Welcome to our experience report on our first CD production from the beginning!
Here you will learn what steps are necessary to get published and maybe you can take something from it for yourself and your projects.
1. Music producer
2. Planning and first cost estimate
The beginning for us was a simple e-mail, but that was the start for our first CD:
In October 2018, we received an email from a sound engineer and music producer who was looking for a band with potential and who might be interested in a good, affordable studio record.
Of course we wrote back with interest and arranged a meeting with music producer Stefan Wolharn (whom we can warmly recommend, https://stefanwolharn.de) to discuss the possibilities of a CD production.
(If you are looking for a music producer in your city, your search engine will surely find what you are looking for. However, the website “backstagepro.de” could also be helpful for you.)
Planning and first cost estimate
But it quickly became clear that recording our nearly 10 original songs would be too much. The costs are, compared to a smaller CD, too high. In view of our budget, which is of course not unlimited for a band like ours, we decided to produce 5 songs.
Since especially larger expenses should be well considered, Stefan offered us to produce a song in advance for small money. So we could get an idea of his work and later we would go into the recordings with a good feeling.
The result is our song Vision, which was produced in December 2018 and released in early February 2019.
Since we were very satisfied with the test version of the song, we asked for an offer from him and could start then with the concrete planning.
(With the offer you immediately have an impression in which direction the costs go. Therefore, discuss the rough cost question in advance and then obtain an offer. You are safe with that way.)
At first, you may just see a mountain of unfinished business in front of you – but with small steps, they can be taken care of.
First on the agenda was the selection of songs.
We had decided on “Here we are”, “Thunderstorm”, “Vision”, “Never leave the best” and “Carry on” – the songs that were the most popular in our repertoire.
The next step was to prepare the songs for recording.
The songs are played with click (in order to be able to keep the beat at all times) and to ensure this, we had recorded the songs in advance in our rehearsal room. Individually and in several takes, but always in time.
(The “pre-production” is necessary. The quality plays a subordinate role. It is also enough to record only the instruments, because the drums are the first to record in professional recordings. Anyone who plays drums knows that it is difficult to play a song just in your head. And those who want to record more professionally, should prepare like it :))
Once that was done, Stefan had recommended two studios to us to record the drums. The recommendation followed, we were able to make an appointment with him in May 2019.
In total, the whole thing had taken only one evening, because we were relatively fast and safe through intensive rehearsals in advance - now it was Stefan's turn with the first editing of the drum tracks. These tracks were the foundation so that Tim could record the bassguitar.
In the same month Tim was also able to record and Max followed in June. It was always important for Stefan to have a lead sheet, so that he could get an idea of the process in advance and "read along" with the songs during the recordings - so far he had heard them rather rarely.
After the instrumental recordings a little time passed. In order to be able to have later a coherent picture of instruments and singing, it was now important to edit more precisely. The next step was the vocal recordings. All tracks in time and studio-ready, it could begin.
As already mentioned, there was a lead sheet for each song with markings to make it clear how exactly the individual parts of the song should look. For the vocals, it was a matter of who of us takes over which vocal part.
Red and orange for the singers; blue and green, depending on the combination to each other, or together with Max. Parts of the chorus were also sung by Laura and Tim. Since Laura unfortunately had a cold, she had recorded her tracks only afterwards in the home studio, which Stefan later mixed together with the other vocal recordings.
(To find a studio, ask your producer. It’s not like he’s doing it for the first time and he knows his stuff. The recordings are of course about the recordings and about having fun. But don’t forget that the studio and also the producer are paid. Prepare well and record with concentration. This will not only save time, but also money; the fun will definitely not fall by the wayside ;)
Producers are not only there to mix your recordings; they support you, give tips and suggestions for improvement. Even if you have exact ideas how the song should sound, let the producer’s opinion flow into it. He has a lot of experience and probably a few tips that you will be grateful for when the song is finished.)
In August, all the vocal recordings were finished – so far so good – now it was Stefan’s turn to listen to each track individually, to eliminate small mistakes and to harmonize everything.
A finished song? No, you’re far from it! Until it could go to the mastering, our correction wishes were included. Whether it was a little more gain in the solo, or to adopt a spontaneous vocal idea during the recording.
Once that was done, the next and final step followed: mastering.
(Explained briefly for beginners: The song takes on more volume, sounds more powerful. As a beginner, you can usually only hear the difference when the songs are played one after the other.)
Taking into account renewed requests for changes on our part, the songs were ready in November.
