drive Camarillo, CA 93012-8090
Specialize in very thick and high quality vinyl. They do both 12"s and 7"s on
regular vinyl for 12”: 85¢ and also do the 180 gram (thick!) vinyl. The
problem is that the 180 vinyl is incredibly expensive: $2.10 each for just
the pressing plus they charge $150 per side for processing of the 180g vinyl.
Colored vinyl available, too.
RAINBO RECORDS 310/829-3476
1738 Berkeley St. Santa Monica, CA 90404
Been in business for a long time. Can do all formats 7”: 41¢ for 1000, 10”:
87¢ for 1000, 12”: 77¢ for 1000, and the vinyl we’ve seen has been of nice
quality, although there’s a huge range in satisfaction with Rainbo’s customer
service, from okay to appalling. Also doing CDs at about 95¢ for raw CDs.
453 Chestnut Street, Nashville, TN 37203
The old standby for 7" records. General consensus is that they're the 7-11
of record pressing plants: they're good, they're fast, and they're the
cheapest at about 32¢ for black vinyl. Decent color selection, too - red,
gold, blue, green, clear, white or mixed colors!
AMERIDISC 800/263-0419 902/926-2530
2525 Rue Canadienne Drummonville, Quebec, CANADA
They’ll answer the phone in French, but do speak English for the less
Apparently has low prices for CDEPs. 20 minute CD's @$1.13
includes jewel case and shrink wrap with a LOW 300 minimum order, and free
glass master, you supply inserts
and tray cards.
2800 Summit Avenue, Plano, TX 75086
TX: 972-881-8800 or 800-929-8100 or
LA: 213-851-7579 or NYC: 212-599-5300
Disctronics is a huge plant in Texas that does work for other manufacturers,
although it’s fine if you contact them directly. However, they usually deal
with companies that make 75,000-100,000/year. That’s a lot of CDs, baby.
THE E-ZONE 213/466-6563
6830 Leland Way, Hollywood, CA 90028
Eric Heard is the contact for this LA based broker. Will do as little as
make just the CDs for you, or as much as all the pressing plus the graphics
and mastering. Call Eric to get a fax of all his services. Very competitive
prices, and he says he’ll beat any verifiable quote.
FAILSAFE MEDIA 800/537-1919x124
David Valancius 1210 Karl Cout, Wauconda, IL 60084
An excellent broker based near Chicago that presses stuff at CINRAM in
Indiana. Very competitive prices at under 90¢ for raw CDs, excellent
packaging, totally reliable and darnit! a nice guy to boot.
IN RECORD TIME 212-262-4414
Adam Kott 301 West 53rd St. Suite 17A NY, NY 10019
Adam is an extremely friendly broker based in NYC who uses Nimbus for the CDs
and Ross Ellis for printing. His prices are very competitive. 1000 CDs with
4 color booklet, 2 color CD label, shrink wrap and jewel box for $1870. If
you supply the inserts, the price per disc is $1.25 including inserting the
booklet and shrink wrap. Can also help you with 7”s, 12”s, t-shirts, and
KAO OPTICAL 800/525-6575
1857 Colonial Village Lane, Lancaster, PA 17601
Also contact Tim Wiciser at 410/319-9999. I think he’s their representative.
po box 6332, Falls Church, VA 22040
Eric Astor from the punk label/distribution world of Lumberjack is now also a
CD broker that gets CDs made at the giant Nimbus plant in Virginia. Very
competitive prices, and Eric knows his shit.
Andrew Robbins Los Angeles, CA area
Big plant. Recommended by James at Darla. Nimbus has plants in other parts
of the country, too - Indiana, Virginia.
OMNI RESOURCES 800/343-7620
50 Howe. Ave. Milbury, MA 01527
A plant that wants to cater to smaller labels.
CEI OPTIMAX DISC 909-598-3887
3420 Pomona Bvld. Pomona, CA 91768
SWIFT MUSIC GROUP 615/391-2222
189 Graylynn Drive, Nashville, TN 37214
We had really good luck with them - the CDs look and sound great. Now that
we've been doing this longer we realize that their prices aren’t as low as
other places, but we had a really easy time working with them.
US OPTICAL 207-324-1124
Lisa or Debbie 1 Eagle Drive Sanford, ME 04073-4417
Recommended by many small labels. Big plant with fast turnaround,
competitive prices, about 90¢ for raw CDs.
BAREFOOT PRESS 919/834-1164
323 West Martin St. Raleigh, NC 27601
We're huge fans of Barefoot because they're really cool and innovative,
interested in the projects. They can do 7" sleeves, posters, CD booklets and
other stuff. Although their prices are higher than some places, they're
excellent at specialty work like metallics, embossing, die cuts, specialty
DORADO PRESS 818/365-4433
717 Arroyo Ave. San Fernando, CA 91340
They do excellent work for very reasonable prices. They can do 7" foldovers,
sealed 7" jackets, gatefold 7" jackets, and even a trifold 7" jackets, as
well as CD booklets and 12” covers. Their turnaround time is usually 10-12
12031 Regentview Ave. Downey, CA 90241
As we mentioned before, Erika does a good job with those nice 7” jacket
covers, and they’re cheap! 30¢ for full color/1000.
FIREPROOF/SCREWBALL PRESS 773/395-0082
2417 Northwest Ave. Chicago, IL 60647
Specialize in letterpress & offset, alternative packaging for CDs, LPs, and
7"s, posters, booklets, t-shirts. Check out the Shellac At Action Park,
Tortoise CDs, Rachel's Handwriting CD/LP as examples of their work. Steve at
Screwball (in the same building) does lots of t-shirts and silkscreened tour
posters and comes very highly recommended.
