For your next CD release, choose quality over quantity

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Before you can embark on a CD release project, one of the first hurdles you'll have to overcome is finding the funds for recording, mastering, manufacturing, and design.

I can't tell you how many times I've watched an artist work to secure the funding for his recording only to fail miserably at project management. One problem is too many independent music artists get consumed with recording a full-length CD, so they focus on how to achieve that goal within their budget rather than making the most of the money they’ve raised. They choose quantity over quality, which is usually a poor choice when it comes to your long-term music career.

Ask yourself: What’s your intention?

Do you want to record a vanity project, or do you want to be perceived as a professional artist? In other words, are you recording this for your own personal satisfaction, or are you hoping to sell large quantities of your CD? If you intend to sell your music, you need to understand that you are competing with every other recording in your genre, including the ones by your favorite national artists.

Your recording – each and every song – has to be great or you will not rise above the crowd. Your mother and your friends might understand and look past the fact that your project sounds amateur, but consumers won’t. Quality stands out in a crowd. If the record doesn’t sound amazing and the songs don’t blow people away, it won’t sell. If consumers don’t buy your record, that means no one is listening to it.

If no one is listening to your CD, that basically means you've produced a vanity project, which in this scenario means it’s just for you, your friends, and your family. This is totally fine... unless your dream is to make a living off your music.

Take a reality break

It’s confusing to me to hear artists yammer on about how they want to record albums like their heroes did, back in the days when they “made the records they wanted to make.” Invariably, the artists they're comparing themselves to were on major labels with budgets and incredible infrastructure in every aspect of the record-making process.

These artists often worked with hit songwriters, wrote world-class songs, and worked with world-class musicians – often not even the same musicians in the band! Your musical heroes worked with professional producers and engineers and recorded in A-list studios and “made the records they wanted to make” with a top-flight team of professionals who earned their livings making records. By the way, "making a record" is a vastly different skill set than "recording music."

Don’t you think these are important facts to consider? Unless you have an incredible in-home studio, the proper skill set, and lots of time, you will not be able to record everything in a home studio all by yourself if you want your project to be competitive at the highest levels.

The good news is, it is easier and less expensive than ever before to gain access to quality recording professionals and a pro studio.

Choose quality over quantity

Being in the recording business, I constantly see artists set their projects up for failure before they ever enter the studio. They are convinced they HAVE to record a full-length CD because it’s always “been their dream” to do so. But is the dream really to record one album of 10 songs, or is the dream to be a professional artist who finds an audience and makes a living selling music to a dedicated fan base?

The problem is, a smaller budget won’t allow for quality AND quantity. When you choose quantity – in this scenario, the 10-song project – and go shopping for a place that will deliver it on your budget, you'll get what you pay for. I promise you, if you are looking for a studio that charges $250 per song or $25 per song, you'll find it. The quality of your recorded tracks will reflect it, but you'll get that 10-song CD you always dreamed of.

But did you win or lose?

What if you focused on quality instead of quantity?

True story. My production company was approached by an amazing Canadian singer/songwriter named Tanya Marie Harris a few years ago who was ready to record a project. I remember her saying, “Johnny, for what you're charging me for two songs, I could record a whole CD up here in Toronto.”

I remember preparing my response of “yes, maybe we aren’t the right fit…” when she followed that up with, “but I don't want something mediocre – I need something awesome. This is my big shot and I want these tracks to blow people away.”

Tanya recorded two songs and is building her career on the strength of those tracks. We recorded “A Woman Scorned” and “Secondhand Dreams,” then Tanya signed a deal with a Nashville management company and is touring constantly.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is better than quantity. One home run is better than two doubles.” He put his money where his mouth was. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their very first run of Apple computers out of Wozniak’s garage. They had a limited budget and chose to manufacture 50 quality computers over a quantity of 500 of a lesser quality. The rest is history. Are you ready to make some of your own?


Johnny Dwinell is a veteran Los Angeles artist/producer/businessman who created Daredevil Production in 2011 to provide innovative artist development in the new music business. In mid 2013 Daredevil Production started a weekly blog as a free resource for artists and songwriters to use for inspiration, advice, support, and knowledge. In late 2013 Johnny Dwinell wrote the bestselling Music Marketing On Twitter book. Thousands of artists and songwriters have improved their understanding and execution of social media with the help of this free book!