This is Part 2 of a series on how I put together the 10th Anniversary re-release of my album Lemonymous. See Part 1 here, about the initial impetus and crowdfunding strategy. Continue reading for more about Discmakers.
The day the PayPal campaign launched (March 15th, the exact 10th Anniversary of Lemonymous‘s original release) I got a couple takers – things were already looking good for a campaign that was to go a full six weeks (like most crowdfunding campaigns tend to do). While I was still constantly promoting this, I had some other work to do – mainly creating the packaging and handling the mixing and mastering of the album. In this part, I’ll talk mainly about the packaging work.
Why Is Album Packaging Important?
To me, the packaging of an album (or CD; cassette, what have you) is as important as the music that’s on it. Not only is this what people are going to see (whether online, on store shelves, or in magazine ads or reviews – so it has to be eye-catching), but it’s also in many ways a visual representation of what the music is attempting to convey. Whether it’s the colors or the designs – something about that visual package needs to speak to the music and actually give a hint as to what to expect once the listener hits play.
How Discmakers Templates Made The Album Packaging Process Easier
Lucky for me, since the album had already been released, I already had a front and back cover all prepared to go. I also had a lot of photos from the time period that I could use for the pages in the booklet. Granted, they were terrible, but that’s what I was doing at the time and I’m all about trying to be as genuine to what was happening as possible – I don’t believe in re-writing history like some artists try to do (though I will say that since I didn’t make any music videos back then, there is a little bit of revisionism that inherently goes into making them ten years after the fact). You can see these photos by clicking here.
Before I could get started, I had to assemble all these images into a place that I could easily arrange and access them. Then I’d have to ensure that the booklet I was creating was going to work with the Discmakers production processes. The easiest way to do that would be to utilize the templates that they have available on their website. As an aside, I use those templates for creating album artwork for other artists on a freelance basis – while they may not necessarily be exact to the dimensions that other packaging production houses utilize, they are pretty darned close and get you to a place where you can design and export to your requirements.
And while I’m a Photoshop guy, they have other options there as well, including Illustrator and Corel Draw. What’s great about my experience with Photoshop is that even though I might have an image that’s relatively small for my canvas (which, when blown up would look pixelated), once I enlarge it it still looks fairly smooth when rendered. In places where that’s not the case I usually put some kind of an effect on it – like crystallization or something else that distorts it in its own right. I did a lot of this with the images I pulled together from the previous release. I even did that with the cover – giving it a little bit of a distorted “through the window” look to differentiate it from other releases.
Here’s a look at those shots that I put effects on (compare these to what you see on the photos page above):
Using Photoshop I was also able to do some really cool stuff with various blended layers, which worked great for the pages that had lyrics printed on them:
I also did some really cool blending stuff with one of the images:
Using Discmakers’ templates I knew that my designs would come out perfectly (and the great news is that you also get to proof how it looks online, so if there are any issues you’ll know way ahead of time). I was even able to use their templates for what was to be printed on the CD.
Were There Any Downsides To Using Discmakers Templates?
The only thing that was a little complicated was that essentially I had developed the pages of the booklet in files that, were they laid out on paper, would be printed all the way across, rather than sequentially. That might be a little hard to explain but if you take the last image above, that represents pages 10 and 7, from left to right. This is because were these pages printed out on paper, they would have to fold across the staple properly. So the whole thing wasn’t sequential.
When it was time to upload all of this to Discmakers, what they wanted was a PDF of all the pages, together, sequentially. So there was some cutting and pasting and some work with Adobe Acrobat that I had to do, but it actually worked to my advantage, because I was able to take that final PDF and use it for the digital booklet that some of my later Kickstarter backers ordered. Two birds with one stone.
The end product was practically flawless, and it was a real thrill to hold the actual package in my hands – it looked and felt as I always had intended it… just ten years later.
How Well Did This Process Work For Lemonymix?
The process for Lemonymix was much simpler, as it only required me to create a slip jacket (so, essentially, a front and back cover) and the print on the CD. For this I did no real image blending and nothing particularly special – I simply inverted and played with some color patterns on top of the original Lemonymous cover, eventually settling on this:
You also note that I did a blur effect on top of it that makes it appear as if it’s zooming at you. For the titles, I simply used a text layer that I then did an “overlay” blending effect on. I almost didn’t put the text on the cover as I wanted some consistency with the lack of titles on the Lemonymous cover, but in the end I wanted to ensure that this wasn’t simply a “variant” cover for the same album but rather a different, but related, album altogether.
Was There Any Part Of This Process Outside Of Discmakers Templates?
The last thing I wanted to do was to create a little sticker to put on the package, like the ones you see on CDs on store shelves that promote the album and say things like “featuring the singles…” and “the latest release from…” etc. To do this I actually went to VistaPrint and created two versions of these (one for each of the CDs) utilizing their Return Address Labels. They had a template for this as well so I was able to design these fairly easily and quickly. Once the CDs were completely produced and sent to me, Emily and I went ahead and put these stickers on every single copy.
With all the other work I was doing on this project (including mixing and mastering both CDs – which I’ll get to next time), it took me into June, I think, to complete these packages. Considering I started them in or around March, that’s nearly four months of work – really not bad. The end result was absolutely worth it, and I can’t wait to do the same thing for my other albums – past and future.
But, as always, it was the music that would prove to be the toughest thing to… well… master…