5 things that can delay or degrade your CD/DVD project

1. Lack of quality photos for cover/insert

Frequently I am sent low resolution or poor quality photos for the insert and even for the cover. I usually recommend reshooting them, but of course it’s too late by the time people get to the design phase. So we “make do” and I have to try to work my Photoshop magic on substandard photos. If your music looks unprofessional, people will interpret your music accordingly.

Think ahead by hiring a photographer early on, and schedule several sessions with them. Don’t forget to get photos during your recording or filming sessions. A recording studio are a particularly difficult place to get good shots because of the lighting and tight space. Flash is not very flattering, especially in a tight space, so without a good fast lens, photos are often dark, blurry and full of noise (grain).

Quality photos can be used for more than your CD/DVD insert – you need good photos for your website, posters, promotions, newspapers articles, and of course for posterity when you need to publish your memoirs.

As a graphic designer who is also a photographer and a musician, I have a unique perspective on how I take photos. I take extra shots of backgrounds, details of instruments and with an eye toward what will work on a cover or interior spread. Other important features even many professional photographers don’t take into consideration are the proportions of how the image will be used – a CD cover is SQUARE (as are thumbnails on websites), DVD covers are tall while film is wide – and the key parts of the image (heads, feet, hands, instruments) should be well within the margins because the printed piece often cuts off a small amount of the outside of the photo (bleed). Leaving room for writing for a cover is also helpful.

Bonus tips:

  • Be sure to get a full release for all photos for indefinite and unrestricted use.
  • You cannot pull sharp, high resolution photos from video, even HD. Video is usually shot at a frame rate which results in about 1/250 of a second shutter speed, so any motion will be slightly blurred – by design – motion blur is actually what makes video look smooth and pleasing to watch, but does not make for a quality sharp still photo. That is why film productions always have a still photographer on set.
  • Proof potential cover images at about 1 inch to see how it looks when it gets used as a thumbnail on a website or catalog.

Further Reading:

Check out my full photo portfolio at www.photos.dianathornton.com

2. Packaging files not designed and formatted to correct specs

Designing CD/DVD inserts and packaging is unlike any other design, especially web design. Many designers are very talented with a wonderful creative eye. But when asked to layout and design a CD/DVD, they are not qualified. When I began designing CDs and DVDs I had been doing general graphic design for nearly 10 years, but when I designed my first CD, I felt like I was learning it all over again. CDs and DVDs have particularly tight specs, and every printer uses different templates. They also include required elements such as copyright, publishing and contact information that are often overlooked, even by seasoned musicians.

When someone calls me to get a quote on a project and they tell me they are doing their own graphic design, I grill them regarding who their designer is and what program they are using. This is because, more often than not, I receive files that are not printable – they are not in my templates, don’t have bleed, in the wrong format, and even low resolution. Then I have to explain what is wrong with their files, and we all wait for them to be fixed. I even had to start offering “finishing services” because I was getting so many unprintable files from clients and designers.

As an experienced CD/DVD designer, I recommend people use me or a designer familiar with CD/DVD design. I know budgets are tight, but your music is worth an extra 44 cents each to look professional and stay on schedule.

Bonus tips:

  • Start your design well before your master is finished. By having your files ready to go to print the moment you finalize your times and tracks, you can keep things moving along.
  • Digipaks can add as much as a week to your production schedule.

Further Reading:



Check out my design portfolio

3. Licensing not obtained early enough

Another delay is often caused by researching and getting your licenses at the last minute. The factory will not reproduce your CD/DVD without proof of licensing. Many projects can be held up because the licenses are not on Harry Fox or are held by an overseas publisher. This is particularly tricky when the publishing is held by multiple parties, and you have to track down and contact someone for 25% of a song. And sync licenses for film are a whole other level of complexity.

Once you know what tracks you’re including on your album, start doing your research. Find out who the publishers are and how you can obtain licenses for each (Harry Fox, etc.).

  • Bonus Tip: You don’t have to go through Harry Fox to get a mechanical license. If you know the writer/publisher, especially if they are local, you can get a written license directly from them. Here is an example of a license you can use.

