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Every band I know is always in some stage of the CD production process. But often they've been in the same stage for a long time, sometimes a VERY long time! The key to getting your CD finished and to your fans is to have a plan. Project planning methods are very useful here, since you're really doing a fairly large project!
That said, let's look at the stages, and ways to make sure they move along.
1. Project deliverables and constraints.
Basically, your main "deliverable" is going to be a CD that is packaged in some attractive fashion, manufactured in large enough quantity to meet demand, and of high enough quality to please your fans (and yourselves). It helps to articulate what these things mean, however. So, get specific:
Constraints: This is where you list your budget, completion date, and any other rules you wish to impose. For example:
2. Make your plan.
This is the part where you break everything down into steps and dependencies. For example:
In the above example, I have listed tasks in order of dependencies. Items which are not directly dependent are in separate Tracks. For example, you have to finish the songs before you record them, so that's a dependency. On the other hand, You can begin designing the sleeve and taking photos even before the songs are finished, if you want to.
3. Establish responsibilities and timelines.
Basically, someone should be responsible for the completion of each step. This person has the job of making calls, keeping on top of progress, and letting everyone else know how things are going.
Timelines are simple enough, especially if you work backwards from your deadline. In this example, we can assume that manufacturing the CDs will take 45 days. Working backwards, that means we need our master done by June 15th at the latest. Artwork will need to be finished by then, as well. If we assume 1 week for mastering, we need to have the album recorded and mixed by the first week of June. If you book time for the end of May, and give yourselves two weeks to practice, you should have your songs finalized by the middle of May.
You can see that working backwards will show you that time is inevitably shorter than you thought!
This is the fun part. Now that you know what you're supposed to be doing, get busy!
Once your CD is finished, you can apply this same methodology to promotion, touring, etc. And as soon as your CD is finished, it's time to start thinking about the next one. As we've seen, if you want to release another CD next year, you need to start working on new material soon!
All of this is pretty simple on its own, though it can seem overwhelming if you don't break it down. If you need advice, contacts, or references, let me know. I like to see the music I record released, and I'll be as helpful as possible to see that it does.