How can I sell music CDs to music stores and retailers?
February 17, 2014 9:51 PM   Subscribe

What are ALL of the steps involved in selling music CDs to music stores and retailers?

I can go to the Secretary of State's office to start a sole proprietorship under an assumed name (and pay them a fee), and also get two legal notices of my Certificate of Assumed Name published in a local legal newspaper (and pay the legal newspaper another fee). I can even Incorporate my sole proprietorship with the State, and transfer some of my personal assets (cash) to the corporation in exchange for "shares" of this new incorporated company.

I can send CDs along with a Form SR for Sound Recording, or Form PA for a Work of the Performing Arts, to the United States Copyright Office to copyright the works, paying a $65 fee for either.

Then, I can join ASCAP or BMI and pay them a fee, so that just in case a radio station plays my song, I can get a penny in royalies / residuals.

My company can join GS1 US (and pay a $250 fee) to get a unique ID number for the first part of all my UPC symbols.

Pay CDBABY or COPYCATS CD duplication services to get color-silkscreened discs manufactured, then print inserts for the jewel cases and buy a shrinkwrap machine from ULINE.

Then, of course, I have to convince a record store to buy a box of these shrinkwrapped CDs on Net 30 terms, and also provide them with a mechanism for doing returns of any unsold product.

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Is that about it, am I missing anything? Where's a good link for how to really truly make a vanity record label?
posted by shipbreaker to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yikes, if you join GS1 you have to buy a block of 100 barcodes up front.

There goes Target and Wal-Mart, as places to sell CDs.
posted by shipbreaker at 10:03 PM on February 17, 2014

A few things.

1: Works are automatically protected by copyright upon creation. You do not need to register the copyright with the office.

2: Get the CDs made by a company like Discmakers and they will handle the inserts, shrinkwrapping, and UPC coding.

3: The way you get the CDs into record stores is by signing with a distributor. The distributor you go with will depend on the type of music you make. Some distributors have relationships with Walmart and Best Buy. Others with a network of indie record stores. For example, If you were making metal music in the US you might look at Caroline as your distro. They'd handle the legwork.

These questions might be useful in figuring your next steps out. Starting a label can be a lot of fun, but mostly it's a very expensive hobby. Good luck.
posted by Jairus at 10:04 PM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

While techinically works are automatically protected, any attempt to enforce without registration might actually end in failure, as per this case involving Timberland - the important point:

"In a 34-page order filed June 7, Torres finalized his earlier ruling, which said Kernal could not sue for copyright infringement without having registered the song with the U.S. Copyright Office.
The order concluded that "Acidjazzed Evening" had first been published on the Internet, which constituted simultaneous publication in the United States and other countries with online access, and therefore the song met the definition of a "United States work" under the Copyright Act of 1976. "
posted by jaymzjulian at 11:57 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used CDBaby to distribute music for Chinese indie bands. They provide ISRCs and UPCs, CD duplication, as well as digital and physical distribution. The up-front fees for UPC etc add up to less than $100 (closer to $50?), and they take a cut off anything you sell. As someone who wasn't expecting to sell more than a few copies, that was a much better deal than paying more up front to keep all of the distribution revenue.
posted by bradf at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2014

Clarification: CDBaby takes a cut from anything *they* sell for you. You're completely free to make extra copies to sell at shows and distribute to independent record stores yourself.
posted by bradf at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2014

I used to own an independent bookstore. We sold books from local authors on consignment. If it sells, we pay you, if not, you come pick it up. Most chain stores won't take the time & trouble to work with self-published writers & musicians. I'd put the energy into independent local stores and direct sales at festivals. I like International Folk Dance & Music, and the FAC sells cds at festivals and by mail. Is there any similar organization that would distribute your work to people who like that sort of thing?
posted by theora55 at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2014

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