Thursday, March 11, 2010

Your CD Duplication Project – Image Is Important

You’ve just put your heart, soul, time, money, blood, sweat and tears into recording your music. Now… how will your graphic design measure up? Will it do your music justice?

As a designer and someone who makes a living in the CD duplication industry it’s really astounding to see how much excellent music is dressed down by poor graphic design.

If you’re serious about your career and you care about professionalism, hiring the brother of the girlfriend of your bass player to design your CD duplication packaging isn’t in your best interest just because you can save some money… unless (of course) he’s really talented with a great portfolio of work.

While the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” has a lot of merit and truth to it, reality actually dictates that your entire CD duplication project may get judged on its ‘look’ long before the music is ever heard. That is… if the music does get heard.

I know what you’re thinking, “What do you mean, if the music does get heard?” Sometimes reality truly sucks, but there are situations where the ‘look’ of your CD package may determine whether or not your music ever gets listened to. The most obvious example of this is when you send your CD to a reviewer or promoter.

Reviewers and promoters receive more CDs than they can possibly give individual attention to. According to many of them, they’ve found that the ‘look’ of the CD packaging generally reflects the quality of the music contained within. So if a CD package passes the visual ‘test’ it goes into the “A” pile for review, but if it doesn’t pass the visual test it goes into the “B” pile. And where does the “B” pile end up? It either gets thrown into the garbage or it’s handed to someone further down on the food-chain.

Now let’s haul out another old adage that can be applied to this topic: “You’ve got 15 seconds to make a good first impression.” While this adage is more commonly used in conjunction with job interviews, the notion of equating quality of ‘image’ with the quality of ‘content’ is human nature, so it would be advantageous for you to adopt the ‘quality image’ way of thinking when it comes to your CD duplication project.

There’s certainly no way it could hurt.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

CD Manufacturing - Is There A Risk Uploading Content?

Uploading your master content for CD manufacturing is very convenient when you compare it to sending a copy of your master disc via postal mail or courier… but are there any potential risks or pit-falls? The answer to that question will depend on who you ask.

From the client’s standpoint there is an expectation that, after uploading the master content, the results of the CD manufacturing will be absolutely identical to the original files. While this expectation has more likelihood of being correct than false, there is the possibility that an error or corruption could occur somewhere along the line.

Here’s an example based on a true story:

1. A client reviews his audio files on his CD player, is happy with the quality of the playback, and determines that it is ready for duplication.

2. The client rips the content from the master disc and uploads the files electronically to the CD manufacturing company.

3. The manufacturing company receives the files, burns the files to a CDR, and then uses the disc as the production source for the client’s CD duplication order.

4. Upon receiving his discs the client finds that there is a problem with the playback of his audio.

Where did the ‘error’ occur?

If you ask the client he will feel the error occurred with the manufacturer - because the audio sounded fine when he reviewed it on his player.

If you ask the CD manufacturing company, they will point out the error could have been generated in a number of different steps along the way: (a) when the client ripped his master content, or (b) during the upload/download process, or (c) when the files were burned to make the CDR master disc, or (d) during the duplication production process.

Ultimately, due to the number of variables at play it will be hard (if not impossible) to determine where the error occurred, and the CD manufacturing company won’t want to accept responsibility for anything they have no control over as noted in items “a” and “b” above.

What is the resolution?

Based on the scenario show here, the benefits of uploading are countered by the possibility of errors that cannot be readily determined, so the process itself is not perfect by any means. In order to work around the imperfection in the process the manufacturer has three options:

(1) To have the client review and sign-off on the CDR master disc that was created by the manufacturer.

While this is the proper “proofing” method for creative content it defeats the practicality of digitally uploading content. As previously mentioned, the client has an expectation that the digital upload will be error-free so, in the clients mind, the remaining responsibility for the master content is with the manufacturer.

(2) Have the client sign a ‘waiver’ which states that, if the client does not wish to review and sign-off on the master disc created by the manufacturer, the manufacturer is not responsible for any potential errors that may occur during the digital transfer of files and duplication process.

This is expedient for the client and removes liability for the manufacturer, but if there is any corruption or error that shows up on the finished product, the client is on the hook. Granted, the chances of such errors are low but they do exist none-the-less.

(3) Request the client send a hard-copy master disc to the manufacturer.

Ultimately this is the best solution for both client and CD manufacturer as long as the client has thoroughly reviewed the content on the master disc and confirms the master disc is ready for production without requirement for any modifications.

Despite the inconvenience of having to send a hard-copy master disc to the manufacturer, the client’s master disc acts as a “hard-copy proof” to measure the performance of the manufactured discs against. Should there be any discrepancy between the source and the manufactured product the defect is clearly the responsibility of the manufacturer, because the only chance for corruption or error comes from the transfer of data, and the only data transfer being done is by the manufacturer. As long as the manufacturer has a warranty that deals with manufacturing defects (and you wouldn’t want to do business with anyone who doesn’t have such a warranty) the client is protected.