G+M PRINTING 213/466-1307
6211 Santa Monica Bvld. Los Angeles, CA 90038
G+M does everything custom, so you gotta call...lazy. LP labels, inserts,
j-cards for cassettes, at least.
676 West Wilson St. Unit G, Glendale, CA 91203
Highly recommended for CD booklet and tray printing. The printing quality is
excellent, prices are competitive, they were great to deal with and they
turned the whole thing around in a week. $360 for 2000 4/1 4 page inserts
and tray cards.
HOMEWOOD PRESS 800/478-0691
400 State Line Road, E New Towne Sq, Toledo, OH 43612
Decent prices on CD booklets, 5” CD jackets, posters, like 32¢ for full
color printed booklets and tray cards.
RIDDLE PRESS 503/643-5751
4555 SW Main Beaverton, OR 97005
Also competitive prices for CD, cassettes, poster printing as well as VHS and
software boxes. Nice catalog.
ROSS ELLIS 800/223-6105 212/260-9200
8300 Tampa Ave., Northridge, CA 91325
67 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
Well-known place to get LP jackets and CD booklets printed. Their prices can
probably be beaten, but their quality and turnaround are usually excellent
and they know what they're doing.
STOUGHTON PRINTING 626/961-3678
130 North Sunset Ave. City of Industry, CA 91744
Jackets, inserts, sleeves, CD booklets.
WEIRD STUFF: UPC, BAGS, ALTERNATIVE PACKAGING
UPC CODES 937/435-3870
For information on UPC codes, call the number above and they'll send you out
a packet of information and an application. For $300 you get your own UPC
cards and a bunch of info on how to get bar codes made.
BAGS UNLIMITED 800/767-BAGS
7 Canal St. Rochester, NY 14608
Great catalog to keep around. Supplier for 7" and 12" poly bags, blank LP
jackets, empty CD trays (including colored ones), mailers, etc.
Something Special EnT. 412/487-2626
P.O.Box 74 Allison Park, PA 15101
Sells record sleeves very cheap. Prices are $42/1000 LP sleeves and a
thousand 3 mil 7" sleeves for $20 plus a few dollars for shipping. They also
sell 10" sleeves!
Calumet Carton 708-333-6521
16920 State St. South Holland, IL 60473
Great supplier for customized cardboard/recycled board packaging.
Optima Precision in the 617 area code.
If you’re looking for colored CD trays or tinted jewel cases, look these guys
PICTURE DISCS and FLEXIS
Besides Erika, Alberti is the only other company we know of that does picture
records - either 7” or 12”. Alberti’s prices on pressing were definitely
lower than Erika's, but they take longer. Also, Evatone does appear to be
the only company around that does flexis. Evatone's flexi prices seems
really low, but have a minimum order of 2500. Quote for 2500 7" flexis
(mastering, printing included) was just under $900. Call them at
EXACT PHOTO 212/564-2568
247 West 30th Street, New York, NY 1000
We’ve been using them for a while. Good, sharp quality in a variety of
sizes, and fast turnaround.
ABC PICTURES 417.869.3456
1867 East Florida St Springfield, MO 65803-4583
Their prices for b&w; photos: 8x10 - $95 1000 count, 5x7- $80 1000 count,
4x5- $85 2000 count. These are the only quantities they have listed in their
catalogue but you could probably order larger or smaller as necessity
CASSETTE DUPLICATION & SUPPLIES
DISKMAKERS 800/468-9353 (PA/NJ area)
Great prices for blank cassettes of any length (from 10 mins to 90 mins) and
cassette cases and labels. They have locations in New Jersey, N California,
Los Angeles and New York.
World Class Tapes 313-662-0669 or 800-365-0669
Ann Arbor, MI
Can do colored shells with a min. order of 500. They said they can get a
rainbow of colors. According to their catalog they have Ampex ADAT tapes and
DAT tapes as well
Trutone Hackensack, NJ
Has custom loaded cassette tape (BASF or Maxell XL-II) of various lengths in
For those of you who just want to take the tapes in and pick up the CDs about
10 days later, you might want to go to a one-stop shopping place that provide
complete packaging services, usually for a package price. Most of the CD
plants listed in the CD section offer deals like this, but these companies
specialize in full-service.
po box 6332, Falls Church, VA 22040
Eric Astor from the punk label/distribution world of Lumberjack is now a
full-service broker that can help you with any format. Very competitive
prices, and Eric knows his shit.
DISKMAKERS 800/468-9353 (PA/NJ area)
A one-stop shopping place for getting CDs made. They can take general ideas
for artwork and create packaged CDs for you, as well as posters and other
handy promo items (but for a price $$). They have locations in New Jersey, N
California, Los Angeles and New York.
EAST COAST PRO 800/365-TAPE Buffalo, NY area
Geez, they’ll duplicate anything! CDs, CD ROM, cassettes, videos, can do
graphics, complete packaging services.
There’s probably a lot more one-stop shopping CD places like Diskmakers &
East Coast Pro around the country. Look in the phone book or in regional
music magazines if you’d like to have a package deal done.
So, that’s the new information from 1999. This is an evolving list, so if
you have any additions or suggestions, please email us at TsunamiSMR@aol.com
and let us know.
For those of you who like to surf the web, check out the [indiecentre] site,
which has posted a lot of this vital info, and MUCH MORE! http://www.indiecentre.com