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The Process of Creating Music CDs


The modern audience must be familiar with the long-standing debate on the process of music CDs. Despite all the information published on the matter, some questions remain more persistent than they probably should be. The most enduring one is “If blank CDs cost so much less than album releases, doesn’t it mean that music companies constantly rip us off?” Despite its dubious nature, it continues to serve as a justification for downloading unlicensed music for some people. Unfortunately, crime remains a crime regardless of the motivations of the person who commits it. Even more importantly, the fundamental premise of a “ripoff” is flawed and illustrates a distorted understanding of the principles under which the music industry operates. The following informative process analysis is intended to explain the reasons for seemingly high prices of music CDs and, by extension, improve understanding of mechanisms of price formation for the majority of commercial products.

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Producing an Album

It is tempting to imagine the recording of the album as a joyous and inspired collaboration between close friends who just have what it takes to create awesome music. In reality, the music industry cannot rely on the productivity of bands on most occasions. For example, the contract often specifies a deadline for the album to be ready. As musicians are real people with their problems and issues, they will often experience problems with timely delivery and would require coordination and all kinds of professional assistance from professional managers, counselors, and consultants (McDonald). All of this amounts to expenses – for the company which oversees the project or the musicians if they choose to self-publish. It should also be mentioned that major music labels do not hurry to embrace every garage band out there, but once they do, they invest heavily in the initial promotion to make sure the band will be accepted (and generate a return on investment). Simply put, even before the album is ready, a massive amount of money needs to be invested to make it a worthy time and effort investment both for the company and for the band.


Once the band has the right material, it is necessary to make a recording of a decent quality, which invariably involves professional equipment. Most of the time the band rents a recording studio and works until all the material is ready. Depending on the level of equipment and other factors, the cost of renting may vary from $35 to $50 per hour or $300 to $600 per day (Schafer). Sometimes studios charge per song, but this is less common and likely more expensive. It is important to understand that the time of arrival and set up is also included, and, naturally, unsuccessful takes are not compensated. Besides, working in an unfamiliar setting almost always creates stress for musicians, not to mention overlooked issues and discrepancies in the material. The most coordinated and organized bands can finish recording at the cost of several thousand dollars, but on most occasions, the cost will be much higher.

Mixing and Mastering

The recorded material is far from ready for sale, though. It needs to be properly mastered to make it listenable, which can be done for a fee. Aside from the obvious fact that it involves more investment to pay for professional services, it will likely result in band members arguing among themselves and with the management on what needs to be done in the process – the readers who played in the band will instantly recall the debate on whether the bass or the drums should be more prominent. Also, things as simple as the order of tracks on a CD may become an issue if the management’s point of view differs from the band’s ideas.

Album Cover Design

Cover art may seem unimportant – after all, it is the music that counts. However, in reality, it is crucial for successful sales, and the first impression is only a part of it. After a while, the album will pass the point where it is bought out of the initial visual appeal. However, at that point buyers will also be more attentive to the synergy between imagery and sound – in other words, they will more likely buy the piece of art which they perceive as harmonious and interrelated (Shah). Naturally, finding the right person for the job and explaining the band’s (and label’s) vision of the cover requires additional investment.

Transportation and Distribution

Once the album is ready to sell, it must be somehow delivered to the customer. The most evident way is through retail stores. However, most of them only accept large shipments and charge significant fees. Once the agreement is set, it is necessary to deliver the physical copies (more expenses for transportation services). On some occasions, if the delivery date is missed, the store can charge an additional fee. Marketing aside, this stage is the most expensive and amounts to tens of thousands of dollars (McDonald).


As it becomes evident from the analysis, the process of producing an album and delivering it to the customer accumulates into massive time and effort and requires hundreds of working hours of band members, managers, and involved workers. Considering this, a $10 price tag becomes a necessity rather than a ripoff.

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Works Cited

McDonald, Heather. “Album Release Costs,” the balance, 2016, Web.

Schafer, Joseph. “Anatomy of a Release, Pt. 2: Recording the Album,” Invsisble Oranges, 2011, Web.

Shah, Deep. “The Importance of Album Artwork,” HumanHuman, 2016, Web.

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StudyCorgi. "The Process of Creating Music CDs." December 7, 2020.


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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Process of Creating Music CDs'. 7 December.

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