first impressions get labeled

by Kourtney Anderson ~ To make a name as a DJ is difficult in a market that is flooded with talent. In the beginning one thing is crucial to success, the demo. Before the CD ever hits a player it is evaluated on its appearance. A DJ name scribbled on top of a CD-R with marker is not the first impression aspiring DJ’s want. A demo should look professional; it should stand out from the numerous others in circulation. Eye catching graphics on your demo is a good way to increase the chances it won’t end up a coaster.

A sticky label is the most common way to produce catchy CD’s. Labels can be found all over the place and are printed on any ink-jet printer. Relatively low in cost, they are great for the high number of duplicating needed when circulating a demo. 100 matte labels run about $20 and if you hit re-bates right you can get a 100 spindle of CD-R’s for around that price too. Although the odds of becoming a coaster have decreased by slapping that label on top it still might never be played.

The sticker labels have a tendency to increase its appeal as food for your car stereo. Although the person will probably not forget your name from here on out, you will be forever associated with the demo that had to be pried out of the player scratching the label and the CD all to hell in the process. So what do you do now? Reverting back to chicken scratched demo’s may prevent your CD from being lunch but there are some other solutions that will give a professional look with no thick label to get stuck.

Silk Screen Labels: Most CD’s purchased at the local music store have silk screen labels. They are durable and very professional but are too expensive for a demo that is given out for free. A silk screening machine runs $5,000+ so unless you plan to start a CD duplicating company save some cash and pay someone else to do it. This is cheaper than buying the machine but is not cheap by any means. Most companies have minimum orders of 500 with each CD costing around $1.50. Per CD cost does decrease with the increase of order size but who needs 500+ demos starting out? Save your $750 and buy some new records.

Thermal Transfers: In contrast to inkjet printers, which create images by applying liquid ink, thermal transfer technology works by conveying solid wax from a coated ribbon onto a disc's surface through a combination of heat and pressure. Thermal transfer labels are thus more durable since they are water-and-scratch proof as opposed to their inkjet counterparts. Thermal printers can be found for as low as $100 and should be printed on shiny surfaced CD-R’s for the best quality. These shiny CD-R’s are priced comparable to any other blank media making them a good alternative to adhesive labels. But of course there is a catch!

Thermal labels are for the most part dull. The lower end printers are very limited on design. Forget about images because these printers only have one color and have such a low dpi that even black images will be distorted. A specific print area limits design even more allowing text only above and below the center hole. Professional looking? Yes. Eye catching? Not for $100. There are multi-color thermal printers out there but be prepared to drop $2,000+ and that still won’t give you full design reign.

Inkjet: Besides using any old inkjet to print sticky labels there are also specialized inkjets that will print directly on certain CD-R’s. Printing directly on the specially coated disc lets you have total design freedom just like an adhesive label but without the extra weight and thickness that can lead to problems. In the past an inkjet that could print directly on CD’s meant it came with a big price tag. Thanks to Epson this is not true anymore. If you go to your local Best Buy you can find an Epson 300 printer for under $200 that has this special CD feature.

Although the price of the printer has dropped in price, the media still has some catching up to do. A 30-pack of printable CD-R’s will run about $15. This is more than a regular spindle and will add up quick with mass duplication. Epson specifies the disc’s need 24 hours to dry, making them no good for last minute copying and distribution.

Mass producing CD’s is a time consuming process and definitely not one of the highlights of being a DJ. If you are just starting out it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on labeling but it is necessary to have a professional demo. To keep costs low stick with the good ole’ sticky label and add some spice to it. If you do get a complaint about an eaten CD give them another copy and warn them to only use it in a tray feed player. If they really want to listen to it in the car they can burn it themselves.


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