A barcode, or UPC code, is essential if you’re planning to sell your CDs in stores or online. Each product has a unique 12-digit number encoded in the bars, which are scanned upon purchase to track inventory and sales.


Getting  a barcode

As a special service I can provide you with a UPC barcode number free of charge when I do your design. This UPC will be unique to your project, but will not be registered to you. This is quite adequate and appropriate if you are just releasing a few records. However, if you are trying to run a real record label, and intend on releasing many records over time, then you will need to invest in your own barcode.

To get your own barcode, you must join the Uniform Code Council: The current price is about $750 I think.

Special software is needed to generate the barcode. I can do that for you if you need it.


Nielsen SoundScan collects weekly sales data from 14,000+ retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada, which are published on their site and in the Billboard charts. If you receive a barcode from Crescent Music Services or other manufacturer and you want your release tracked by SoundScan, you will need to change the barcode registration to you, the recording artist, as a sub-label. To do this, download the Title Addition Sheet from The Title Addition Sheet must be submitted to SoundScan’s Database Department by email at or faxed to (914) 684-5606.

You can also subscribe to SoundScan’s reporting service for a fee. CDs sold at gigs or from small stores do not normally get tracked by Soundscan unless you are a paid member, SoundScan does allow artists that tour to report these tour sales to Soundscan as venue sales.The actual reporting process is very easy, once you are set up: calculate the venue sales, get the venue to sign off on the sales, and then fax the info to SoundScan.It’s part of the reason that Prince’s idea to give away his Musicology CD a few years back was such a great idea.The price of the CD was included in the price of the ticket, and all sales counted towards SoundScan – which cumulated in great Billboard visibility, which gave him more press, which drew more people to his show and made more people buy the CD etc.

In case you’re interested in joining, the last I learned about the fees and procedures sounded unteneble for most indies: 1. On letterhead of the label, please state that you are a label interested in taking part in the Venue Sales Program. Also state how long you have been in business. NOTE: YOU MUST BE IN BUSINESS FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS. 2. List the artists you wish to report sales for. NOTE: IT MUST BE MORE THAN ONE ARTIST UNDER THE LABEL THAT YOU WILL BE REPORTING SALES FOR. 3. Fax the above information or email. 4. There will be a $500.00 annual fee to report venue sales. Acceptable methods of payment are: Company Check & Credit Card.  *Please include in the letter that you fully understand that you will be charged this annual fee and your method of payment.* 5. Please provide name, billing address, phone number, fax number and email to receive proper mailing and billing instructions. 6. You will then be contacted to set up an account to report and transmit sales along with proper documentation to verify all sales.

Never mind.

Anatomy of a Barcode

Reading from left to right, 12 total numbers:
Digits 1-6: your company ID number assigned by the UCC. Digits 7-10: release number, assigned by you. Digit 11: configuration digit (2 = CD, 4 = cassette, 1 = vinyl LP, etc.). Digit 12: check digit, formulated by the computer when the barcode is generated. This is used by the scanner to confirm that it read the barcode correctly.

Manufacturing Project Overview and Production Schedule

1. Graphics

Time Frame: 1-3 weeks.

Tip: If you are pressed for time, start your graphics before you finish in the studio.

You provide: Liner notes, photos or other images, a rough layout.

Troubleshooting: review all proofs very carefully.


2. Production Master

You provide: The master and PQ code sheet (your mastering engineeer provides this). Be sure to ask your mastering engineer to include the TEXT ENCODING and ISRC coding on the master.

IPR form is also required for all new manufacturing orders.

Troubleshooting: Do not give me your only copy. Label your master inside the clear ring. Don’t write on the face of the disc. Listen/View to your “reference copy” (a copy made directly from the master by the engineer). Do not open your production master. If there is no problems with the reference copy then the you know the productio master is OK. If there is a problem with the reference copy, check the master at that spot to see if it is due to an issue during copying, or a problem with the master. Make a new reference copy if it’s not a problem with the master.


3. Printing and Manufacturing

Time frame: usually 8 business days

TURN TIMES: Day 0 = Once your artwork and master are finalized, approved and submitted. Production takes about 8 workdays. Digis and jackets take 13-17 workdays. Reorders will ship in 7 workdays. Bulk discs ship in 6 working days (rush turns for extra charge are available, with turns as fast as 1 day).

Quicker turns may be possible at no additional charge. Or you may want to consider having us do some shortruns to tide you over. Call to discuss your schedule and we’ll tell you how we can accommodate you.

TO MAINTAIN SCHEDULE: Graphic files must be finalized and approved or submitted by client by 10 a.m. at least 8 workdays before shipment. Master and IPR form must be received by factory at least 7 workdays before shipment. All manufacturing instructions, deposits, and ship-to addresses must be received at least 5 workdays before shipment. Printed materials be in factory at least 2 workdays before shipment.

Troubleshooting: changes after this point will be very costly and will definitely delay things.


4. Shipping

Time frame: usually 2-4 workdays (via Fedx or UPS Ground)
Typical order of 1000 CDs comes in boxes of 120 each with four 30-unit boxes inside each weighing about 26 pounds, with the total order weighing 247 pounds.

Time Saver: Request overnight shipping (for extra charge) of smaller quantities to tide you over, with the remainder shipped ground to save you money. Can also request direct shipping to your distributor or tour gig (up to 3 addresses with no extra charge).

Troubleshooting: When you receive your discs, please check them over carefully. Make sure all the features you ordered are present. Play the disc. Spot check discs from different boxes.


Replication Process

This process is when the music (data) from your CD master (usually a CDR) is copied exactly to a glass substrate best known as a “glass master”. After several steps the result is a nickel plated stamper that will be used in an injection molding machine that will “Stamp” the data image (in the form of pits and lands) in melted polycarbonate plastic. It is formed into the shape of a CD, cooled and then it receives a layer of mirror like aluminum and a coating of protective lacquer. The making and preparing of a glass master and stamper can be time consuming, but the CD manufacturing time goes rather quickly with an average CD manufacturing cycle time of 3 to 6 seconds per CD.

Myth: “My band owns the glass master and stamper” No. Once a glass master is made and the stamper is created from it, the glass is polished to a blank and used for another job. The stamper will stay on file at the manufacturing facility and be used for re-orders. The stamper is made proprietary to the equipment in the same facility and can’t be used at other manufacturers.