How much does it cost to make a CD?

This is a common question I get from classical musicians. I'm going to do my best to answer it in a way that it's most practical and useful for the classical musician who is serious about producing their own CD. Here's my advice based on my experience.


Physical copies of CDs don't seem to change in price. It's about $1000 to manufacture 1000 replicated CDs in a jewel case with a one double-sided page insert. If you want fancier packaging, it can get really expensive but there are many options these days so it helps to do your research! Read more about CD manufacturing, the difference between replication and duplication on the internet. A company I like to use for CD replication is Oasis. The Oasis website is a great place to start to read about the  manufacturing process. Shipping costs from the manufacturer to you may not be trivial. The $1000 number is a good placeholder for ball-parking budgets.

Distribution. If you're going to self-release an album, I recommend going with CD Baby for world-wide physical and digital distribution. They charge a one-time fee per album. You should use the barcode they can assign your album (extra $20, totally worth it). You should also put your album on Bandcamp. (Read up on ISRC codes. You're going to want to use the ones CD Baby assigns for digital distribution on Bandcamp too.) For most classical musicians (performers and composers) the Standard distribution package (currently $59) is what you want (plus the barcode) at CD Baby


Recording, editing, mixing, and mastering costs can vary widely depending on your project.

You need to answer the following in order to estimate your costs. Some questions will lead to more questions as you answer them:

  1. What am I recording? 
  2. How long will each piece take to record?
  3. How long will each piece take to edit and mix?
  4. How much do I need to pay my collaborators?
  5. Is it best to record this in a hall or church or is it better to record in a studio?
  6. How much is the hourly or day rate for the engineer and/or studio?
  7. How much does it cost to rent the perfect hall or church?
  8. Am I going to produce this all by myself or do I need a close colleague or teacher to help me record my best performances at the studio/hall on the day of recording? 

The only way to answer #2 and 3 is to try recording and mixing something. It's a good chance to try a new recording studio or engineer or space. You might be a genius that gets the perfect take every time, the first time, and maybe you never need to edit anything. You might be a perfectionist that needs to record the same thing 20 times and then listen to the takes obsessively over several days before deciding to completely record it again. So a lot of the recording costs depend on you. If you hire the best collaborative pianist in your area, your sessions will go quickly. If you don't hire professional collaborators to record with you, you will waste a lot of time and money on recording/editing/mixing. If it's going to be an entire CD of solo piano music recorded in one location with the same engineer, your mixing process will be pretty quick. If you have mixed percussion or if the instruments are recorded separately, not all at once and in the same room, it's going to take longer to mix. In general, the more instruments, microphones, locations used, the longer it will take to mix. After your experience with recording/editing/mixing one piece, you will have more information to estimate the recording costs for the rest of your album. 

How do you choose a good recording studio or engineer? The best method is to ask around of course. If you're new in town or just don't know anyone, I say evaluate the studio based on the staff. You want someone who is smart, organized, and not lazy to be your engineer. If an engineer seems bothered when they have to get up to add another microphone, Get. Out. ASAP. 

I tried out three local recording studios before I went to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. Fantasy Studios and all three engineers that work there - I've worked with all three - are the absolute best. (I can go on and on about how great they are but this blog post is not all about them so... Just take my word for it.)

Mastering. Find out who mastered the CDs you like that use the same instruments or style that you will have on your CD. Ask your recording engineer for recommendations too. If your recording/mixing engineer did a great job on mixing AND if the style and instrumentation of the entire CD are similar, the mastering process will not take more than a day in the hands of an experienced mastering engineer. A mastering engineer should be able to give you their hourly rate and an estimate on how many hours your CD will take to master based on length of the entire CD, number of tracks, style and instrumentation. 

Mechanical Licenses. If you composed/published all the music you're recording on the CD, you can skip this paragraph. For everyone else, you need to pay for the Mechanical License to the publisher of the music you are recording unless it's in the public domain or if you are recording a piece for the first time and you have negotiated an alternate arrangement/rate with the composer/publisher. The Harry Fox Agency is the main company that administers these licenses online. If you know the composers or have a direct relationship with the publisher you can ask if you can pay them the license fees directly. In this case you save some money that you don't have to pay Harry Fox. This will require really good record keeping on your end. 

