You know that moment at dinner when you realize your eyes were bigger than your stomach? You ordered more food than you can eat and now half of it becomes leftovers; lost to the back of the your fridge for months. After more than 13 years in the business, we know that when it comes to quantities, the eyes can be bigger than the stomach. Order too many CDs and they might end up dusty in the back of the closet. Order too few, and you might keep your fans waiting, or miss out on timely demand. Choose the right number, and you'll cut production costs, actually increase demand, boost your profits, and gain confidence when you sell out. So - how many CDs should you make? Read on to learn how to estimate your needs based on your fan base, fan engagement, previous sales numbers, and more.
Five Factors to Determine Quantities
The following factors, ordered from least to most important, can help you determine a realistic quantity you will sell, and consequently how many CDs you should manufacture.
After producing several hundreds of albums, we have found little indication that price plays a major factor in the number of CDs a small indie artist will sell. If you are not a large indie group (with over 5,000 fans) or a signed artist, you must believe that your loyal fans will buy, your so-so fans will not, regardless of price. Our albums sell for $15-20 and experiments with lower prices have not significantly affected sales figures.
4) Number of Fans
One way to gauge demand for your album is to consider how many fans you have. Naturally, the more you have, the more CDs you will sell. When counting your fans, remember to include your family and friends, plus people in organizations loyal to you, such as churches; schools; community groups; and your workplace. Artists with under 500 fans might consider pressing fewer CDs, whereas groups with 5,000 fans will push higher quantities. This is not the only factor, though. So read on...
3) Quality of Fan Engagement
So you've got a thousand fans. Great! But how you define "fans" is important. The next factor to consider is the level of engagement of these fans. In other words, how dedicated are they to supporting your music? Take that fan base and think about who actually visits your performances and web site. Do the nitty-gritty work of actually reading your web stats and actually taking head counts at your shows. This takes courage, but will give you a good indication of the number of dedicated fans you have, bringing you one step closer to accurately estimating how many will actually buy your CD.
2) Previous Sales Figures
Next, take it a step further and consider who will actually plunk down their hard-earned cash to support your music. One of the very best ways to gauge future sales is to consider past sales. If you released an album last year, how many did you sell? That's likely going to be close to the number you sell this time. Maybe you've never sold an album. If not, consider the success of merchandise sales or of past fundraisers. If this is your first album, take it easy, play it safe, and learn what you're capable of.
1) Your Willingness to Promote
Alright, we've grilled your fans. Now think about you. Are you willing to actively promote your album? To what level? What extent? Will you be engaged on your album page, on social networks, on other web sites? Will you hand out promotional cards, hang posters, and make announcements at your concerts? Will you tell everyone you know about your album, including your friends, family, and local new sources? Will you display your album with pride at your shows? These may be hard questions to ask because this is where you have to work to influence your sales. But, guess what? This is the number one factor we consider when predicting the success of a group that we sign to our label. It makes all the difference.
Just give me a number already!
So how many CDs can I sell?
In our experience, large churches, schools, and independent artists with a solid following and active promotion efforts typically sell between 200 and 500 CDs; large groups with strong followings can sell 1,000; small groups with less of a following would be safer to hang around the 100 quantity. Annual sales above 1,000 are rare for indie artists.
How many should I make?
Take what you think you will sell between now and the release of your next album and add 100 to that. That's how many you should make. Your manufacturer will emphasize lower per-disc costs at higher quantities, but there are other considerations. If you record songs that other people wrote, you will need mechanical licensing. If you make 100 CDs, a mechanical license is around $25 per song. If you make 1,000 CDs, it's $105 per song. Factoring in the lower manufacturing cost, making 100 CDs instead of 1,000 could save you roughly $1,000 if this is a cover album.
Reordering Ain't that Hard
Was it a struggle to release your album? Was there a lot of back and forth with your producer, designer, manufacturer? Well, all that goes away with a reorder. It's basically one phone call to your manufacturer and that's it. Reordering your licensing is simple too - only one click or one phone call. We offer 50% off our fees for exact reorders and your manufacturer may be give you a similar discount. So remember that reordering is an option.
Quality is an issue when deciding quantities. However, we're tacking this onto the end of this article because the truth is, modern manufacturing allows you to get beautiful, retail-quality CDs at any quantity.
Here's how it works:
Orders of 500 or more will be replicated. Replication is the process of manufacturing CDs or DVDs with a glass master that presses a data impression onto the disc. Replicated discs also typically have a screen-printed CD face. When you look at the bottom of a replicated disc, it looks mostly silver. You have to struggle to see a faint line of silver where the pressed data meets the blank space on the disc.
Orders under 500 will be duplicated. Duplication is the process of manufacturing CDs or DVDs with a laser that burns data onto the disc (like on your home computer). Duplicated discs typically have an ink-based or thermal printed CD face that looks slightly less refined than the screen-printed face of a replicated disc. When you look at the bottom of a duplicated disc, it has a clearly visible break in color where the burned data meets the blank space on the disc.
The differences between replicated and duplicated CDs are minimal. The only part of the packaging affected is the disc itself; the printed inserts, tray, and shrink wrap will be the same. Reliability and audio quality differences are slight and are debatable. The key difference is that the printed face will be slightly better on a replicated disc and the underside of the disc will not look burned like a duplicated disc.
Your decision about how many CDs to make need not be a shot in the dark. Armed with this information, you now have what you need to make a smart, educated decision about how many CDs you can sell, and how many you should make. If have further questions about this, or any other aspect of your production, give us a call.