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Rewards Often Outweigh Risks in Producing a CD

September 12, 1996

It's hard to spit in Los Angeles and not hit someone with a demo tape. But laying your dream on the line and putting out a CD of your music is a courageous endeavor that involves commitment, planning and, of course, money. There are 20 million songs in this city of dreams, and these are just five of the groups who have produced their own CDs.

Costs listed for these projects are based on initial orders of 1,000 CDs.

ALBUM: "Lure"

ARTIST: I Found God

PRODUCER: Michael Ciravolo


$200 recording

$500 mastering

$500 graphics

$1,800 pressing (included printing covers)

$500 miscellaneous

$3,500 total


Stress was stressed.

Stress (". . . as in 'I can't take it anymore,' " he explained) is the lead guitarist and leader of the band, I Found God, whose music he describes as "Black Sabbath meets Janis Joplin."

"When I first got the 1,000 CDs, [I thought] they're gonna bury me with these," Stress said. "It was quite overwhelming; I had no concept of how I was going to get rid of them."

Of all the projects analyzed for this article, "Lure" was the least expensive to produce because the band was able to rely on friends for help with photography, graphics and most importantly, recording.

"We recorded basically the whole album in a garage in the Valley," Stress said. "My friend has state-of-the-art equipment, but it's in his garage."

The band's 14 songs were recorded on two Alessis eight-track ADAT machines electronically linked, giving the band 16 digital tracks to work with. The album cover artwork was done by another friend and the photography costs were about $100.


"It was the smartest thing we ever did," Stress said. "We're really close to the end of our 1,000. We've got about 150 left but we've gone beyond breaking even."

Stress said the group's lucky break was getting picked up by a European distribution company, Cargo Records in London. The sales of "Lure" in England, Germany and Italy were enough to cover most of the band's album-related costs.

"They bought our CDs at wholesale," he said. "They would pay $7.50 apiece for them, which is more than you'll ever get on a major record label, 'cause we own the label."


ALBUM: "Anything That Means Everything"

ARTIST: Camille's Blues Box

PRODUCER: Camille Porske and Joseph Simon


$1,777 24-track professional recording studio

$430 studio musicians

$880 mastering

$75 graphic design

$1,677 pressing (including cover printing costs)

$4,839 total


Like many first-timers, Camille Porske's first venture as a record producer was a learn-as-you-go experience. The Glendale resident contracted production services separately, causing her to spend more money in the process.

"You know, it's like when you go to Lucky and then you go to Hughes and you go, 'Well, I can buy my tomatoes here and I'll go to the other place and get my lettuce. I'll make a salad and I know it will taste good, but I don't have that much time to sit and compare that many prices cause I'm really hungry.' "

Porske, who is from New York, has been performing with her band in clubs around Los Angeles for the past few years--most notably the Kibbitz Room at Cantor's in Hollywood--refining her blues-rock style.

When it came time to record the album, she said, the extensive club work paid off: The band was tight. The entire nine-song album was recorded in less than 10 hours in a professional 24-track analog recording studio.

To save money, Porske decided not to print full-color CD covers, but instead used black-and-white photos with a sepia tone wash. She also did most of the design work herself, working late into the night at her neighborhood Kinkos.


"It's been doing well, I've put it in several stores: Tower on Sunset, Rhino and Wherehouse and a Moby Disc," she said. "And it's selling there. We've gone through about three boxes (300 CDs)."

In fact, Porske said making the CD was one of the best things she's done to advance her singing career.

"It's amazing, the difference in the respect, when you call up and you represent yourself as from Real Soul Records [her label], as opposed to 'Hi, I'm the neighborhood band,' " she said.

"If you hustle, you'll find a lot of things out there. I'm considering doing a promotional CD, for about $1.12 a piece, and sending them out to radio stations."


ALBUM: "Si Se Puede" ("You Can Make It")

ARTIST: Tapestree

PRODUCER: Jerry Manfredi and Cesar M. Garcia


$9,000 24-track recording studio

$3,000 tape stock, guest artists, miscellaneous expenses.

$0 graphic design, printing and cover art work

$2,000 mastering and pressing CDs

$14,000 total


For the band Tapestree, its first effort, "Si Se Puede," was a labor of love.

The group, made up of L.A. music scene veterans, had worked as the house band at El Chaparral restaurant in Sylmar for several years.

"All five of us put in our tips for two years," said Cesar Garcia, lead vocalist and sax player. "We sold band T-shirts and we put in $10 a week extra, each of us."

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