Further Reading:

4. Missing ISRC codes

ISRC codes are not required for CDs, but they have become standard. I recommend purchasing your own code which is good for all future releases as well. You then assign each track a number and your mastering engineer will encode your master with them before creating your PMCD or DDP. Have these ready for your engineer before the mastering session.

Further Reading:

5. Master not finished/reviewed

Before you send your CD/DVD to the factory, you will need to have it mastered/authored and then review a COPY made from that master to be sure all is exactly right. When I started Crescent Music Services back in 1997, I was fortunate to have as my business partner mastering engineer Parker Dinkins. I learned a great deal from him. One lesson was that the production master (PMCD) should not be touched by anyone but the engineer and the factory (he sealed it in a ziplock). Instead, he made a REFERENCE COPY directly from that master for review. If the reference copy is OK, then you know the master it was copied from is OK. Many things can happen during the burning process, so without this final and careful review, you can inadvertently send the factory a master with errors, missing tracks, pops, clicks and cut off songs. They do minimal error checking, so it’s up to you and your engineer to provide them with an error free master. Just because the mix sounded great on the last CD you were given doesn’t mean your production master burned correctly.

I can’t stress this enough. Do not wait until the day you are sending the master to the factory to get it from your engineer.

Bonus Tips:

  • Always get TWO productions masters (PMCD) from your engineer – one to send to the factory and one for you to keep somewhere safe. That way if your master gets damaged or lost on the way to the factory you have another to send quickly. Remember to get a review copy from EACH master.
  • Even if your engineer uploads your music to the factory as a DDP (image file), request a PMCD and review copy for your own records.
  • Don’t send your PMCD to the factory via the post office. Use a trackable carrier/method such as Fedex. I’ve seen too many masters get lost on the way with the post office (even their trackable service). Package it in a jewelbox and in a solid outer box (don’t use bubble mailers).
  • Have more than one person review the reference copy.

Further Reading:


I hope these tips help your next project go smoothly and on schedule. Give me a call to discuss your design, photography, and manufacturing.

Please download my free ebook “CD Project Planner” for even more information.

Untangling Cover Song Licensing on YouTube

Found this article on Wired. Good reading, although rather frustrating.

There are millions of cover songs on YouTube, with around 12,000 new covers uploaded in the last 24 hours. Nearly 40,000 people covered Rolling in the Deep 11,000 took on Pumped Up Kicks, 6,000 were inspired by Somebody That I Used to Know.

Until recently, all but a sliver were illegal, considered infringement under current copyright law. Nearly all were non-commercial, created out of love by fans of the source material, with no negative impact on the market value of the original.

This is creativity criminalized, quite possibly the most popular creative act that’s against the law.

Read the article: Criminal Creativity: Untangling Cover Song Licensing on YouTube – Wired

Musicians can reclaim old copyrights

“When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted “termination rights,” which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979 will be in the same situation “and then, as the calendar advances, every other master recording once it reaches the 35-year mark. The provision also permits songwriters to reclaim ownership of qualifying songs.” Read the full article: New York Times

“Under the Copyright Act, authors (and their statutory heirs) may terminate certain transfers of copyrights that were effected in 1978 and after on the 35th anniversary of the transfer (although in some circumstances, different time frames may be applicable). Transfers of sound recordings and musical compositions are among the classes of copyright transfers that may be terminable. An author’s right to reclaim ownership of his or her copyright(s) is optional and must be exercised in accordance with strict notice provisions and within strict time limits.  If you are the author of sound recording(s) and/or musical composition(s) that were transferred to third parties, it would be advisable to contact your attorney or other advisors to learn more about this important topic.” Source: www.Grammy365.com

Getting your CD track info to show up on computers

When a music CD is inserted in a computer connected to the internet, the media player application (like Itunes and Windows Media Player) go through a convoluted system of taking the number of tracks on a CD, the running times of the tracks, and then comparing this information to a database of existing CDs online where it then retrieves the album, artist, track information, and even album cover from a central database. Different media players use different databases – Itunes uses Gracenote. Windows Media Player uses AllMusic.

Then what is CD-Text?

