The digital age has figuratively opened the floodgates to myriad self-produced and even homemade recordings. While this has been a blessing for many artists whose pockets aren’t deep and whose efforts at encouraging a contract from a record label, whether major label (the 2 or 3 that are left) or an independent, packaging standards seem to have been significantly lowered. However the concern here is not packaging esthetics — as in art, rather the issue is the level of information that is provided. Here are a few tips mainly from a radio programmer’s perspective but also from the perspective of being a presenter who requires a certain uniformity of information, and a writer seeking same.
For starters please give your recording a label name. That seems like pure common sense but I can’t tell you the number of independent and artist-produced recordings that come out today sans a label name. That ommission is ludicrious when you consider that one of the goals of releasing your own recording(s) is to build catalogue. Building catalogue is a means of keeping your recordings in circulation and attracting the attention of those on the distribution end whose services you may require; and for the lucky ones it may eventually be the best means of recouping your investments in the marketplace. Another of the elemental benefits of making sure you have a label imprimatur — even if it’s just your name (let’s say you call your label George Records) — is that your label name becomes another marketplace identifier; besides your name/band name and the title of the recording, your label name becomes another means for would-be consumers to seek out your recording, either online in search boxes or otherwise. This one is truly a no-brainer, yet records keep rolling in from well-meaning, earnest artists that lack any label name or identifier. And for goodness sakes make that label name clear, both on the disc, in the booklet, and on the jewel case spine, not something that we have to search high & low to locate; don’t forget, label names are also required in many playlist configurations.
Here’s a bit subtler avenue: Particularly the case with those recordings identified as falling somewhere in the jazz genre (sorry Gary Bartz, ancestor Max Roach, and all you other haters of that dreaded 4-letter term, I’m afraid we’re stuck with it), the surest avenue for radio airplay is through non-commercial public or community radio stations. When’s the last time you heard a commercial jazz radio show, much less station? I’m sure that many of you have never set foot in your local station that airs jazz music, or if you have it was purely for an interview or chat with a host and you probably didn’t take note of your friendly show host’s recordings resources.
Many of these community or public radio stations (there’s a difference, look it up) do not stock a full-service library and those that endeavor to do so are plagued by rampant theft that at this point has become a kind of cruel inside joke. Those of us who endeavor to bring you these radio programs are largely volunteers (don’t laugh, I know many such volunteer programmers who work as hard as if not harder than their salaried brethren at other stations to bring you excellent programming; believe me this pursuit is a passion). As a result five-finger discounts are a fact of life where it concerns public and community radio station libraries. The result is that at such stations it is customary for programmers to bring their own records to program (and keep that in mind when you’re pushing those promo records for airplay; in some places you’re better off specifically targeting your promos to those programmers who seem most likely to air your record AND sending a copy to the station’s program director).
Increasingly I’m seeing many of my radio colleagues eschew toting around all that plastic and instead of bringing however many entire CD packages it might take for their shows, some of us utilize those zip-up 3-ring binders with CD sleeves; so all we bring to our stations for our programs are the discs and the booklet… and some only bring the discs. So it is very important when you package your CD to make the most pertinent information — primarily track and personnel listings — readily available. And by readily I mean not just on the back of the jewel case in the insert but also in the booklet and even on the disc itself where possible. Don’t forget to be kind to the eyesight as well — try to keep the type font for the pertinent information in a clearly legible size that takes into account those of us who are eyesight-challenged. Words to the wise…