After all this: there's more. Promotion. Getting your CDs reviewed. Etc. These are promotional costs you should consider since it makes no sense to make a great CD that no one gets to hear because they just don't know you recorded and released it. (Maybe I can get a guest blogger to address this! *hint* *hint* Any takers??)


Most of the information I've found on the internet are geared towards indie bands and singer/song-writer types but all those industry how-to's and articles are totally worth reading. Read everything you can. It's all out on the internet for free! Some of my favorite resources for recording or indie-music-ness:

Do you still have specific questions? 

I am available for consultation on certain topics. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to refer you elsewhere. 

A year in Lucy photos!

As always, I've had a great year. It's great because I've always had a place to live and rarely had to skip a meal during my entire lifetime. I have access to healthcare, heat, clean water, chocolate, people who care about me, and my dog. My family and I live a life of privilege. 

This year, I'm replacing my humble-brag end of year recap with a slightly less annoying post. Here are some photos of my dog Lucy taken throughout the year:

Adopt a Composer! and help me make my next CD

UPDATE Dec 22, 2014: Thank you to everyone who helped me get to 115% of my original goal!! Although we didn't get to $4000, I'm still looking into finding an excellent illustrator willing to make the album art. Stay tuned! And thank you again! 

UPDATE Dec 5, 2014: Thank you to the 100 most good looking and intelligent people who backed my project! We are over the initial goal of $3000! AND we have 11 more days to go! So if you haven't backed the project, there's still time! I also have a stretch goal: If I can raise $1000 more, I can hire a real graphic designer to design the cover, instead of doing it myself. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. XOXO!

I am raising funds to pay the composers who wrote the pieces on my next album. The six composers (Gregory C. BrownEli FieldsteelDouglas LaustsenEmma O'HalloranIsaac Schankler, and Tina Tallon) have collaborated with me to come up with some excellent rewards for those who contribute.

You can be a part of this next album for just a $2 pledge:

Get your name on the cover of my next album! Any pledge over $2 = your name in the CD cover art!

Read more about my Kickstarter project and make a pledge.

As you may already know, Kickstarter projects will only get funded if the project meets its goal. In this case, my goal is to raise $3000 by December 16th. 

If you can give $2, please do so. If you can give more, you can get some really fun rewards. I would appreciate your involvement in the making of my next album. Thank you for your consideration. If you cannot make a pledge I would really appreciate it if you could share my Kickstarter project with your friends. The link:

This fundraiser will cover a part of the commissioning fees and mechanical licenses that I will pay directly to the composers.

Input-Output is my third solo album project. It will include these newly written works:

  • Pheromone for flute, piano, and electronics (2014) by Isaac Schankler*

  • Pencilled Wings for flute, piano, and stereo playback (2014) by Emma O'Halloran*

  • Fractus III: Aerophoneme for flute and quadraphonic electronic sound (2011/2012) by Eli Fieldsteel

  • New work for flute and electronics (2014) by Douglas Laustsen*

  • Huge White Canvas [working title] for flute and elecronics (2014) by Gregory C. Brown*

  • New work for piccolo and live electronics (2014) by Tina Tallon*

*commissioned for this record

Pianist Jacob Abela and I already premiered and recorded the O'Halloran and Schankler in July 2014. Videos of the premieres:

Between February and June 2015, I will perform and record the other 4 pieces.  

I expect to complete the mastering process for Input-Output in June 2015 and release the album in the Fall of 2015.


"Sponsor a composer" just didn't sound as good. :)

Seeking local collaborator(s)

I would like to meet some local, like-minded artist-types interested in making/producing time-based art projects. I live in Campbell, CA, which is right next to San Jose, California. 

If you're interested, please poke around my website first. If you are still interested, please email me and let's meet for coffee. 

Major plus if you can appreciate the occasional fart or poop joke.


For my 3rd album, I thought that I wanted to record an album of Classical and Romantic repertoire. I had the pieces planned out and started recording but the first few recording sessions were difficult for various reasons. Other important details for the project were really hard to work out too, so it made me rethink my plans. This was repertoire that I love but there were too many things that seemed to be working against me. 

