Making Your Own CD in the Digital Age – It’s Easier Than You Think! By Ted Miller
When First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi (Texas) started receiving requests from their congregation for copies of their weekly musical selections on CD, the Music Ministry was not only expecting it, but was already one step ahead.
“We were receiving between 250-300 requests per month for music CDs, says Johnny Glover, Minister of Music. “The timing was right to make the transition to digital media.”
More churches than ever today are moving to digital media. The recording of musical performances and church services is becoming radically more affordable for churches big and small. And switching to digital media is also making it easier for those churches to duplicate, distribute, and use their own productions for outreach, promotion and fundraising purposes. It also allows churches more creative freedom in producing their own in-house music CDs. The face of the music ministry is changing and First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi is living proof.
The First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi (FBC), based in Corpus Christi, Texas (pop. 277,454) has slightly over 1,500 resident members and a staff of 21. FBC’s Music Ministry is comprised of 150+ worship choir members and volunteers and employs a staff of four. They have a full-time Music Minister and Communications/Media Coordinator.
The Transition to Digital Media
“For years we had been making audio cassette copies of our weekly musical selections and VHS copies of our services,” explains Glover. “We made single copies and kept them in our library. There was never a big demand for audio cassettes or VHS tapes among our congregation members.”
“In the past year or so we have been getting a lot of requests for CDs,” explains Glover. “People would come up to us after the service and ask if we had any CDs that they could purchase and take home with them.” The trend towards CD and digital media is well-noted, and has caused many churches to change the way they produce and distribute music.
After some discussion, FBC’s administration finally made the decision to convert to CD, and turned to long-time Communications and Media Coordinator Mac Aipperspach to handle the project.
“The infrastructure was in place,” explains Aipperspach. “The transition to CD was seamless as we already had the experience to record and produce music and had spent a number of years and investment upgrading our audio and video equipment.
The key to transitioning to digital media is preparedness. It is having people on staff that understand digital music production and what the needs of the church community are.
Asked if cost were a major issue, Aipperspach replied, “costs were not that much of a consideration as to the timing of this project, but the important thing was that switching to digital media has actually helped us cut our work and costs in half.”
“Digital media has made it easier for us to make the necessary copies to meet demand and allowed us to better store the content in our media center library,” adds Glover. “Plus, digital media also has allowed us to produce recordings with a lot higher quality which is important since we are now reproducing and distributing our recordings.”
The Control Room
Over the years, FBC has continually updated its production control room and worship center to handle live broadcast and rebroadcast of its weekly services, giving it the infrastructure needed to make the transition to digital media.
FBC has actually been ahead of the curve for a number of years when it comes to audio and video production of their church services. “Our church service is broadcast weekly over the local CBS affiliate and rebroadcast over a local cable access channel,” adds Aipperspach. “Our annual budget for our audio and video production is close to $100,000.” [This is obviously a large number, associated with a large ministry. But even small and medium churches can do a great deal in this digital age with progressively smaller budgets! Ed.]
Our control room is equipped with a 40-channel Mackie board for audio production and recording, a three-camera JVC multiple camera set-up tied to a JVC switcher for the video recording, and a PC that is loaded with Audio Premiere 6.0 and Cakewalk for audio and video editing. In the worship center, we have a MiniDisk unit, cassette deck, an additional 40-channel Mackie board, a DVD player with 5.1 surround sound in order to use the occasional click tracks, and another computer. In addition, we recently purchased two Disc Makers Reflex1 CD/DVD duplication towers to allow us to quickly and easier make digital copies of our CD and DVD recordings.
Although FBC has an extensive set-up and significant budget, any church with audio recording equipment and a computer can record and produce their own music. The gap is growing a lot smaller.
“We have such an extensive set-up because of the extras needed to do a live broadcast, record it, and edit it.” explains Aipperspach. “However, on the audio side, the technology is affordable and simple enough for smaller churches. All you need is a simple mixing board, a laptop, and the right recording software to record the music, and a duplication tower from a manufacturer to make copies on demand.”
Once the music is recorded and edited, the post-production process can be the most important part of the overall project. This includes additional work such as making copies of the CD (duplication), on-disc printing, and packaging. It is important to budget for the necessary equipment and understand the production capabilities of your staff in order to be prepared to match the demand of the church community. Plus, the quality of the end product will be a direct reflection on the Music Ministry as a whole. You want a CD that you and your congregation can be proud of.
