Selection of the Recording
Label and Distributor
Something that was immensely important to us was that the production and subsequent sales of the CD be squeaky clean in meeting all legal requirements in every respect. That meant all recording rights would be scrupulously observed and license fees paid. Weíll have more to say about this particular subject in our closing comments, but wanted to emphasize here that this consideration weighed heavily in the choice of the label and distributor for the CD.
As with all other aspects of the project, we explored and discussed various alternatives, but inevitably found ourselves focusing on JDís experiences with and perceptions of the much respected Marion Carter, owner of Ripete Records. We were especially impressed with his no nonsense realism and honesty, and believed he could indeed be trusted completely to comply with licensing and other requirements which should be observed.
Based purely on our perceptions of Marionís character and related reputation, we did not insist on a written agreement (a situation under normal circumstances weíd never accept) and it was decided JD would be the sole interface. No doubt, weíve got to meet that man in person one of these days.
We canít go into any details, but do want to share a little to do with a situation that we think speaks volumes about Marion Carter. After the CD was released there have been, shall we say, "indications" of potential interest for distribution on a large scale national level. Marionís reaction when he learned of it was that he happily would step aside and not interfere with such a benefit to JD. It also says a lot about JD that he in turn told Marion that was out of the question. No matter what happened, Marion would always be included and have a beneficial interest. Nice to see that type of integrity these days.
The Recording Sessions
Even to those readers whoíve not thought about matters of this nature before, we hope itís implicitly apparent the events weíre relating were not occurring sequentially and, in fact, were overlapping quite a bit. For example, while we were busily designing and constructing mockups for the artwork, JD was working both remotely and onsite with John Barker to create the song recordings. And, of course, being responsible for the overall music production, John was doing much more than just working with JD on the lead vocals. There were the arrangements of the songs, recruiting and recording the artists providing various accompaniments, and magically making it all coherently evolve into beautiful music.
John did employ some wonderful talent for the new songs:
John also contributed his infamous keyboard skills and lent his vocals to the production. And some really astute listeners familiar with the Carolina Beach Music genre will detect the voice of none other than Jackie Gore. Yes, there was some strong talent collaborating on this project.
For each of his recording sessions, JD would drive his classic Corvette from Myrtle Beach to Raleigh, work for hours until his voice would tire and then make the return drive. It had to be exhausting, but he persevered.
For the most part we stayed out of the way as far as the recording was concerned. Our only real involvement was monitoring progress and raising concerns when warranted about schedules and priorities. We made it clear that from our perspective JD and John were the creative ones and we most definitely were deferring to their experience and mastery of music to produce the best possible renditions of the songs. However, as John progressed with various stages of the recordings he would email us copies of the MP3ís he was preparing for JD for his review. We tended not to listen to them except on those occasions when JD pressed us to do so, and then when we did and offered candid opinions we usually found we wished we hadnít. JD would get defensive and sometimes indignant, and our response would be "Then donít ask us what we think!" Yeah, it got testy on occasion.
One thing we did learn through it all was the MP3ís were to us misleading at best. And that easily could be attributed to our lack of familiarity with basically low quality ones (low sample rates) that were sufficient for John to communicate parts of arrangements to JD via email attachments. There also were interesting variations in what we were experiencing versus what JD was hearing Ė it seemed to be related to the sound system being used to listen to them. We distinctly remember one particular version which when played on our PC equipment had the bass so heavy it was distorted and bouncing some pretty decent Logitec speakers sitting on Edís desk in the home office. Also, some of the music parts were "clipped" (abruptly start or stop). JD apparently wasnít getting any of that Ė at least to the extent that we were experiencing. It did cause us to re-emphasize a strong pet peeve we have about a lot of music we hear these days which has to do with the accompaniment overwhelming or competing with the lead vocals rather than serving to showcase them. We neednít have worried Ė John did a great job of making sure JDís voice was the focal point of the recordings, as indeed should be the case.
Once the individual recordings were completed, John proceeded to master the full CD including digitally reimaging JDís previous hits that were included. In fact, amazing as it may seem, the remastered versions of the songs from earlier CDís are noticeably better than the originals! We truly canít compliment him enough on the quality of all the recordings which is extraordinarily good. It really hits home when youíre listening to a radio program and one of JDís songs from the new CD is played Ė the contrast and difference from the other material being broadcast is immediately and startlingly obvious. The brilliance and clarity canít be missed.
The Pre-release CD
As part of the marketing plan JD wanted to produce a very limited run CD containing only the four new songs which would be distributed to key radio station and club DJís before the retail version of the full new CD was available. Consequently, we set about designing a two panel insert that would be used with a slim style jewel case. We decided to emphasize the exclusivity aspect of the pre-release version with the titling on the front and to incorporate a reduced version of the front cover planned for the retail CD. And we designed a monochrome master layout for the printing on the physical CD.
