Monday, November 29, 2004


The moment you've been waiting for, please check out

Utenzil:UTENZIL, the CD site where you can listen to 2 minute samples of each song and buy

The Utenzil Site on CD Baby!

Thanks for reading, the blog will continue to chronicle this adventure.

Hope things are going well with you...

The Utenzil CD continues to undergo processing at CD Baby, the overall process takes 5-10 business days. Because the discs arrived just a few days before T-giving holiday it taking a while.

Hope things are going well with you...

The Utenzil CD continues to undergo processing at CD Baby, the overall process takes 5-10 business days. Because the discs arrived just a few days before T-giving holiday it taking a while.

Hope things are going well with you...

The Utenzil CD continues to undergo processing at CD Baby, the overall process takes 5-10 business days. Because the discs arrived just a few days before T-giving holiday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Recap, Utenzil's Electronic Music Adventure, Thanksgiving , Native American Heritage Month

This will likely be my last post for a little while, as holidays approach and as the Utenzil CD awaits processing for sale (should be available by end of next week) by CD Baby.

To recap, you can visit the Utenzil site on, sign up for a free account to download legal, free MP3s from artists offering Creative Commons licensed downloads across a whole ton of musical genres and styles.

If you're just coming across this, because this blog chronicles the offering of a recording project's first CD, it's best to start from the first post and work up to now, starting in October 2004.

Also, this is very interesting and some really good reading on the First Thanksgiving..

Here is interesting reading regarding issues of interest during Native American Heritage Month which you may need to digest slowly.

Thanks for reading, have a good everything.

Musical stuff

When a modern musician gets well known, people sometimes ask about their creative process. It is unlikely that anyone will ever ask me about my creative process.

Nostradamus was not a modern musician, but has been credited with amazing works of prediction, here's how he described his creative process.

Sitting at night in secret study,
Alone placed on the brass tripod:
A slight flame comes out of the emptiness,
Makes successful that which should not be believed in vain.

David Byrne is a modern musician,[*] who in this video explains a musical approach which is very likely similar to many other musician's creative process, it is semi-gratifying to know it is similar to mine.

[*edit this used to contain a good link, but now it is not good , and I replaced it with the youtube video. The original text was "here's a great article about his creative process" ]

Art-sy stuff, thankfulness

Not a lot of visual interest here, I realize. Certainly not as "fun" a blog as this one. Also, a lot of discussion of mundane mechanics/process with respect to "musical product" bla bla ughk. So an attempt at being more aethereal follows...

My favorite visual artists are Surrealist painters
like Yves Tanguy. The sub-group of artists in that artistic movement that I like the most are the "veristic surrealists"

Now, there are political/societal values associated with Surrealism, which some people may consider inseparable from that movement, that I do not so much subscribe to, because these values are ephemeral manifestations generated by the people and environment who happened to exist in a certain place in history while grappling with what are timeless, eternal issues described nicely here.

Surrealism grew out of the "anti-art" movement of Dadaism and which amplified the 'dreamlike oddness' of the juxtaposition of disparate elements that is a recognized hallmark of Dadaism; that is, Surrealism explores the nature of that oddness, rather than causing it to occur by sticking odd things together.

One reason Surrealists appeal to me is that they seem to deal in the 'moment of cognition', presenting us with things that look like something else but aren't quite anything. We think of there being a divider or membrane between conscious and unconscious, and surrealism is the attempt to position our view right on or within the meniscus of that separator. I also like dreams, I like the way that dreams don't make sense yet you feel they make sense while you are having them.

So in this context, I am very grateful for electricty and electronics, the computer stuff, for the samples and the ability to manipulate waveforms, for MIDI and digital effects, for microphones and tranducers of all sorts, for vibrations and time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I have now ordered pre-printed blanks

I went to who have a pretty nifty self service "design your CD online" page that allows you to upload your own artwork.

