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Recording And Launching A Cd


gazman
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I get fairly frequent requests after my monthly concerts to record a CD. It's not something that I've considered seriously before, but I'm now slowly coming around to the merits of the idea.

 

I know that some members on this forum have recorded several CDs, and I would think that everybody else purchases organ CDs. So I'm just asking for some advice please. What's the best way to proceed with this, the likely costs, snags, hints and tips, best way to market, etc, etc.

 

All advice will be gratefully received. Thanks.

 

G.

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From a non-player, historian viewpoint, with some organ CDs and LPs already,

I would advise to chose an instrument with character.

Be it old or new, this should be an organ which has something to tell

to the listener: a rare ancient organ, or a daring, innovating new one

(be it aimed at modern, romantic or baroque style.)

 

Cynic obviously know some in England !

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If you haven't done already - do buy David Coram's Romsey CD and communicate with him - it's one of the best I've bought for a long while. Andrew Post (Vif Records - also DOM at Christchurch Priory) did the recording and the quality is excellent. Quite a few smaller companies offer good deals - or if you know someone with the clobber then you could do it that way.

 

AJJ

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snip

 

Quite a few smaller companies offer good deals - or if you know someone with the clobber then you could do it that way.

 

AJJ

 

 

I agree. Your best way to start is to go to a firm that know exactly what they are doing because they have done it successfully several times before. You will need a decent instrument and plenty of preparation because digital editing is expensive. An established firm will have outlets and (usually) a decent advertising plan. Once recorded with decent photos and notes, copies should be sent round all major publications for reviews. Over the years, I have sold as many Cds through good reviews as I have by putting them out at recitals.

 

A number of companies may well ask that you guarantee a number of sales - essentially by being prepared to put up some of the cost yourself, or by finding a sponsor. Producing 1000 decent copies, allowing for a decent booklet and settling copyright fees may well come in between £2k and £3k but it will be worth doing this number. Small quantities are more expensive per unit.

 

Now the hard bit: You should choose your programme very carefully, almost ruthlessly! A programme which will please Joe and Josephine Public may not get you even one serious review. It will also not appeal to your serious collectors who quite possibly have all those items already. I strongly recommend that you balance it so that some items are immediately attractive, and other have profundity or real musical worth. We all have in our collections the sort of CD which is full of 5 minute pieces, rattled off in no particular order, several having almost identical effect. Avoid well-worn pieces like the plague, or a 'bookstall CD' may be your one and only foray into this field; also remember, your recording on even a very good English organ may not compare in any way with versions already 'out there' made on authentic period instruments abroad.

 

There is one real advantage of a CD over a live performance in concert or in a church service, one which not enough people take advantage of IMHO. Single stops come across with real charm on a good instrument because you are not competing with background noise. Between your exciting blasts, try to find space for showing off the real colours, if not 'one at a time' then at least varied throughout the programme. That's how good composers write for orchestra!

 

Good luck!

P.

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I have been considering this recently too, but from the standpoint of having several pieces 'in print' with publishers, meaning that producing a CD with them on might not be a bad marketing tool these days. Certainly I've known several organists in the past who have produced really excellent 'homegrown' CD's. I just need to find a willing organist and church, and some money.......

 

David

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I have been considering this recently too, but from the standpoint of having several pieces 'in print' with publishers, meaning that producing a CD with them on might not be a bad marketing tool these days. Certainly I've known several organists in the past who have produced really excellent 'homegrown' CD's. I just need to find a willing organist and church, and some money.......

 

David

 

I know a number of composers who are convinced that all the public needs is a solid hour plus of their best creative efforts. Frankly, I think you should be more than a little cautious about this. A whole programme of one composer is a very stern test of just how creative and original the composer can be. One must never say 'never', but there are several well-known composers where I cannot imagine I would ever be wise to present their works exclusively for more than half a programme. You have to think of the poor listener!

 

I am a devoted Howells fan as well as a former HH pupil, but - for instance- I don't think an hour of Howells' organ music would have sufficient variety for any but the most addicted fan. Half an hour, yes. Now David, seriously, are you a more creative and interesting composer than Howells?