CD Text

YOUR COMPUTER DOES NOT READ CD TEXT. CD Text refers to the track names and other information encoded into the disc during mastering. Only Text-enabled CD players (in your car or home) read this info.  These devices are not connected to the internet so they do not have access to any on-line database.  Their text display (showing ‘CD-Text’) presents info that has been included when the physical disc was created, either as part of ‘pre-mastering’ or ‘mastering’.  Any duplication from a disc with encoded with CD Text will transfer the track names only to another CD. HOWEVER, ripping an MP3 will NOT read the track name (remember, the computer can’t read the encoding).

One word of warning about CD text. Because this is encoded in your master, if after the mastering stage you decide to change the name of any tracks, the master will need to be re-made with the new track names encoded.

Online Databases

One of the most popular online database is Gracenote. Gracenote recognizes a disc by analyzing the sequence of tunes on the disc and their lengths. This isn’t foolproof. Occasionally you may see album information from the wrong CD and you have to manually tell it which CD is in the drive. For individual tracks, Gracenote generates a fingerprint of a portion of the music file, and thereafter identifies the track with that section.

This information is usually then stored on your computer by your media player as well as the online database for others. It is NOT encoded on your disc.

Album data can be extensive, and includes album title, artist name, record label, year of released CD, genre, musicians, producers, ISRC, and even label website. Track data include track title, artist name, record label, year of album-released song, credits, genre, subgenre and more.

Believe it or not, the information in the database can come from anyone: the record label, the artist, or even a fan. Whoever uploads the info first. When someone puts the CD into their computer, if their media player doesn’t find it in the database, the program will ask the user to enter the album and track information and then uploads it to the online database for others to then download when they play their copy of the CD.

How do I submit my CD track information?

There are currently 3 different competing online databases. Gracenote, AMG, and FreeDB. You should at least submit to Gracenote and AMG, but while you’re at it, you might as well do the other. Every database has a different submission procedure.

1. Never submit info completely in capitals or completely lower case, if there is no special reason for that.
2. For bands that have a leading “the”, simply leave out the “the” (e.g. use “Rolling Stones” instead of “The Rolling Stones”)
3. Names of people should be written “first name last name” – NOT “last name, first name”. (John Doe)
4. Use the name of the artist repeated on the “title” field if there is no title (usually seen on an artist’s first major label release, such as with the B-52’s)
5. For a sampler or compilation, you should include the track-artist in the track-name, using the syntax “artist / track-title” and set the CD-artist to “Various”


Note: Only media players licensed by Gracenote will submit the data to Gracenote.

  • If you use Itunes, the easiest way is to just put your CD into your computer. Click on the first track and select ‘file’, then ‘get info’ and enter the track information (You can also click in the edit fields or, on a PC, hit [ctrl]+[I].)  When you have entered all the track information go to ‘advanced’, ‘submit CD track names’, fill in the requested information and hit [OK].
    The software will try to identify the CD. If the CD is not identified, you will be asked if you’d like to submit the information. To submit the information, type the following information in the required fields then click the Submit button.
  • Or, you can submit your CD information directly to Gracenote.com as a “content partner”
  • Or just wait until your first fan puts in their CD and enters the information for you (correctly you hope!).

Once a CD’s track listing is in the database, anyone playing that CD in a Gracenote powered player will have it recognized. It can take up to 48 hours for a new submission to show up.

Full submission of all data (including audio and graphics) are only accepted through the avenue of specialized accounts.  This is how songs appear for on-line sale through the various providers.  For iTunes, product is only accepted via their iTunes Producer software that does the rip, encode, and meta data formatting, and submits as a full single file uploaded to that labels account. CDBaby has deals in place with all the various online services.

FYI Gracenote Inc. knows almost any time a CD is “ripped” for use in a portable music player. Apple, Creative and Rio use its service, along with hundreds of software products for playing and recording music CDs.

To learn more about CDDB, visit www.gracenote.com. or read their FAQ page

All Music Guide/AMG (Windows Media Player)

Many retailers like Itunes and Spotify pull bio info from All Music Guide so it is important to submit to them. www.allmusic.com/product-submissions

The album, artist and song information on AllMusic comes from their data provider, Rovi. Rovi provides them with written content like reviews and biographies, tagged metadata like Genres, Styles, Moods, Themes and Similar Artists, as well as information about credits, album covers, sound clips, music videos and a ton of other good stuff. Providing your product to Rovi is the best way to get your information on AllMusic.