It did not bode well that these were some of my recording studio companions on the first two days of recording.

It did not bode well that these were some of my recording studio companions on the first two days of recording.

Instead of continuing with the project, I decided to abort plans for the album and change directions. I hope that some of the material I recorded can be released in the future in different or smaller packages but, for now, it's mostly time and money wasted. I guess I could have planned more carefully or taken more time to think it through but that's not my style. 

I recently listened to some of the material I recorded earlier this year to see if I can do something with them and found this single (unedited) take from February 3, 2014.

Friedrich Kuhlau "Grand Duo" Op. 30, Nr. 2, Adagio lagrimoso with clarinetist Cory Tiffin:

(Stream it or download it for free at!)

I've started again on the 3rd album and it will contain only contemporary music. I feel better about it already. I hope to release it sometime in 2015. 

Cory Tiffin

Clarinetist, good friend, and collaborator, Cory Tiffin has been fabulously too busy to make a website or maintain a bio online anywhere so I took it upon myself to write up a short bio for him right here.

Cory Tiffin is the principal clarinetist of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. He splits his time between Las Vegas and Chicago. In Chicago he teaches at the Chicago High School for the Arts and holds adjunct positions at DePaul University and Loyola University. 

(Once I find a good, up-to-date bio for him, I will link to it from here. Also, I only have goofy photos of Cory on my phone so this will have to do for now!)

Here's a little something we recorded earlier this year (More info on the project.):

Carpe Diem

Today, one of the most beloved humans in the world died.

My favorite movie featuring Robin Williams is Dead Poets Society. Like many Americans of my generation, I didn't learn the meaning of the Latin phrase "carpe diem" until this movie came out. Every time I watched the movie I felt inspired and I could feel a little wind in my imaginary sails but this was always a temporary sensation. A couple hours later, I'd be back to my unremarkable existence doing my best to be responsible but not living life to the fullest. 

"Living my life to the fullest would be selfish, irresponsible, and foolish."

That's what I heard in my head for many years. The few years after college I also didn't know what would make me feel like I'm living life to the fullest. It took some experimentation with different jobs to figure out what kind of work would make life meaningful for me.

Now I know what I need to do to really carpe diem in my own way. This year I started to pretend that I would not live past the year. I asked myself the following: if I knew that I would die on December 31, 2014, what are the things that I would want to accomplish, attempt, or make before that date? 

This has been a really great way to help me prioritize the different people and things in my life. I ask myself, "is this something I want to accomplish or attempt before I die?" or "do I want to spend more time with this person/organization before I die?" If the answer to that previous question is YES, I do what I need to do in order to start or complete it. If the answer is NO, I find a way to stop or go a different direction. Maybes are put on the back burner.

I think that actually following one's dreams always seems impossible because there are so many perceived obstacles, including financial ones. I know that I have friends that say, "well of course I can seize the day and go on that dream trip around the world if I had a million dollars!" Or, "if were younger/older" or "if I didn't have responsibilities" etc. I think that most of those are just excuses. If traveling to 100 countries was an important thing I wanted to experience before death and I am not an oil tycoon, I can start by planning a shoestring budget trip to Canada or Mexico. One country at a time, one can live that dream. On December 30th I think that I would feel pretty good about my life by having gone on one small trip to Mexico rather than if I had worked every day that year trying to save thousands of dollars for fancy vacation that didn't happen.

Today, before I heard the sad news about Robin Williams, I got my first two tattoos. I wanted tattoos all my adult life and finally I got them. As I left the tattoo parlor I had a flash of panic that lasted about 1 second. My old self flinched but my new self is relieved that if I die at the end of this year, I would die having done one of the things I've wanted to do for a long time but never had the guts to do. 

There are many other things I want to do and I will keep chiseling away at those projects so that I can die happy knowing that I've earnestly made an attempt to seize the day, one thing or day at a time. 

I can seize the day as a compassionate, responsible, and sensible person.

Two must-read books for musicians

There are many excellent books written for musicians of course. I just want to mention two of them right now.