I'm not trying to discourage you, more like suggest what you ought to aim for is to get a few works included in programmes - live recitals first...then some might find their way onto CD if they go down really well.

 

Now as it happens, I have just made a double CD of the works of one contemporary composer (Richard Francis, formerly organist of Ludlow Parish Church). However, this music is so fresh, so vivid and varied that I believe this programme to be virtually unique in being capable of surmounting the cliche/repetition/repeated trick bogey. I said 'a very stern test' and I stick by that for ordinary mortals, even very keen hard-working ones.

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There are many small recording companies, and a number that specialise in organs; but dealing with a company may not be cheap. An alternative is to find a suitably dedicated amateur, if you feel able to judge their capability to produce the qualityof recording, editing and mastering that you would wish for - preferably by reference to samples of their work (this care may also be necessary when dealing with professionals, of course). Either way, there is probably no substitute for personal recommendation!

 

The remark that digital editing is particularly expensive puzzled me a little - I guess that it simply refers to the cost of occupying a studio facility for the necessary time. Now if a recording is made (as I do) in a simple manner, with a single microphone (as for instance Nimbus do), then most of the complexity of the equipment that costs so much in a studio is irrelevant - even for a surround recording.

 

As well as regularly recording concerts I am involved in, I have made a number of commercial CDs myself (calling on my past training and experience as a BBC recording engineer); these CDs all involved my son (a pianist) or friends, and so were done on a purely family or friendship basis. The editing (largely of fantastically complex contemporary piano music) took us an intensive weekend together for each disk. As he wanted more than merely to get the CDs pressed for his own use, my son then offered each master around likely companies until he found someone happy to publish it on terms they could agree.

 

If anyone feels interested to work in such a way, as a stepping stone, rather than dealing fully commercially from the start, I would be happy to discuss it with them.

 

Paul

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I know a number of composers who are convinced that all the public needs is a solid hour plus of their best creative efforts. Frankly, I think you should be more than a little cautious about this.

That's probably quite true - a 'pie in the sky' idea really! Vicious circles though - people don't buy copies of pieces they haven't heard and publishers won't publish things they won't sell. I think my music is probably rather more termed 'utility' than 'vibrant'!

 

David

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That's probably quite true - a 'pie in the sky' idea really! Vicious circles though - people don't buy copies of pieces they haven't heard and publishers won't publish things they won't sell. I think my music is probably rather more termed 'utility' than 'vibrant'!

 

David

 

Dear David,

utility means useful - what's wrong with that? If what I said sounded very discouraging, I was just trying to inject a touch of what I hope is realism rather than defeatism.

 

I still think live performances are what a composer at your stage in life needs to be trying for. I'd be happy to help. If you've written some organ music that you're proud of, I'd gladly look through things with a view to picking one or two out and giving them an airing. Pieces that go down well are then candidates for submission to a publisher. However, don't expect any of this to make you money.

 

Contact me via PM if you want to follow this up.

 

In the same way that in order to get on in politics IMHO a certain portion of one's brain needs to be removed, to get on as a composer one either needs to die in some really impressive way, work for the music industry rather than following 'Art' as a star or have one's good taste removed. I think if you started to write deliberately trite music with grammatical faults (difficult for you because you were brought up at a good class kennels!) you'd have a real future in the Evangelical Worship Song Supply Industry. Sorry - 'Cynic' by name.....

 

P.

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"your recording on even a very good English organ may not compare in any way with versions already 'out there' made on authentic period instruments abroad."

(Quote)

 

This of course depends upon the music played !

There are some good Karg-Elert played on british Cathedral organs...

And many surprising little instruments which hold their rank really

well amongst the european "authentic" league, despite not always

in original state. After all, the Aa-kerk organ isn't original, AND

it is a gem.

 

Pierre

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Best of luck with this, Holz. I will leave the advice to those more qualified to give it, though I concur fully with the comments already made, particularly Cynic's.