Mail Rovi one copy of the product along with any relevant promotional materials, such as artist bios and press releases, and email a single message containing artist and release images (in JPEG format and at least 300 pixels wide) and other promotional materials using the addresses below. Rovi adds products and other materials to their databases at their discretion. By submitting products and other materials to Rovi, you acknowledge and agree that those products and materials will not be returned to you, will become the property of Rovi upon receipt and may be used by Rovi at its discretion. All products and materials should be sent to:

Product Submissions
Rovi Corporation
1168 Oak Valley Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Email, for music content.music@rovicorp.com

Your CD or DVD will go through data entry, scanning, and sampling processes, in which everything from credits to track listings to cover art to sound samples will be added to the database. Rovi editors may also assign descriptors such as genres, styles, and moods to the artist or album. Your product will then be stored in Rovi’s archive in case there is a future need to review, update, or correct the data.

Rovi’s editorial policy is that all reviews, synopses, and biographies must written by their staff and freelance contributors, so they cannot simply copy and paste content supplied by artists and labels or studios. However, this copy is very helpful to them as research material, so please do send it along.


You will need a freedb-aware program supporting submit. For Windows you can use MAGIX Music Manager, Feurio!, CDex or Audiograbber, for Linux you can use Grip. A longer list of freedb-aware applications can be found on their site. www.freedb.org

Musicbrainz at http://www.musicbrainz.org

Terms and Conditions

Crescent Music Services requires a FULL PAYMENT UPFRONT. Returned checks are subject to a $25 service charge per check plus any applicable collection charges. Crescent Music Services shall have a lien on all client’s materials until full payment for any due or outstanding account is received. Only MISSISSIPPI residents add sales 7% tax. Crescent Music Services must have a photocopy of your signed tax exemption certificate to be nontaxable. Full payment in advance required for drop shipment. Full payment required to release product. Client agrees to pay all invoices within the stated terms and to pay service charges on amounts paid after invoice due dates at a rate of 1.5% per month starting 30 days after date of invoice. In the event suit is instituted to collect amounts owing to Crescent Music Services and a judgment is rendered in Crescent Music Services’ favor, Client agrees to pay court costs and attorney fees.

All prices are subject to change without notice. Crescent Music Services reserves the right to change prices, colors, materials, specifications, and quantities mentioned in our catalog without notice or obligation. Prices quoted over the telephone, EMAIL or by FAX are subject to final evaluation of materials supplied. A quotation not accepted within thirty (30) days is subject to review.

All shipments shall be made by UPS or Fedex Ground or other regular carrier, non-priority delivery, unless other advance arrangements are made. Client is responsible for any applicable shipping and delivery charges, including returns or reshipments.

Crescent Music Services will do everything possible to meet quoted delivery dates, however, these are only estimated dates of delivery. Do not book any release parties based on estimated delivery dates. Crescent Music Services disclaims liability for delays in delivery. Turnaround Time will vary and is not guaranteed.

Crescent Music Services is not responsible for storage of any product. Crescent Music Services shall have the right to dispose of said goods in any manner it chooses, including, but not limited to, public or private sale, destruction, public auction or wholesale distribution. At such point all manufacturing parts become the property of Crescent Music Services. Storage fees may also apply. While Crescent Music Services will treat the client’s product with the utmost care, Crescent Music Services specifically denies liability for any damage or loss due to fire, casualty, or negligence while the client’s materials are in the care, control, or possession of Crescent Music Services.

Artwork/Design/Film. When client supplies final files, client shall be responsible for any cost incurred adapting said files to proper specifications. Finished printed graphics supplied by customer which don’t meet our size specifications may be subject to a manual insertion charge. Crescent Music Services cannot be responsible for missing type or incorrect color reproduction on any film supplied by customer.

Because of differences in equipment, processing, proofing substrates, paper, inks, pigments, and other conditions between color proofing and production pressroom operations, a reasonable variation in color between color proofs and the completed job shall constitute acceptable delivery.

