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Mastering the Art of Musical Image

Biz New Orleans

A professional graphic designer, Thornton had long been interested in music, but it wasn’t until she came to New Orleans in 1989 that she started dabbling in singing and songwriting. When she went to record a CD, she discovered there was no one in the area to really help her through the process.

Working with a local mastering engineer, the person responsible for “polishing” a recording for production before it goes to the factory, Thornton launched Crescent City Music Services in 1997. Her company provides musicians with a place to develop the look of their CD.

Once artists have recorded an album and had it mastered, they bring the master along with any artwork they want included to Thornton. In her Faubourg St. John studio, Thornton, 41, compiles the graphics for the CD insert. The insert goes off to an out-of-town printer, and the CD master goes to Sony Records. In a short time the artists’ CDs come back, shrink-wrapped and ready to sell.

The factory manufacturing process begins at 1,000 CDs. But for those who want anywhere from five to 500 copies, Thornton also does in-house duplication and can turn around an order in a matter of days. That comes in handy for artists who want a recently recorded CD available to audiences at Jazz Fest or other events.

“I wanted to provide a local place where someone can sit down and make their CD happen,” she says. “There are a lot of out-of-state companies that do what I do, but on one else here. And trying to do graphic design long-distance is a nightmare.”

Thornton says in a city with such a rich musical culture, her business is filling a vacuum. “As soon as I created the company, people came knocking.” She says sales doubled between her first and third year in business and have generally increased since.

One area of the company Thornton wants to grow is corporate sales. A growing number of companies, universities and other organizations are providing CDs of presentations and data to large audiences, and they often need the product fast.

From her vantage point working with a number of prominent area musicians along with those just starting out, Thornton says the city’s music industry is getting better, though it still has a long way to go. “The Mayor’s office is actively trying to bring musicians together, but we need more attention –  musicians are still struggling,” she says.

Still she wouldn’t have started her business in any other city. “The door’s here are very open, you can talk to anyone and people will try to help you. You don’t find that in other places.”

One problem Thornton mentions is a state sales tax on her product that out-0fo-state companies don’t have to contend with. She says is not right that artists get charged taxes first on the production of their CDs than then again when they sell them. She says the tax also puts her at a competitive disadvantage with peer companies elsewhere.

— By A.J. Mistretta

Published in
Biz New Orleans
June, 2005

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