They can provide the printed 2 sided cards, tray inserts, jewel cases and CDs with artwork printed on the disc, 50 units for three dollars and eighty nine cents each. However, the shipping is not cheap, even UPS ground, so my per disc price ends up coming out well above the homemade, four dollars and eighty nine cents per disc...

ugh. If I want to do this, though, I need to do it as well as I can given limited resources, and I think the discs will end up looking pretty cool.

Monday, November 22, 2004

CD Baby has the CDs, a bit of time before they are made available...

CD Baby has received the CDs! They need 5-10 days to digitize the discs, set up the webpages and preview links. Meanwhile, I'm looking into options for better duplication and distribution. These guys look the best for my needs, because it seems I can do everything online.

I was not all that happy with the way I went about the disc art, it was cruder than I would've preferred. What I've learned is that my "per unit" price doing everything myself if only slightly lower than getting it done via a service house with less visual quality of the product.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Don't forget to check out garageband...

The package is in the mail...

Now I wait. Priority mail should take 1 to 3 days. It is likely it will take three days, CD Baby being in Portland, Oregon.

I have also signed up their digital distribution. This will allow them to sell separate songs from the CD via iTunes, Music Net and other Online Music Distributors (OMDs).

And now, I seem to have the flu... dizziness, shivers, general yuckiness. I eagerly anticipate my next entry announcing the availability of the Utenzil CD titled, simply, "Utenzil".

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Printing, Packaging, Bleeding, Shipping

I have been in several bands. I like playing music with other people, and have been generally fortunate with the people I've been in bands with, some equipment gone missing here and there but mostly not too awful.

Was in a band a long time ago in Philadelphia. To get to practice, a suburban basement in "Northeast" (as it is referred to), I had to travel about two hours on subway and bus. Was talking to a friend at where I was working, was complaining about how long it took me to get to practice, and she said, tongue in cheek, "You have to suffer for your art" which was funny in several aspects, not the least of which was the fact that this band was a cover band that eventually ended up never playing anywhere due to our inability to keep a drummer who could keep a beat (the drummer that could not keep a beat was only too happy to stay in the band), I could not convince the bass player that we should try some originals, so all in all the effort was not quite what you'd call "art".

So now, years later, as fate would have it, and hopefully indicative of Utenzil being much more art, I am suffering. It's 10:30pm, I am grappling with prying apart plastic CD jewelboxes so that I might insert the colorful printouts that I've created -- replete with tracklists, song times, barcode, liner notes and cover graphic-- without crumpling them too much. One of my knuckles is bleeding from a paper cut and I take care not to drip blood on one of the 14 color printed pages as I painstakingly trim it to fit almost nicely into the jewel case.

Bizarrely enough, in a bit of random synchronicity that leads me to believe I am on the right spiritual path, it is also the case that each CD takes nine minutes and forty two seconds to duplicate.

So let's tally costs for a bit, here: The jewel cases are kind of a bonus, because they came free with some media I bought. I paid nine dollars and forty two cents for the 14 pages of color printouts which will comprise the artwork for my first five CDs.

Basically, having been mass manufactured, the recordable CD media is far cheaper than the artwork.

I will send these first five CDs to CDBaby. Now, I will use priority mail, partly because I want to get them there fairly fast to be available before the holidays, and also because the nicely foldable box they provide is just the right size.

To ship the package to Portland, OR, home of CD Baby, via priority mail will cost five dollars and seventy five cents.

Small lots have high per piece prices: packaging and shipping per CD comes out to be three dollars and three cents.

I have crudely embellished the CDs with a magic marker, with random marks not unlike those left in caves by ancient hunter-gatherers, having reasoned thus with respect to that: "This CD will go into someone's CD player, where the labelling will be seen only briefly. Non-toxic permanent magic marker is mentioned in many sources as the best labelling with respect to ensuring longevity of the CD, and there is a certain naive touch to the package that will render a pleasant surprise when the music is played".