All tapes, masters, artwork, photos, etc., furnished to Crescent Music Services by the client remain the property of the client. Artwork, type, plates, and computer files created by Crescent Music Services shall remain the exclusive property of Crescent Music Services Music unless otherwise agreed to in writing.

While Crescent Music Services will treat the client’s furnished materials with the utmost care, Crescent Music Services specifically denies liability for any damage or loss due to fire, casualty, or negligence while the client’s materials are in the care, control, or possession of Crescent Music Services. Client should provide insurance coverage, as Crescent Music Services’ policy does not provide protection for client’s parts in our possession. Please be advised that you should always make another copy of your master. If requested, we can provide you with a safety copy for a nominal fee before we begin your project.

If Crescent Music Services creates art, client will be responsible for proofing and approval of said art. Once client has approved art, they assume responsibility for all printed matter produced. Art will be returned at the request and expense of the client. Any file manipulations, corrections or repairs completed by Crescent Music Services will be charged accordingly at the current published rate. Changes will require approval by customer.

Proofs shall be submitted to client. If revised proofs are desired, a request must be made when proofs are returned. Crescent Music Services regrets any errors that may occur through production undetected, but cannot be held responsible for errors if the work is printed per customer’s OK or if changes are communicated verbally. Crescent Music Services shall not be responsible for errors if the customer has not ordered or has refused to accept proofs or has failed to return proofs with indication of changes or has instructed printer to proceed without submission of proofs. Please review your proofs carefully. Once proofs are approved, Crescent Music Services will charge for all work performed, even if project is subsequently canceled. Any customer corrections or alterations from the original art work submitted will be at the client’s expense. The client must approve any additional charges. If project is canceled while in process, the client agrees to pay for all services and product rendered up to that time.

Crescent Music Services limits liability to rerun or refund at its sole option, provided that products are deemed defective by virtue of workmanship or materials only. Actual rerun or refund will commensurate with actual quantity of goods returned. No product will be replaced or refund issued after 60 days of receipt of goods. At our discretion, we will either replace any product with obvious defects due to errors made by Crescent Music Services, or refund the applicable amount. Crescent Music Services will not be responsible for defects caused by other parties involved in the project. No merchandise may be returned without permission from Crescent Music Services. If project is canceled while in process, client agrees to pay for all expenses and services rendered up to that point. Crescent Music Services’ warranty in connection with any and all services performed, work done, or product finished shall be limited to the sales price of the merchandise and/or the services recited in the invoice.

Claims for defects, damages or shortages must be made by the client in writing within a period of 10 days after delivery. Failure to make such claim within the stated period shall constitute irrevocable acceptance and an admission that they fully comply with terms, conditions, and specifications. Crescent Music Services’ liability shall be limited to stated selling price of any defective goods, and shall in no event include special or consequential damages, including profits (or profits lost).

Copyright. Client assumes full responsibility for the ownership rights of any material you send to Crescent Music Services for reproduction. You must have permission from the owner of the copyright (if it’s not yourself) of any materials you want duplicated. You cannot use someone’s photos, artwork, lyrics, sound recordings, etc., for your project unless you have explicit permission from the owner. This would include pictures or drawings taken from books, magazines, encyclopedias, etc. Crescent Music Services assumes no responsibility for any copyright infringements of any kind.

Client warrants and declares to CRESCENT MUSIC SERVICES, L.L.C., its factories and vendors that all authorizations necessary for lawful reproduction have been obtained for all provided material, notably in respect of copyright and other intellectual property rights and in respect of reproduction by manufacture, and further warrant and declare that such reproduction will under no circumstances infringe upon the rights of any other person or result in legal proceedings based on the infringement of the aforementioned rights or on any other unfair or illegal practice.The client shall indemnify and hold harmless Crescent Music Services from any and all loss, cost, expense and damages on account of any and all manner of claims, demands, actions and proceedings that may be instituted against Crescent Music Services on grounds alleging that the said reproduction violates any copyright or any proprietary right of any person, or that it contains any matter that is libelous or scandalous, or invades any person’s right to privacy or other personal rights, except to the extent that Crescent Music Services has contributed to the matter. Client agrees to, at the client’s own expense, promptly defend and continue the defense of any such claim, demand, action or proceeding that may be brought against Crescent Music Services, provided that Crescent Music Services shall promptly notify the client with respect thereto, and provided further that Crescent Music Services shall give to the client such reasonable time as the exigencies of the situation may permit in which to undertake and continue the defense thereof.