1) The Musicians Way by Gerald Klickstein

This book should be handed out to all undergraduate music students along with their diplomas when they graduate. Or maybe during their junior year. This book is probably most suited to "classical" music performers but I'm sure it's a worthwhile read for all musicians. Mr. Klickstein also runs a fabulous website with many support materials and articles to help musicians navigate their careers. I highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter too. He covers topics such as how to practice, get started in your career, and maintain a musically satisfying career - including how to avoid injury. I can't imagine a better how-to book for the classical musician just starting out in their career.

Gerald Klickstein, is Director of the Music Entrepreneurship & Career Center at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. (He's also an excellent public speaker. I met him at the 2014 Chamber Music America conference when he moderated a panel of concert presenters and artist managers.)

2) Making Your Life as an Artist by Andrew Simonet

This book resonated with me so strongly that I cried while reading the first three chapters. Andrew Simonet is a choreographer and is living the artists' life. He articulates our struggle and reasons for making art so clearly that it makes me completely trust him. So when he hit me over the head with practical and real-world advice about what I need to do to keep on making art, I kept reading carefully. None of his practical advice is new to me. I've heard them many times (manage your time, don't work 24/7, delegate, manage your money, etc.) but this time I think this advice will stick. [I seriously hope so...for my sake.] 

Even if your eyes glaze over at the thought of bookkeeping or time management, I hope you read the book for the first 3 chapters. If you're not an artist-type and want to know what it's like to be an artist, you should read this book too. 

And the best part: this book is available in paperback and as a FREE e-book. Get it!!

A Busy Summer!

I'm in Boscawen, NH right now on the last night of A/B Duo's two-week residency at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. It has been a magical two weeks full of rehearsals and amazing food in a beautiful setting. (We are writing up a blog post about it soon so keep an eye out for it on the A/B Duo website or subscribe to our emails.)

(Of course I made friends with Snoozer and Jessie - the dogs at Avaloch)

As soon as I get home I will start working on learning (in earnest) three brand new pieces for flute, piano, and electronics written by Isaac Schankler, Emma O'Halloran, and Lachlan Hughes. My Australian pianist friend Jacob Abela will be staying with me for a few days and we will premiere these pieces on July 11, 2014 in San Francisco. Jake and I met while Fellows at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival last year. While Jake is in town, we will also be recording these works for my next "solo" CD project!

In August, my summer of non-stop practicing continues as I prepare for A/B Duo's first "serious" recording project at the Eastman School of Music. 

I'll be hanging out at the National Flute Association Annual Convention in Chicago in August too so please let me know if you are planning to be there as well!

And on August 30th, I get to play a solo piccolo piece called penes:grammes by Thomas Dempster at the Festival of Contemporary Music in San Francisco (also at the Center for New Music!). (Sat. Aug 30th, 7:30PM)

This summer is shaping up to be even more music-filled than the last - exactly what I hoped! 

A new A/B Duo video:

Performing Isla for flute, vibraphone and live audio processing (2012) by Ian Dicke at Avaloch Farm Music Institute on June 9th

Kong Must Dead: Follow Me

Ben Hjertmann, a Banglewood friend, has a band called Kong Must Dead. I recorded a few measures of music for this song on alto flute. Unfortunately I couldn't be there for this live performance but you can still hear my alto flute sounds in the opening of the song. Enjoy!

Kong Must Dead Live at Constellation Chicago, 1/26/14 from Psychopomp, CA music and lyrics by Ben Hjertmann Personnel (this song only) Live Band: Ben Hjertmann, voice Owen Davis, drums Stuart Seale, piano & keyboard Jessica Ling, violin Chris Fisher-Lochhead, viola Ben Willis, bass Brendon Randall-Myers, guitar Andy Junk, banjo & ukelele Pre-Recorded: Meerenai Shim, alto flute Luke Gullickson, piano Video courtesy of Peter Ferry. One thousand thanks, Peter!

Sandra Seefeld

Terrible and goofy photo of Sandy and I, but it's the only one I could find. My selfie-taking technique has come a long way since 2007, when this photo was taken.

Terrible and goofy photo of Sandy and I, but it's the only one I could find. My selfie-taking technique has come a long way since 2007, when this photo was taken.

I just found out that flutist Sandra Seefeld passed away on February 17th.  She was 69 years young. I didn't know her very well but I studied with her briefly for about a total of 2 weeks over a 3 year period from 2005-2008 at the Body Mapping, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais course for flutists called Summerflute.

