Unsigned Bands: Recording and Pressing Your Own CDs

Your band has no trouble getting good paying shows, your audience seems to get bigger each week, and things feel pretty good. When your band reaches this point, you may be left wondering, “What’s next?”

Has the idea of recording some of your own material for a CD crossed your mind? If so, you may be wondering how to pull it off without a record label to foot the bill for recording and CD pressing.

Here some good news! Any band with a steady income can record it’s own CD, and it doesn’t have to cost you your first born to produce a quality product.

First Things First

Your band does need some money to get started. If your band doesn’t have any money saved at this point, start saving. The best way to do this is to put aside at least half, if not more, of your earnings each week.

You may come upon the possibility that someone in your band has the money to pay for the CD costs, or a member of someone’s family is happy to loan you the money. If your band chooses to go this route, you’ll skip the step of having to save money.

A word of warning: money issues can break apart the best of bands. Do not borrow money without thinking it over, drawing up a contract for repayment, and creating a clear plan about how the money will be repaid.

Recording Studio

As you are saving or securing money for your CD project, you need to call local recording studios for price quotes. Each place should let you know how much they charge per hour. Sit down with a phone and a phonebook until you have a wide range of studios and rates from which to choose. Recording studios may be willing to work within your budget, as long as it’s within reason.

CD Pressing

With a minimum order, your band can get a great deal on CD pressing. Just as you did with the recording studios, you want to call around for rates. In most cases, the more your band orders, the less each unit will cost you. You’ll save money per CD if you order a thousand as apposed to a hundred.

Look both locally and online to find the best deals for your band’s needs and wants. Remember that your cost will also vary depending upon if you want color, or black and white artwork, and how big of an insert you wish to have. Make sure you get the prices for all variables.


You want to have an artist design and layout your CD cover, insert, and anything you want pressed on the CD itself. Be sure the artwork is to your liking, and fits the image of your band. The company you have chosen to press your CD’s will have specifications you must follow when submitting your band’s artwork.


Once you have decided on your budget, secured funds, it’s time to practice. Many bands don’t realize they can record a quality CD in a few days if they go into the studio well practiced, and are willing to record live pass. This means you all play at once, rather than one instrument at a time. This saves time and money, and works well for a tight and rehearsed band.

When The CD Is Done

When you have your new CD in your hands, it’s time to decide what it’s worth. To you and your band, it’s priceless, but for your fans, you might want to bring the price down just a bit.

Factor in what it cost you to produce the CD, any profit you would like to see, and figure out what price you will ask for each CD. You’ll make out much better if you keep the price below the current retail asking price for signed major label bands. Remember, even if you don’t make a lot of money from your CD project, CDs are great promotional tools. That alone may make up for any profit you may not get while selling them at a lower price.

A Word About Art Schools

I graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Music and Video Production. Because of my time there, I know there are even more ways to save money when trying to produce and record your own CD.

If you have an Art Institute in your city, you may want to contact the school and ask if they can help you out. At any given time there are hundreds of aspiring artists, photographers, and sound engineers learning within their school. Many times they want to give their students real life experience by using local talent for projects.

You may be able to get photographs, band art, or even recording time free or very cheaply by allowing students to do the work. This works out to be a mutually beneficial relationship for you and the students. Give them a call and find out.

Many bands came in during my time as a student and walked out with quality recordings, free of charge. It may not work out for you, but it is certainly worth a try.

Final Thoughts

As with all band ventures, keep detailed records of your spending and your sales in association with your CD recording project. Remember to keep a few copies for each band member to keep, and to use some as promotional tools. Make every penny count.

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