Studio Insider--June, 2013

Studio Insider #182 June, 2013
Preparing for a CD release


I’ve recently helped a few clients finish up recording projects for summer CD sales, and thought I’d pass along a few tips for readers who are working on their own recordings. Scheduling the various parts of a project, and then sticking with the schedule, can really help ensure that every aspect of the project gets done well and with the proper amount of deliberation and preparation.

One element that I like to help clients prepare for is the art and graphics package that will accompany the CD project. Once the project has become defined and focused enough that a theme has emerged, it’s a good idea to engage a graphics professional and begin to search for images that express that theme. Images, portrait styles, illustration styles, fonts and colors are all elements that a graphic artist can use to convey the project’s theme to a prospective CD buyer. A good graphics pro will provide an array of choices to the client, who can then look through them and pick elements that work together to express the theme or feeling of the project. Then the graphic artist can work her or his magic with the chosen elements and fashion a unified and cohesive look that conveys the thoughts and feelings of the music.

There are many uses for the graphics that are generated for a project – posters, ads, fliers, web ads, links and prompts, merchandise labels, handouts, etc. It’s wise to discuss these various uses with a graphics pro, who may have some valuable suggestions regarding font selection, image size and complexity, branding, etc.


If the CD artwork is going to include text, such as song lyrics, credits, other communication from the artist, etc., then that text should be submitted to the artist as early in the project as possible, so that layout and proofing can be done while there is still plenty of time to make edits and corrections. It’s not uncommon for recording artists to let the graphics work go slowly until there isn’t enough time for final proofing before manufacturing deadlines arrive. Having a finished graphics project well in advance of deadlines allows an artist to live with the look and feel of the package during the last stages of music production. It also helps give an inspirational boost to everyone on the production team as the project nears its end after a long and focused work process.

Copyright and Clearances

It is the recording artist’s responsibility to check the copyright status of all music that appears on a CD project. Original music written by the recording artist should be registered with the copyright office at the Library of Congress ( to ensure that ownership is well documented. Under today’s law, anything an artist writes is copyrighted in the act of creation, but proving ownership can sometimes be difficult or impossible. Registering a work with the Library of Congress eliminates all doubt if questions about ownership arise.

If a recording project includes music written by somebody other than the recording artist, then the artist must obtain copyright clearance. Fortunately, that is usually easy, as licensing sites are on the internet. Songfile, a service at the Harry Fox Agency’s website,, lists music published by record companies and other publishers, and in the case of multiple songs with the same name, allows a relatively easy determination of ownership. The Harry Fox site exists to make ownership searches easy, and it facilitates the payment of a “statutory rate” that covers mechanical royalties. The statutory rate for use on CDs and permanent digital downloads is currently 9.1 cents per usage of a song if the recording is five minutes or less. Check out the Harry Fox Agency’s website for further information.

See you at Grass Valley!

Please come attend my workshops and say hello:

Friday afternoon - Improve Your Techniques for Bluegrass Fiddle
Saturday Lunch Time - Recording Acoustic Instruments in Your Home Studio

Joe Weed records acoustic music at his Highland Studios near Los Gatos, California. He has released six albums of his own, produced many projects for independent artists and labels, and does sound tracks for film, TV and museums. Joe’s composition “Hymn to the Big Sky” was heard in “The Dust Bowl,” a film by Ken Burns, which premiered nationally on PBS November 18 and 19, 2012. Joe recently produced “Pa’s Fiddle,” a collection of 19th-century American music played by “Pa” Charles Ingalls, father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series. Reach Joe by calling (408) 353-3353, by email at, or by visiting

Posted By:  Rick Cornish

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