There was an interesting little article over at Billboard today the problems of on-demand CD manufacturing. On-demand CD manufacturing is the process of duplicating, printing, and packaging a individual CDs as they are ordered. The article mentions that customers do not like the lower quality print and packaging that come with these duplicated CDRs. But there are ways that you could improve the product quality with this distribution method. Below is a real-life example:
At COPYCATS Media, we had a client who was in the business of recording live concerts and selling freshly recorded, mastered, and printed CDs within an hour or two after the show. They had some big name clients and were hired to record a summer tour for the Black Crowes. So how did we provide CDs, print, and packaging for a customer who needed a 2-hour turnaround time?
We printed up blank CDRs and empty packaging for each show. The client that recorded the shows would have a big truck with all their equipment outside the concert venue. Once the show was finished, they’d start mastering the recorded concert inside the truck. When the mastering was finished, they would start burning copies using the printed CDRs we made for them in advance. Then they’d take the duplicated copy of the CD and package it in the pre-printed digipaks we provided for each show. This was how they got their products to the fans almost immediately after the performance. They would then duplicate and package the rest of the CDRs and sell them through their online store.
The only downside to this method is the packaging did not contain the tracklisting because most touring artists don’t play the exact same setlist at every show. However, we did print seperate packaging for each date, so they would have a different color scheme along with the date, city, and venue printed on it.
In order to make this on-demand CD selling model work, this is what these companies would have to do to improve their product. But this would negate the reason retailers are interested in on-demand CDs in the first place (larger selection, less shelf space). The next best option is getting better printing technology to produce single high-quality prints at a reasonable price. This solution is also a dead-end, as a single high quality print might cost more than the CD, and reasonably priced print is going to be of lower quality.
Here’s an idea that might work for both brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers: mail a commercial quality printed CD whenever a customer purchases a digital download of an album. If they purchase the downloads at a store kiosk, they can just dock their MP3 player or USB flash drive to the system and get their music on-demand. Then they can have the option to enter their address and have a physical copy of the CD mailed to them. The same would work if you buy from an online retailer like Amazon. You download the tracks on your home computer and receive the CD a few days later in the mail. Again, this satisfies the need for on-demand music as well as having a physical copy complete with the packaging and artwork. They would still need to store these CDs in a warehouse somewhere, but it will save valueable space inside stores.
Just my two cents. Has anybody ever purchased an on-demand CD from a kiosk? What did you think of the quality?