When MP3 sales and distribution took off many artists broke the chain between themselves and greedy record labels. All a band needs is music, a little artwork and initiative to get their music onto iTunes, Amazon or Beatport. But what about your fans who still want Compact Discs? In the past you would have to manufacture a minimum of 100+ units. After spending about at least $300 (eg. Discmakers Short-Run) you would still have to deal with fulfillment to your customers (shipping, tax, returns).
Createspace which is owned by Amazon.com has launched a print on demand (POD) service for CDs. You sign up at Createspace.com, send them your music (snail mail only), artwork, set the price for the CD and viola it’s for sale at Amazon.com. Of course Amazon takes a cut: $4.95 fixed charge per CD and either 15% of the total price if you sell the CD via your own E-store or 45% if it sells from Amazon.com. So for example, if I send Createspace an album/CD and want it to sell for $21.95 and someone buys the CD at Amazon.com I will receive: $4.95 $7.11.
You will make less net profit than if you manufactured and sold your own CDs and more profit than you would by any major label record deal. A key advantage is if it turns out that only five people buy your CD you don’t loose the money you spent manufacturing 100 copies. If it turns out you have a lot more fans than you thought and you get 3000 people buying your CD you don’t have worry about getting more manufactured and then running to the post office a few hundred times!
Createspace allows you to buy copies for yourself at the wholesale price of $4.95. If you want more than 50 units the price per unit goes down.
So what are the disadvantages? As of today Createspace only gets your album on Amazon.com not any of their international sites such as Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.fr. Your international fans will have to buy the CD as an import. This is a big issue for me as more of my fans are based in Europe. Createspace discs are burned onto CD-Rs. The back of the CD maybe tinted Green or Blue. I am not 100% sure about this so I emailed Createspace to find out. I will update this post with whatever answer they give me. Does it matter?
You could argue that record stores won’t stock POD (print to order) CDs but let’s face some facts here: Soon there won’t be any brick and mortar record stores!
A nice aside is you can opt into MP3 sales and your album will appear in the Amazon MP3 section. Lastly, I would like to get a bit liberal on you and point out that manufacturing only what we need will help save the earth. What better reason do you need?
Update: I heard back from Createspace concerning the backside color of the CD-Rs. Here’s what they said: “Thank yo for contacting us regarding our products and services. The backs of the CDs are silver and blue. We are working on producing a uniform product that consists of silver back only, however at this time we are producing both types.” – CreateSpace Member Services
photo credit: Silus Grok