I once worked out that it costs me almost $5 to produce a copy of Happenstance (single-disc version). A quality CD-R and jewel case, two sheets of glossy photo paper, one sheet of card stock, four passes through the inkjet printer, paper cutter, and two staples.
Okay, I didn’t factor in the cost of the staples or the wear on the paper cutter blade.
Costs have come down a bit on the media, so $5 might be a bit high now. When I make a new CD, I tend to make about 50 discs and give most of them away. If I wanted to do a larger run, I would get the discs replicated and artwork printed.
I haven’t priced it in a while, but let’s say a $1000 investment will get you 1000 CDs. If you can sell just 100 of them at $10 each, you break even – and for a working band that books real gigs with actual fans, this should not be difficult. And I’ve seen the understandable argument that band should charge $20 for CDs at shows, which means you only have to sell 50.
This is the real cost of entry for music publishing, and many bands cannot put together the $1000. So their only chance to get a CD is to get investment in the form of a label or publishing deal, and that is usually a bad deal for the band. They have to give up too much, and if they don’t hit it big, they will never make a living as a band.
I have a real job, and make a comfortable living. I could spend $1000 on a CD run, but there are other important things competing for that money, and it would be a challenge to justify the expenditure, given that I don’t book real gigs, it would be difficult to recoup the investment.
All of which makes the Internet so promising for distribution of music, and will bring about the death of physical media. I have mixed feelings about this, but plan to wholeheartedly embrace it for my own music nonetheless.
Web site redesign starting… now.