I'm sure that those closer to her can share more about her but I just needed to acknowledge that Sandy made a huge impact on my flute playing, teaching, and life even though I never spent that much time with her. Often we take a few lessons here and there with a teacher or go to a masterclass and learn things that we carry with us and pass on to our students for many years to come. I did tell Sandy that I learned a lot from her and thanked her in our few email exchanges since 2008 but I wish I had just sent her one more thank you note.

Sandy was a great teacher because she was an excellent listener. If she had an agenda or ego, I couldn't tell. She inspired me to take my first Qi Gong classes. She taught me to actively use my imagination while practicing and learning new pieces. She showed me how to have fun while practicing - something I had long lost in my college and post-college years - I'm not even sure that I *ever* knew that one could have fun while practicing. I'm sure that she would have given me excellent perspective on musical interpretation and technique, etc if that's what I needed at the time when I was working with her. She just knew what I needed at the time and that's why she is still such a huge influence on my playing and life. She didn't try to show me how she much she knew about everything (and I'm sure she knew pretty much everything!!) because she never made our interactions about her.

My last email exchange with Sandy was in March 2012 when she purchased my first CD and then emailed me to congratulate me. I should have sent her one when it came out to say thank you. 

Moral of my story:

If you have had teachers who you still think of fondly, tell them now how much you appreciate them and thank them every year in a card or email. Even if you just took a handful of lessons with them.  Don't just say, "oh, they won't remember me" and put it off.  Even if they don't remember you, I'm sure they'd like a note. They won't live forever, unfortunately.

If you are a teacher now, you may have long lasting influence on a student that you've only taught in one lesson. Just remember that. Even on days when you are tired from teaching 10 hours in a row... what you do matters. Some random student might think that you're the best thing since the Boehm system or Cooper scale [flute humor, sorry] even after a couple lessons.

I'm sure there will be an obituary written up about Sandy Seefeld soon but here's what I know:

Sandy Seefeld taught for many years at the Miami University of Ohio. She studied at the Eastman School of Music and at Northwestern University. She gave a Carnegie Hall debut in 1981 that I'm sure was so much better than this limp review in the New York Times.

Sandy Seefeld was an amazing human being and flute teacher that changed my life.

2012 Call for Scores Wrap Up

To the 172 composers who answered my 2012 call for scores and sent me compositions for one flutist, thank you very much! Also, thank you for waiting over 1 year for me to get back to you. I feel terrible that I wasn't able to get through all the scores until now. (I was expecting about 30 submissions so once I got over 70 or so, I could't keep up and sort of put my head in the sand for a while!)

I received many fantastic pieces. Almost all of the 172+ pieces (because many composers sent me more than 1 piece) were really great but I was looking for pieces that will fit certain types of programs and projects I had in mind. Numerous well-written compositions were not selected. Many worthy and excellent composers were not (yet) commissioned - mainly because I do not have the funds! I chose 45 composers/pieces to perform, commission, or record. Some composers I have put on my commission wish-list (for, you know, when I win the lottery...) Some notable outcomes from the call for scores:

  • I recorded Jay C. Batzner's "Mercurial" for flute and tape and David E. Farrell's "moonwave" for solo flute on my last album, The Art of Noise.
  • My flute and percussion duo (A/B Duo) is commissioning a piece from Andrea La Rose.
  • I am commissioning a piece for flute plus effects from Doug Laustsen
  • I am planning a solo flute and electronics tour of the US (6 cities, so far) for February 2015 with some of the pieces I received through this call for scores. I'm very excited about this tour.  I am working on finding funding for this right now so I hope it works out. (I may just take this show on tour no matter what! - you know, hitchhike from city to city and wash dishes in any restaurant that'll take me, busk/beg on street corners - until I slowly make it to the next show…)
  • I will slowly work in the rest of the pieces I chose into my repertoire and start performing them later this year. 

Thank you again composers for writing cool stuff for us performers! 

PS. A/B Duo has a call for scores going on right now (accepting scores until March 10, 2014) if you're interested. My percussionist Chris Jones is in charge of this one so I promise it will be run efficiently and on time!