JD arranged for his long-time friend, Hubert Deans, owner of Snowhill Music Recording Studio in Hillsborough, NC, to create the CDís and assemble the package. Hubert was also retained to provide a final verification of the tracks from John Barker for the full CD and prepare the pressing master for it.
Once we had the jewel case insert designed we had it printed locally and shipped the copies to Snowhill Music for the final pre-release package assembly. Hubert did an extremely professional job with the entire undertaking including a much appreciated quick production of the 115 CDís. JD had the distribution list formulated and mail packaging materials waiting. He personally signed the CD inserts and noted which number of 115 each was, and by doing so, among other things, instantly created collectorís items. We thought surely the 115 CDís for the highly targeted audience would be more than enough. It wasnít. As other DJís learned about it, legitimate requests for copies quickly exceeded the available supply and a few more were produced.
To say the pre-release undertaking was successful in accomplishing its objectives would be an immense understatement. Within a few days JDís new songs were being played across the Carolinas and beyond to enthusiastically receptive radio listeners and club patrons. In no time at all JD started receiving requests to make live appearances on radio programs which he did accommodate whenever his schedule permitted him to do so.
Just for historical record purposes, we want to note that Joey Warren was the first DJ to play the songs on the radio which occurred during a live, remote broadcast by 94.9 FM at Filetís in North Myrtle Beach.
And with the distribution of the DJís Only Pre-release JD started letting it be publicly known that our planned schedule for retail availability was September 1. Now the pressure was on more than ever.
Manufacturing the CD
We chose DiscMakers, headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ, to press the retail CDís, print the artwork and assemble the finished packages. In the interest of time and to capitalize upon our respective strengths and talents, we agreed to manage the entire relationship with DiscMakers while JD concentrated on the marketing efforts including personal appearances.
Our first step in the process was to create a quite detailed Requirements Specification and Plan for DiscMakers which dealt with every aspect of the work to be undertaken Ė six pages of single spaced small type. Accompanying the requirements document were high quality reference printouts for each piece of artwork and digital images of every component both in individual and assembled layers. The high resolution graphics files were cumulatively so large it took two CDís to contain them all.
Apart from the general timeline and our overall insistence on and expectation of a very high quality product, we were especially concerned about the color separations for the offset printing DiscMakers would have to undertake for us employing the TIF format files we were supplying. We knew that color variations could occur in the process that, if not properly handled, could meaningfully compromise the quality of the printed materials produced. Consequently, we took the unconventional approach of insisting a person of sufficient authority directly responsible for the area which would create the separations and the proofs for them review our reference printouts and digital images, and then discuss with us any difficulties that could be foreseen. And this had to be done before we would commit to have DiscMakers undertake the work for us. Thatís how we met Brian Pylant, Manager of Electronic Prepress.
We must say we found Brian to be extremely knowledgeable and customer oriented. He immediately discerned and appreciated our unusually high expectation for quality and the considerable effort we had devoted to achieving it. He had studied the reference masters and the images on the CDís we supplied, and was well prepared to discuss our concerns and his conclusions on a very specific basis. Apart from being generally complimentary of what he had found, he was sure they would be able to match closely our reference material and he felt sufficiently confident in that respect to meet our request to "put it in writing."
With that paramount concern addressed we committed to move forward and were assigned a person to coordinate and provide internal project management for DiscMakers. Tom Barrett performed very competently and reliably in that role for the duration of the project.
The first order of business was to get the artwork separations done, and proofs produced and delivered to us as soon as possible. We literally had them in our hands the next day via overnight express shipping from New Jersey. We subsequently learned Brian Pylant had personally undertaken the work for us rather than assigning it to a staff member. He had done a beautiful job including some improvements to the originals we wanted that we had discussed with him the day before. We felt some comparatively minor tweaking of a couple of the images was needed to achieve an optimum result. Brian clearly understood exactly what we wanted and the following day we had revised proofs for those images. They were great!
While we were launching the project with DiscMakers and initially addressing the artwork matters, Hubert Deans at Snowhill was putting the finishing touches on the masters to be used for the CD pressings and had them delivered within our schedule. Speaking of schedule and our plans, itís worth noting we had everything to DiscMakers and approvals given as needed in sufficient time to take maximum advantage of their pricing structure for lead times for products. Put more simply, since we didnít need any sort of rush work we qualified for their lowest cost.
Once we had those things accomplished there was little for us to do other than monitor their progress while they worked on completing the job. And they did complete it precisely on schedule.
Continued on the Next Page