If I consider 48.5 minutes of duplicating, disc assembly and packing time at minimum wage, that's maybe another five dollars: one dollar per disc. Then I add the cost of the media, I think it came out to about thirty cents per disc, again bought in a small lot of 50.

So my cost for "manufacturing and pre-distribution" of each disc is four dollars and thirty three cents.

The CD will sell for 13.97, that leaves 9.64

CD Baby will keep four dollars from the price, that leaves 5.64.

Haven't driven to the post office yet, there has been and will be gas used to "move the product".

So, that leaves about five and a half dollars per CD for me, the artist.

Selling all 5 CDs will net about twenty seven dollars and fifty cents.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Preparing to print out the cover

Took some days off, but the project progresses...

I've got my cover art in Nero's Cover designer, incorporating my barcode received from CD Baby. Now I will need to print it out.

Now, I do not have a nice color printer. What I will do to start is to find a Kinkos where they can run color prints from my laptop, either by hooking up the laptop directly to the printer or submitting the artwork on CD and having them run it off on their color printing system.

So here I am considering one of the less exciting details of the project: glossy or matte cardstock? I do think the glossy has a more professional look.

Calling the nearby Kinkos I learn that they don't do glossy cardstock via their laptop printer hookups, so to do this I must give them a CD with the artwork on it. This will mean I need to save the the CD artwork in a format supported by their printer, which will mean that Nero's Cover Designer will need to export it as such.

Not buying a printer was one of the easier decisions, incidentally. Seeing as the notebook serves primarily as a DAW, printing will be limited and I know that there are office services stores that would enable me to print out when I need.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Registered CD with CDBaby

I have done as much mastering as I can, it has come out well enough. I've done the cover design.

Today I've registered with CDBaby. $35 for registering the CD. $20 for a UPC barcode-- I did not count on that, actually, but I figured this would help distribution in general. I have also signed up for their digital distribution agreement to sell individual tracks.

I will not be doing the initial run via the duplication center, I will do these myself. I am using Microboards media by Taiyo Yuden with no labeling, and I will be doing a simple mark to indicate which side of the CD is the non-playable: this is best for the longevity of the CD, and I have control over the quality of the dupes.

As this is the 1st CD, it is titled, simply "Utenzil"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ah! Nero *has what I need* in the Properties section

I was mistaken: it IS possible to adjust track separation times, it's in the "Properties" menu for the tracks on the next to last step before burning. Also, there are some effects as well, including a graphic EQ, and two methods of normalizing the track volumes. I am optimistic. I have created a disc with 12 tracks that comprises what should hopefully be the final track listing and ordering.

CD duplicating option-- this looks O.K...

This cuts my per disk cost for my 50 CD run to a dollar a disk, and includes jewel case and printing on the CD !! my "disc art" issues are solved.

The audio quality is an unknown if I do it this way, but I really think I will go this route. Their online form indicates an on-disk tracklisting for up to 12, I was considering cutting the track listing by two (see earlier post about re-ordering/pruning tracks) and this also allows me to offer a better price on the disc.

Ok... I will mull this over, if I go with this, I need to burn a master and send it as soon as I can.

CD burning, other software stuff

I have the OEM version of Nero 6 which has helped me get the first test master burned. When i say "test master" this is disc I can play on my car stereo and other systems to get an idea of the comparable quality. This limited version allows either no time between tracks, or a fixed time between all tracks-- this is indeed a limitation. I find it very good to use, and particularly like the integrated cover design app, which takes the playlist from the CD project file and turns it into a tracklisting for the back of the CD.

I mentioned I also use Cakewalk Pyro. I have the full version of this, which cost me about 40 bucks, and which allows you to set individual volumes on tracks, cross fade in and out, apply some effects (which are surprisingly not too bad, some are pretty cool, some are not practical but fun: overall best used sparingly if at all).