 

In your initial post you mentioned your "monthly concerts": I, for one would be interested to know what you play at these. Could you give us, say, the last two programmes?

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I agree with what most of Cynic has said, here are a few more thoughts.

 

I did a CD after the organ fund-raising committee thought I would be the best person to do it, as I had seen the organ through its various stages of repair and restoration. Having played on vocal CDs, there is quite a bit of pressure, so felt a little reluctant to do one solo. Anyway, I went ahead with it, and actually there was LESS pressure doing it solo. There was nothing worse than a great vocal take being ruined by a bum pedal note or a clumsy registration change, easier to do again when there's just you.

 

Choosing the right company/man to do it is very important. You have to feel relaxed and you can get on with whoever. There will be times when they sit there and say 'that didn't go well'/'there was a wrong note here' etc and you take it on the chin and do it again. The prices that Cynic mentions were about what I remember as well.

 

A word of advice on the 'enthusiastic amatuer recorder'. I heard one local choir's two recordings. One done by a man with a mic and recorder, the other done by one of the small professional outfits, and they were like chalk and cheese. The booklet, production, editing, etc was by far superior, and it made it a much more marketable and saleable disc. I think there is a possibility that the singing was actually BETTER on the amateur recording, but its just that you couldn't hear it very well, and there was quite a bit of background noise.

 

Repertoire is important. I agree entirely with Cynic's view of single composer discs, especially with organ music (works better with choral music), so you really want to be showing off the colours of the organ itself. And just about everyone who is worth doing has probably been done (notable exceptions, Fillsell/complete Vierne and Dupre!). Or, you could go for another link, off the top of my head; Christmas music (I have an excellent Graham Barber from Armley with a great variety of stuff on), Theme and Variations (can include chorale preludes, passacaglias as well as themes and variations pieces), Dance Music (particularly fine one on Regent with Margerat Philips with a healthy mix of styles), Transcriptions, I even have the really excellent disc 1937 on Signum, the title says it all. I went for something which showed the organ off in its best light, and this was almost a first recording for the church, so no previous competition. (And rather remarkably, that's what the reviews said!). The big turn off for me when buying is the 'this is what I play on a Sunday for voluntaries' type discs. I also included a couple of pieces by living composers who bought a few as it was a good advert for their music, without them having to take the financial risk of having to organise and pay for the recordings. I can also heartily endorse what Cynic says about solo stops as well. We had a particularly fine Cor Anglais which you could never hear in services, and was difficult in voluntaries, but heard very clearly when the mic is in the right place. Contrary to popular thought, most organ recordings don't use a myriad of microphones. The companies I have dealt with tend to use two at most; one in front of the organ and occasionally another one further down the nave.

 

Don't expect it to make a lot of money, though I did manage to sell enough to cover the costs. A big mail shot on friends and family was a good source, as were other organists who'd sent me a mail shot to buy their disc! A small and simple display at the back of recitals where you might include the odd piece on the disc are good leads, as is a 'launch' recital. You don't have to play everything on the disc, a few of your favourites, some cheese and wine and you'd be amazed how many might reach for the wallet!

 

If you go with one of the small one man outfits, you get a really good service from start to finish, and they will send review copies to the relevant periodicals etc.

 

Hope this is helpful, PM me if you want any more help or advice on particular companies!

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Best of luck with this, Holz. I will leave the advice to those more qualified to give it, though I concur fully with the comments already made, particularly Cynic's.

 

In your initial post you mentioned your "monthly concerts": I, for one would be interested to know what you play at these. Could you give us, say, the last two programmes?

 

Happily, Jon! Last week's recital was somewhat unusual in that I had a soprano join me. It was rather a mixed bag of music, but the audience seemed to go away happy. The programme was as follows:-

 

Tuba Tune - C.S. Lang

 

O my beloved father (from Gianni Schicchi) - Puccini

 

Think of me (from Phantom of the Opera) - Andrew Lloyd Webber

 

The Holy Boy - John Ireland (the version Ireland arranged for organ)

 

Ave Maria - Bach/Gounod

 

Arioso - J.S. Bach (arranged Harvey Grace, disarranged Gareth Perkins)

 

Prelude and Fugue in D BWV 532 - J.S.B. (both JSB organ pieces in the style of Virgil Fox - just for the fun of it!!)

