Making Tracks: : How I Produced My Own CD?

TNYON: Why did you make a CD?

ELIN: After performances, audience members would ask if I had a CD; now I can say “YES”!!

TNYON: What did you record?

ELIN: I have an eclectic collection of arias and songs, reflecting my current recital program: works by Nicolai, Meyerbeer, Lauridsen, Gibson, Adams, Mozart, Ellington, and Arlen.

TNYON: What was your budget?

ELIN: I used the best professionals in town. Luckily, they are also my friends. If they had charged me top dollar, I would have spent around $8,000, but I managed to save 40 percent. My professional studio experience and preparation allowed me to keep the recording time down to two sessions of five hours for the 50-minute CD. The fee included recording and production personnel, venue, editing and materials, booklet layout and printing, CD manufacturing (an optimistic 1,000 copies), and mechanical rights.

TNYON: How did you find a place to make your CD?

ELIN: I recorded in the chapel of a church. It has good acoustics and a decent piano. Because I sing there occasionally, there was no problem.

TNYON: What are you going to do with your CD?

ELIN: It is being sold at a record store, but I’ll also sell it wherever I perform. I’m going to take out a few ads in selected periodicals. I also plan to market the CD through my website [] where I have photo and audio clips. A nice side benefit is that it gives me a finished product to send to opera companies.

TNYON: How was your experience making it?

ELIN: It’s a fairly big undertaking, but not overwhelming. I worked with the best people in the industry and that always makes any project a joy. I used two accompanists: William Vendice, with whom I also coach, and Alan Steinberger, who is a session keyboardist and jazz specialist. My engineer is Fred Vogler; my producer is Peter Rutenberg.The producer listens in the booth at the sessions to make sure that what the artist is creating is going to tape correctly. He also helps sort out the takes, what needs to be edited, and how that is best done. It’s vital, for best results, to have a well-organized, experienced professional in this position who has a keen ear, a good musical sense, and an unfailing sense of humor.The engineer takes care of all of the technical aspects of recording. Mine brought all of his own, top-notch equipment, and a second engineer to help with various organizational and technical things.The editor physically sits at the computer and digitally realizes the edits that the artist and producer have decided upon.

TNYON: What about the cover art?

ELIN: To keep costs down, I did a black and white cover and used a couple of dramatic three-quarter and full-length photos I have from my last photo shoot with photographer Mary Ann Halpin. My cost $500, this was not included in my CD production costs.

TNYON: How did you deal with copyrights and royalty issues? Did you hire a lawyer?

ELIN: All one needs to arrange for a recording are the mechanical rights, which can be done through an agency, like the Harry Fox Agency; or by contacting the publishers directly to negotiate a lower rate, if possible. I manage to do the latter in some cases. No rights are needed for music in the public domain. I did have to speak to the publishers about permission for the two World Premiere recordings, but once something has been recorded, the above mentioned mechanical rights have to be paid. This process is not complicated, so a lawyer is really not necessary, but it can be challenging to track down the publisher. The best way to do that is by calling ASCAP or BMI and asking them, or finding the info on their websites. I spent $520. I contacted the publishers directly to try to negotiate fees below the standard rate, and succeeded in a couple of cases.

Elin Carlson’s CD, “And What of Love”, is available at: Poobah Records, 1101 E. Walnut,
St., Pasadena, CA 91106

Elin’s site:

CJ Williamson

CJ Williamson founded Classical Singer magazine. She served as Editor-in-Chief until her death in July, 2005. Read more about her incredible life and contributions to the singing community here.