Incidentally, when I was just starting to do PC recording, a spur of the moment purchase of "Music Creator 2003" by Cakewalk gave me a bad taste about their software in general-- the install program didn't recognize my DirectX as being newer (not older) than the version it was looking for, so I had to go to their website to get a patch. I would suggest starting with the free download of ProTools that Digidesign provides as a first try recording package.

The advice I've distilled from several articles is: get a CD/DVD+R (note the "plus") burner, make sure you have enough ram, aim just behind the bleeding edge when purchasing". That last part is pretty good general advice for tech purchases if you are looking for affordability and dependability.

Here is a more comprehensive, yet slightly outdated, home recording information sote. I say slightly outdated because this particular page indicates older generation PC equipment.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Results from mastering... pretty good...

The individual tracks sound pretty good. I have 0 space between tracks on the test master, and think I will do this also with the final, and now I need to work on the ordering: some of the transitions are not appealing.

The order of the tracks is actually important to the overall experience of the CD, it's something to get done right and be done with, because it gets tedious to listen over and over again, and then you get unhappy.

14 tracks is what I ended up with, and it's almost too much so I may drop one of the pieces that doesn't fit as well. I will at least move it in the order.

In the car, the bass is strong, maybe too strong. This may be because my monitors are cheap, maybe too cheap... but there is a also a unique darkness that is afforded by this tone, so I'm mulling over going with it. Sounds fine on headphones.

Here's the thing about doing it on your own: if you mess around with recording too long, it gets stale faster. If you are in a group, and you get along really well, then it tends not to get stale, but it takes a lot longer for a group to gel for it to become that way and it is not a sure thing when you start out that you'll end up getting along. I started this project in June, and I am very close to the first CD. Also, when you're collaborating the end result can evolve into something that none of the members might've expected which can be interesting but also a drag.

Right now, the track selections for the CD are mainly instrumental, there are are some vocals but more atmospheric than anything else. Many tracks are new, not uploaded anywhere. I am very pleased with how some of the tracks turned out.

also, there is something that I am perceiving about the music-- it's very interesting, listening to it "removed"... there are pieces here and there that weren't apparent to me when playing it.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The project takes shape...

The proposed CD cover, click on it to go to the Garageband site and hear some tracks

Many "all new" tracks on the CD. I'm running a copy of the test master this weekend. If it's ok, I'm ahead of schedule.

More about the pricing, one more try...

Let us consider this briefly as if it were a business exercise, even though I would be messing with music stuff irregardless, it's kind of an intriguing challenge and mark of accomplishment to be somehow regarded as commercially viable as a recording artist.

There are these primary roles and activities:

Artist: composition, performing

Engineering: recording, mixing, mastering, duplication

Producer: guidance of 'the sound' of the music, 'the look' of the packaging

Marketer: involved in package design, placement of the product in front of the right audience, promotional activities

Distributor: storage, order fulfillment, packing/shipping

I'm like the first four, but I really only know something about the first three.

So if you figure my distributor cost is 4.00 bucks a disc, my cost for materials is somewhere between 1.50-2.00 per disc. Times 50 units that's about 300.00.

Ah, and there is a 35.00 initial registration fee for CDBaby.

50 discs going for 14.00, if I can sell them all that's sales of 700.00, minus 335.00 costs, that's 365.00, then I guess there's taxes, maybe half of 365 is left.


If one was to invest from scratch, figure about 3000.00 for computer and software, then at least 2000.00 for instruments and mics. I have accrued these things over a while, but that's what it would roughly run, and that is pretty bare bones.

5000.00/182.50 = 27.4 lots of 50 units needed to be sold to recoup initial investment.

That is 1370 discs.

Now, if one incorporates, etc, then taxes and expenses are differently accounted for, this is something I know relatively little about, but it can cost a few hundred bucks to get the incorporation thing to happen, and again what I want to cut back on is upfront layout.

Garageband gold membership cost me 99.00 bucks, well worth it as far as the experience, MP3 upload storage, reviewer feedback and the per song statistics.