 

Summertime (from Porgy and Bess) - Gershwin

 

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore (from Tosca) - Puccini

 

Quando me’n vo’ (from La Boheme) - Puccini

 

Chorale Prelude on “Now thank we all our God” - Karg-Elert

 

Deh vieni (from The Marriage of Figaro) - Mozart

 

Toccatina for the flute - Pietro Yon

 

Art is calling for me - Victor Herbert

 

 

December's concert was more usual of the sort of thing I do:-

 

A Trumpet Minuet - Alfred Hollins (1865-1942)

 

Variations on “Mein junges Leben hat ein End” - J.P. Sweelinck (1562-1621)

 

Prelude and Fugue in G minor - Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)

 

Three Chorale Preludes on “In dulci jubilo” - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

 

Air (from Third Orchestral Suite) - J.S. Bach (arranged Gareth Perkins)

 

Organ Sonata no. 3 :- i, Con moto maestoso ii, Andante tranquillo - Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47)

 

Two Pieces:- i, Marche des Rois Mages ii, Toccata in G - Théodore Dubois (1837-1924)

 

 

That reminds me....I need to decide what I'm going to play next month! Thanks for the reminder.

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Hi Holz

 

A great deal of sound advice has already been offered here with which I agree and see no need to repeat. However, I thought I would add a couple of points of my own from the perspective of the record collector with a reasonably comprehensive collection acquired over the space of almost 40 years and therefore embracing all generally available recorded formats - other than wax cylinders !!

 

 

Unless you are selling only to friends and members of your own congregation (who are likely to buy anything which is produced out of loyalty) you need to be offering something which is different to what the potential purchaser already has. Whilst there is no need to go as far as including only pieces which have never been previously recorded, an offering consisting entirely of familiar works of which any serious collector will already possess (probably multiple) copies is a distinct disincentive to reaching for the cheque book - unless you have a unique angle. Do not forget your unique angle may be the organ you are using!

 

Unpalatable as it may be to some to accept, the fact is that with recital discs some people are as interested in listening to the instrument being played as they are to what is being played on it. Accept this fact and you can turn it to your advantage by ensuring you showcase the instrument to its best and most extensive advantage and grab their attention. Ignore it on the basis that "you" (in quotation marks to signify no specific individual is referred to here) are above pandering to such vulgar taste and do not be surprised if a number of folk decide to keep their hands (and thus their money) firmly in their pockets.

 

Resist the temptation to write overly learned notes. It is likely that the majority of your potential purchasers will already be familiar with the story of Bach's walk to hear Buxtehude and will not require another potted version of the tale, and certainly not at the expense of being told how two apparently balanced choruses were obtained from a very conventional English specification which does not seem to provide them. In other words never use space to relate things which the potential listeners will either know or can easily find out (Google answers an awful lot) at the expense of material which is not in that category.

 

If you are going to make a major work the centrepiece of your CD , check whether, and if so how many, other recordings of it have been recently released. Works which have received a spate of recent releases are probably best avoided.For example, this is probably not the best time to offer the Elgar Sonata, since the number of other versions released or re-released in 2007 for the 150th anniversary are going to have an impact on the inclusion of this work as a reason attracting people to buy the CD.

For the same reason avoid including a significant quantity of music for which the organ is either unsuitable or inadequate. CDs are intended for repeat listening and the compromises which may be tolerable in order to play Couperin as a concluding voluntary on an English organ rejoicing in a single reed unit borrowed everywhere at various pitches are infinitely less so when the performance is preserved for repeated listening.

 

Good luck with the project. When it comes to fruition I will probably buy a copy whether or not you pay attention to the above advice but I am an unusually soft touch when it comes to organ CDs and I doubt there are enough like me out there to guarantee the financial success of any such endeavour.

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