Maybe you recognize yourself in the following thought…
We didn’t want to be satisfied with being able to listen to the songs on Spotify and Co. – we wanted to hold a CD in our hands.
Yes – how does that work? Good question! Just type in “CD pressing” and your search engine will find it!
Through Laura’s contacts, we quickly found a company that produced the CD and the matching sleeves for us. 200 CDs – that should be enough for now.
(Although the number of sold CDs is decreasing due to Spotify and Co., it is indispensable on the merch stand. Moreover, it belongs to you and can still be sold for years.)
In advance, however, it is important to apply to GEMA for a distribution permit as well as to give permission to the press work. This prevents songs that you have not written yourself from simply being reproduced.
(Just search for “Auslieferungsgenehmigung GEMA”.)
Since a delivery permit takes time and we wanted to have the CDs in our hands in time for Christmas, we had already submitted them to GEMA during the mastering.
Nevertheless, there was still a lot to do, we had no time to take a breath and relax. Already in September the music video shooting of our single “Thunderstorm” took place (you will find more detailed information about this soon in another report), during which also photos were taken, which later adorned both the single and the CD cover. The editing of the photos was done by a dear friend of ours.
When the mastering and the design of the CD cover was finished and we got the delivery permit back we ordered the CDs.
(For a music video, ask your producer here as well. Alternatively, the site “backstagepro.de” is again well recommended.
Do you know someone who knows how to edit graphics? If not, the previous sentence also applies here :))
Nowadays you don’t just produce an EP or an album. A single (or several) is also always released in advance. We wanted to present the first result at the end of 2019 (more than a year after Stefan first contacted us).
As soon as the 13th of December was fixed as the single release day, we started to write to different radio stations all over Germany 4 to 5 weeks before to get them to play our song.
The University of Bielefeld and among others also WDR 2 followed our request and shared “Thunderstorm” with their listeners.
In times of digitalization, however, the most important thing was to get our songs onto the common streaming platforms, which unfortunately is not possible without further ado. Music distributors are the keyword here – they can upload your songs to many platforms. Of course not for free, but at a fair price.
We ordered our single release in November, and the songs on the CD followed suit in December. Through this process we got access as artists, through which it was possible, for example, to design our own Spotify-page. By ordering early, the music distributor can upload the songs, for example, Spotify and itunes in time.
Once that’s done, you can actually sit back for the most part – but we wanted more!
The band campaign of WDR 2, in which three newcomer bands each enter the race, seemed to us a good opportunity to make our single and thus us better known.
We were lucky, our application was accepted and “Thunderstorm” was played on WDR 2. Afterwards the voting phase followed online and what can we say? We were voted to the best band in the west by WDR 2 listeners in January 2020. :)
Because of this success we were able to send some CDs even NRW-wide.
On February 7th we wanted to release our CD. Stefan suggested us to organize a concert for this special day.
First step in the planning was the search for a location. Quickly “Die Weberei” in Gütersloh came to mind, which we already knew through some gigs.
The light was organized by a friend and Stefan mixed us. Of course we wanted to really let it rip and got a beamer and a big screen to show our Musicvideo, the Making-of and even insights into the production of the CD, which was made possible by Laura’s good contacts.
Tickets were printed, T-shirts with the CD cover were ordered. Everything was ready for a nice evening to celebrate the end of a long journey.
At that time we didn’t know that our release conzert would take place just before the pandemic. Maybe we would have enjoyed it even more otherwise.
Sure, we kept running into hurdles that had to be overcome. You can find a lot of information on the Internet, but some of it is contradictory. The question of costs, for example, was never answered – so we’ll take this over to give you a figure so that you know what the scale of such a production can be.
All in all, we paid just under € 4,000. Sounds a lot, but it is a lot – a lot included! The complete recordings including the test recording, the mastering, the costs at the music distributor, the CD pressing, the cover design as well as the promotion, the printing of the T-shirts and the organization around the release party.
The costs vary, of course, but good quality was important to us. But you mustn’t forget the income from ticket sales, the T-shirts and the CDs. Of course there is also income from the streaming platforms… a small example: through Spotify we were able to share an ice cream with five of us. Nevertheless, you can’t always refer to the costs. It is an investment – in the future. So we were able to organize some of the concerts that we wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.
If there wouldn’t have been Corona, we would certainly have thought about a new CD at the end of 2020. But due to the 9 already planned, but cancelled concerts, important sources of income have fallen away, which thereby make our wish no longer possible for the time being. But we stay positive and hopefully we will get a lot more experience and produce more CDs.
We hope you enjoyed this experience report and that it also helped you to get some clarity in terms of CD production.