Utenzil has been extant for about 4 months. Without extensive marketing, I have had a few hundred people, perhaps, exposed to my music via the internet, let's say 300. To sell 50 discs, I would need 16 percent minimum of those people to buy one. Let's say Utenzil achieves that level of niche acceptance consistently. To hit my 1370 recoup level, that would mean exposure to 8220 independent music listeners to sell 27.4 lots of 50.

OK, how's this slogan...

You've Always Got Time For Utenzil.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

grr, blogger not playing nice...


Maybe I did something goofy, but I wrote this nice long thing about my pricing strategy for the new Utenzil CD based on costs and everything else, and it choked while publishing. So i will make it short. I'm doing all my own work, first "production run" will be 50 discs, and have figured out the hours involved I need and the price I need to clear minimum wage while keeping the price in line with similar indie offerings, and then trimeed that even a little:

Thirteen Dollars and Ninety Nine cents.

Sales distribution will be through CDBaby which gets four dollars per disc for providing that capability

AH, I've got the marketing angle figured out...

This was easy, I just needed a Slogan!

If you are looking for VST plugins...

Composing, CD, fiddling with mastering

There are a few different ways to come up with "a song".

One is to have some lyrics first, then a melody that suits the meter/phrasing of the lyrics, then then add the backing music.

Another is to have a chord progression, come up with a melody that goes over it, then if you want lyrics fit words into the melody.

Another is to do some combination of the two previous. That's mostly how this one was done: Door #3

Another is to have a beat, come up with a bass line and then a chord progression that goes over it, then build your melody on top-- or if you want you can put the melody over the bassline first, which can give you the minor-ness major-ness of the chords, and you fill the chords in around it. Then you fit lyrics (if you want them) into the melody. That's mostly how this one was done:

Another is to do some combination of all of the above. That's how this one was done-- the melodic parts were added on in snippets, some were 'preplanned' and some were improvised over the chords. No lyrics for this, though. TranzHouse One

Now, I have been mastering the tracks I've put together. I'm doing this using Live's built in effects, also VSTs: a Phase Linear EQ, a paragraphic EQ and the Voxengo soniformer multiband compressor mentioned earlier. I am learning how to best use these things, so I master for a bit, then go away for a day or two, then come back and listen. This is taking a little longer than I had planned, but I still think I will have a CD for "fall release". I've gotten some tips from some recording magazines, other Garageband artists as well has having some college level training on the notion of loudness curves and such.

My goal is to have the mastering done before Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Why people don't vote

Seeing as it's election day, I will mention this. Went into the convenience store/gas station to pay for some gas. In line in front of me is a woman customer who is extolling the virtues of the challenging presidential candidate, and behind the counter is a young man filling coffee pots who is extolling the virtues of the incumbent, and also behind the counter in the middle is the woman running the cash register, and she says:

"I don't think it's right that we're in those peoples' country, and he's the one who sent our boys over there dying, but it's not going to make any difference to me because no matter who wins I'll still be making minimum wage with no benefits so I'm not going to vote. My sister would be mad to hear that because she supports [inaudible] but that's how I'm gonna show what I feel is not vote and I won't complain or ask for anything because I wouldn't get it anyway".

Which effectively silences everyone in earshot.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Progress on CD

The two CDR layout/burning programs I have are Nero and Pyro. My car stereo seems a bit finicky about playing CD-Rs created on PC. I burned a 10 track test CD-R using the Nero software which came with the notebook. Car stereo plays it just fine. I haven't tried Pyro yet (need to install it).

Now, with CD-Rs burned on another PC, I had trouble playing CDs burned at anything higher than 4x, and I'm thinking this was due to a lower grade of optical hardware.

Nero seems to have fewer options readily apparent for adjusting CD track layout than Pyro. With Pyro there are options to cross fade and/or individually control between track pause times. But I'll mess around more with these.