Cormac from Stoat gives his thoughts & suggestions advice on putting your music out on CDs vs CDRs. This is from 2003, so the numbers will have changed.
From the ThingsYou'reMissing archives.
CD versus CD-R
This article originally appeared on the ThingsYou'reMissing website back in 2003.
Stoat has put out 3 singles within the last year, the first on pressed CD and the other two on CD-R. Here's why:
Getting CDs pressed is expensive. The cheapest price we've come across for 500 CDs is 819.21 (with GZ) – we spent nearly 900 euro paying to press our first single of the year in June, and by the time November came around and we wanted to put out another, we hadn't come close to getting our money back on the last pressing and so simply didn't have the money to get the second CD done.
So we turned to CD-R. We bought shiny unbranded CDs from Maplin for around 35 for 100, 130gsm paper for printing out the covers/inlay cards (around 25 for 500 sheets), stick-on CD labels (round 25 for 100) and printer ink from Viking Direct, and jewel cases for the CDs from Vanessa of MusicMattersInternational (can't remember the exact price, around 30c each). We also had to spend around 70 in ink for my home printer. So our per-unit cost was a bit over 1, a considerable saving on getting CDs pressed, plus we can do em as we need em rather than having to fork out for 500 at once. The result looks and sounds almost identical to a pressed CD. They sell just as well (at our gigs and through shops) as pressed CDs, and there's been no noticeable difference in radio play (we've had both pressed CDs and CD-Rs in the Phantom FM airplay chart, and played on Spin, FM104, 2FM, Radio 1, etc. etc.).
If I was getting an album done I'd go for pressed CDs – you can sell albums for more and so make your money back quickly, but for singles unless you have the wherewithal to spend 800+ euro and wait 6 months plus to get it back (even more difficult if you want to put out another release before the end of the 6 months), I think CD-Rs are a really good idea.
Of course there are drawbacks – to avoid sound problems you should burn the CDs at 4x maximum, and in order for the covers to look good you've to print out everything on the best quality setting on your printer which takes ages, and then you've to stick on all the labels and spend many many hours with a Stanley knife and a ruler cutting and folding covers. It's painstaking work and takes an awful lot of time. Also CD-Rs might not play in all CD players (older players in particular can give problems – as far as I can tell, how much you spend on the CD-Rs themselves has practically NO bearing on this, so I always buy the cheapest I can get). To try and avoid this we checked all the CDs in two or three players, and put a warning into (most of) the CD boxes saying that we'd happily refund/replace any CD that didn't play.