“Right now we are just starting off with our CD duplication, but have already identified somebody on-staff to design our artwork and purchased two duplication towers from Disc Makers,” explains Aipperspach. “We are also in the market for a high-end inkjet printer for label and/or on-disc printing. We expect to have the complete set-up by later in the year and will have a much better idea of production needs – meaning how many requests we expect to get for our weekly music selections and original recording.”
At FBC, the demand for CDs has been steadily growing. “In the past we had been getting one request at a time, maybe a few per week,” says Jane Scott, Director of the Media Center and Library. “Now that we have CDs, we have been receiving many more requests during the week and even more, immediately after the service. We have had to upgrade our production to meet the demand of the congregation.”
Making Your Own Music CD
With the infrastructure in place to record audio and produce a professional-quality end product, Glover decided the time was right to record and produce his own in-house music CD.
“In addition to the weekly services and special musical performances, we had been getting a lot of requests from the congregation for an original CD of our worship choir’s music, says Glover. “We have an extremely talented and dedicated group, but had yet to record our own ‘studio’ album.”
“With our new digital media set-up, it made a lot of sense, logistically and financially, to do this project now. We are currently in the planning process, but the CD will be recorded on-site this fall, and include a combination of original tracks and a sampling of our most popular covers. The originals will include contributions from our pianist, choir members, and my own writing. For the cover songs, we are setting aside some dollars to pay for copyrights for use of the music. Our goal is to make the highest-quality CD that truly represents the talent and beauty of FBC’s worship choir.
According to Glover and Scott, once the CD is completed later in the fall, it will be available for sale to members (and anyone else) at the media center, after weekend services, and on-line on FBC’s web site. “The goal is not to make a lot of money off the sales of the CD, says Scott. We are simply looking to recover our costs and have a little left over to put back into the music ministry.
Whether one is an independent recording artist, or a church music team, some issues commonly apply. What shall we include on our project? When recording a song written and published by someone other than yourself, statutory mechanical royalties must be paid to the publisher for each copy made. This usually amounts to just pennies per song, but the only way to be sure is to contact the publisher and see how much they will require. This must be done for each song you use – unless you record original material. If it’s good, this can be very sensible. After all, J.S. Bach wrote some of his best work for use in worship in the Leipzig church where he was music director.
Many unknown but gifted songwriters produce projects of exclusively original material. Not just for pride of authorship’s sake, but often as a showcase of writing. That’s fine for that writer’s purpose, but one has to face the reality that exclusively new material may have limited appeal – for obvious reasons – nobody’s heard of it. To foster a project with wider appeal, you may choose to include some already loved songs in the genre of your project. This may be praise & worship, choral classics, etc. If the song (many hymns fall into this category) is in the public domain, you need no permission to use, record, arrange, or whatever you wish to do with it. Most newer popular worship songs have publishing rights requiring permission and a small royalty. So consider your purpose, the market for your recordings, and plan a mix accordingly. As with a worship service, variety in music and style is usually helpful, and will assure a broader appeal and enjoyment of the listening experience.
In order to make your own CD, consider the following types of equipment and accessories that your church will likely need.
1) An audio engineer (with experience in digital music production) – may be in your church already
2) Minimum of a 2-track digital recorder or computer with recording software
3) An automated or manual duplication system (unless you plan to make large quantities, then it may be cheaper to outsource)
4) An on-disc inkjet printer with label maker software (much better than stickers)
5) A large supply of blank CDs
6) A large supply of CD sleeves, jackets, or jewel cases
The decreasing costs of high-quality, feature-rich recording equipment, including CD and DVD duplication, has allowed pastors and media ministry directors to bring nearly every type of audio and video function in-house. Fueled by the desire to offer their congregations more elaborate production values, churches are increasing their technical capabilities, with some even going as far as integrating full-service recording facilities into their ministries, developing fully-integrated media marketing plans, and creating interactive consumer Web sites.
To take advantage of the new technology and these opportunities, your church needs to decide on the level of investment that you are willing to make, and whether you have the infrastructure to support such an effort. Proper research is required to understand what technology is right for your church’s specific production needs.
The once complicated task of recording your own music CD in-house, including post-production and distribution, is becoming easier and much more realistic for more and more churches as we enter the digital age of music production and recording.
Ted Miller is a freelance writer and public relations specialist for Miami-based Max Borges Marketing Solutions.
Special thanks to First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, TX and the contributions of Mac Aipperspach, Johnny Glover, and Jane Scott. To learn more about First Baptist, go to www.fbc-corpuschristi.org.
© 2004 Christian Sound & Song. All rights reserved. Churches are encouraged to reproduce for use in their ministries. For any other use, permission must be obtained from the publisher. www.soundandsong.com