All orders subject to 5% over or under run. Client will be billed for actual quantities shipped.

Other Legal and Business Stuff

Sampling Clearances

Samples are pieces of another sound recording reused like an instrument or sound effect. If you have any samples on your record, you need to obtain clearances from the publisher of the composition being sampled AND, separately, the record label that owns the master being sampled. Do this as early as possible, because sometimes they will refuse to issue a license, or the licensing fee may not be affordable (they can get expensive).

Work for Hire Agreements

Most session players, engineers, designers, etc. operate on a “work for hire” status. This means they retain no claims on future royalties or ownership rights to their work.

Publishing Companies

Anyone writing lyrics, music or arrangements should have their own publishing company so when the songs are copyrighted, they receive the correct credit and future profits from potential licensing if the songs are used.

Band Agreement

You should have a clear and simple written agreement among the group members about how the finances of the recording project will be handled, who owns the copyrights and arrangements, who owns the group’s name, how will profits (and losses) be divided (equally, percentage), how are members fired and hired, what if someone wants to quit, etc. Try to think ahead to the worst case scenario, and then write something out about how it will be handled and get everyone to sign.

Band Incorporation

Consider incorporating your band as a legal entity. This might be an LLC, Partnership or sole proprietorship.

Name Trademarks

Be very sure that you have the right to use the group and record label name you have chosen. If someone else legally owns your name already, not only could you lose your name, you might even get sued if you use it publicly. Go to the US Patent and Trademark Office site http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm to search for existing trademarks.


A separate checking account helps you to keep track of your expenses. Get an account that has a debit card, which makes purchasing goods and services easy. Make sure you save all your receipts.

Quicken and Microsoft Money are two examples of financial software that will help you and your band to keep track of who owes what, who gets what, and if you’re making any profit!

Many of the expenses involved in releasing your CD may be tax deductible, which is another reason to stay organized and keep good records.

Consult an entertainment attorney.

Have you checked whether your chosen band name is taken already? Do this before putting out your album.

Sound Exchange


They’re like BMI and ASCAP except they collect and distribute digital royalties for performances on digital cable and satellite television music, internet and satellite radio. If you’ve played on an album or own master rights, REGISTER TODAY (Free) and see if you have some money coming to you.

Remember to register your own CD with Sound Exchange. File title registration forms for each of your original songs appearing on the record so they can pay you for any radio airplay.

CD & DVD Logo usage rules

The compact disc logo is actually owned by Philips Electronics N.V. The DVD logo is controlled by the DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation of Japan.You do not have to include disc logos on your artwork if you do not want to. If you do include the logos, then you must follow the rules regarding size, shape and color. Logos must remain Black and White – do not color the logo

The shape must remain unaltered – scale the logo with constrained proportions (width and height scales + / – equally)

IPR Form

Click here to download

Instructions included on page 2 in file.

This form is an interactive PDF, which means you can save it to your computer, fill it out, save it, print it. You will need Acrobat Reader 8 or higher. Reader can be downloaded for FREE at  http://www.adobe.com.

Completing the Fillable Form

  • Download the form using the link above. Your web browser may be configured with an Acrobat plug-in to automatically open the file within your browsers window upon download. To download the file directly to your computer or to a disk, right click on the link, then select “save link as” or “save target as” from the dropdown options. Make a note of the location on your drive and the name of the file being saved so you can locate it later.
  • open the file using Acrobat Reader.
  • Position the cursor inside a form field and click. The I-beam pointer allows you to type text. The arrow pointer allows you to select a field, a check box, a radio button, or an item from a list.
  • Enter your text and press Tab or use your mouse to click on the next form field.
  • SAVE AS – Name the file with your Artist name – project title – Release number – IPR form. (Example: “The Beatles – Abbey Road – AB220 – IPR Form”)