CD Versus MP3
If you have created an audio production (or if you're planning on creating one) you might be wondering if you should sell it as a digital download, a physical CD or both. You’re probably already aware of how popular iTunes and other digital music providers have become, but where do MP3 sales really stand in comparison to CD sales?
The StatisticsWhen I first wrote this article in early 2012, global sales of CDs and digital downloads were just about equal. Most forecasts indicated that – at least in the USA - MP3 downloads would outsell CDs in 2012, and that CD sales would continue to decline as the years go by. They weren't wrong. By 2016, CD sales were at a historic low, with most people shifting to digital downloads and digital streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify.
Does this mean the end of CDs?In a way, yes, but does this mean you should abandon the idea of selling your audio production in CD format? Definitely not. There are still reasons to support both digital and CD formats, so let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each and decide what’s right for you.
MP3 – The Pro’sEase of distribution: MP3 downloads are a less time consuming product for you to manage. Customers can order and download from your website without you having to send them anything in the mail. Scope of distribution: Having your audio production in MP3 format makes it easier to sell in multiple locations. There are dozens of online stores that will sell your download for you, iTunes and Amazon being just two of them. With MP3’s you can really spread yourself around. Low Production Costs: In contrast to CDs, MP3 audio costs nothing to produce once your recording is complete. The only real cost that you might incur is the cost of paying a graphic designer to whip up a digital cover image for you. Growing market: As already mentioned, sales of MP3 downloads are already very strong, and there is no doubt that they will only continue to increase.
MP3 – The Con’sCopyright infringement: Some people worry that MP3 audio is easier for people to copy and share with other non-paying consumers over the internet. However, keep in mind that many users of programs like iTunes will convert their CD’s into MP3s anyway, which means that any audio media format can be subject to copyright infringement. So even though I have listed this issue as a negative, you should not let this minor concern put you off MP3 audio.
CD’s – The Pro’sIn person product delivery. CDs only make sense if you operate a business in which it is advantageous for you to be able to hand your audio production to someone in person. For example, perhaps you operate a day spa. CDs on the front counter may still be attractive to your visitors. Some hypnotherapists will keep stock of their most popular hypnosis CDs so that they can give them directly to their patients. CDs have been around for a long time and are still favoured by some people. Let's face it - most people have still got a CD player somewhere in their house. I still receive occasional emails from people who want to purchase my music on CD (unfortunately this is not possible as my music has only ever been available digitally). For some people, the tactile experience of holding their purchase in their hand is still very important, but such people are becoming fewer and fewer.
CD’s – The ConsProduction costs: It costs money to duplicate CDs and keep stock of them in reasonable quantities. You’ll pay for a graphic designer to do your album artwork, and if you plan on keeping stock of CDs on hand then expect to spend around $2-5 per CD (depending on the quantities you order). There are some websites, like CD Baby and Createspace, who will manufacture your CDs "on demand". This means that they create CDs one at a time – only when a customer orders one from you. This is a great way to reduce some of the costs that are usually associated with stocking CDs. These online service also handle the shipping for you. Speaking of shipping, that brings us to the next point... Distribution complexity: If you plan on selling CDs from your website, then unless you utilize use one of the above-mentioned distribution resources, it will be up to you to put the CD in the mail, address it, add postage and then drop it in the mail.
Making a final choiceThe most important factor to consider when choosing between CD and MP3 is HOW you intend to reach your customers. Here are some examples: Example 1: You run a retail business in which you deal with customers face to face. CDs are definitely the way to go. Example 2: You are conducting a seminar, and you want your attendees to purchase your audio production at the conclusion of the event. They’ll buy a CD from you while they are still enthusiastic about your presentation, but ask them to buy an MP3 download from your website and there is a chance that they will be distracted or that their enthusiasm may have waned by the time they arrive back at home. In a situation like this, it's essential to have CDs on hand. Example 3: You have just started a website and you want to keep your operating costs nice and low. MP3s are definitely the way to go. Remember – you can always turn your audio production into a CD in future once you have developed your online business a little further.
Choosing A Microphone
A more accurate title for this article might have been "Choosing a microphone for voice-overs", since these recommendations are specifically aimed at people who want to record a spoken word or singing performance and then blend it with music. This is not a guide for those who wish to record musical instruments.
My number one tip for beginnersIf you are new to recording I recommend that you do not buy your microphone over the internet if possible. Go to a music store or a professional audio shop and ask for help from a real person. If you buy a mic online, then you’re less likely to get qualified support that is relevant to your microphone and your recording / computer setup. There are many different microphone types (we'll cover those in just a moment), there are many different ways to connect your microphone to your computer, and if you are not a particularly tech-savvy person then there are a few potential technical issues that might frustrate you if you don't yet know how to deal with them. You will be better off if you can find someone to show you how to use your microphone properly. So don’t buy a mic until you have been given some instruction on how to use it and how to connect it to your computer. If you get home and run into trouble, then you can always call the shop where you bought your mic and request some after-sales support. Take my word for it – if you are brand new to D.I.Y recording then this one tip alone may save your sanity! If you must buy online, then I recommend that you use YouTube to research the microphone you are interested in. There are often great tutorials available that will help you to "master your mic".
The Right MicThe best type of microphone for a voice recording is called a “large diaphragm condenser microphone”. Don’t let these technical terms scare you if they are unfamiliar. They simply refer to the way the microphone is constructed. Alternative types of microphone like “dynamic microphones” and “ribbon microphones” are not suitable for voiceover recordings in most situations.
The Right PriceMics can cost as little as $10, and as much as $10,000. The trick is to find the right balance between cost and quality. My general advice is this: Do not buy a new mic for less than $100. Sound quality will begin to suffer in a noticeable way with microphones below this price point, so forget about using built-in computer microphones or cheap podcasting mics. They won’t give you a professional sound. There are loads of great mics available between $100 and $350 that will give you a totally professional studio-quality result. You can spend more than $400 if you like, but it's unlikely that you will be able to hear the subtle differences between a $300 mic and a $1000 mic unless you have developed advanced listening skills in a professional recording studio environment.
Suitable Mics For Voiceover RecordingsThis is by no means a complete list of suitable microphones, but it is a good cross section of popular microphones from reputable manufacturers. Budget Mics Blue Microphones Snowball USB Samson C01U USB Recommended Mics ($100 - $200) Audio Technica AT2020 & AT2020 USB Audio Technica AT2035 Blue Microphones Yeti USB Shure PG27 and Shure PG27 USB AKG Perception 120 & 120USB AKG Perception 220 Recommended Mics ($200 - $400) Rode NT1A (my personal recommendation - probably the best balance of quality and price of any mic in this list). Rode NT1000 Audio Technica AT 4040 Sennheiser MK 4 Shure Beta 27 Shure SM27 AKG C214 AKG Perception 420
Before you buyRemember – in order to actually record yourself, you will also need the following items: 1. A computer with recording software. 2. A microphone windshield & microphone stand 3. Microphone cable 4. An audio interface. An audio interface is a device that connects your microphone to your computer and converts the analog microphone signal into digital data. Unless you purchase a USB microphone, this item is essential. Audio interfaces are a mystery to most newcomers to D.I.Y recording – all the more reason to take my advice and buy your microphone & accessories from a retail music store, not an online store.
Protecting Your Copyright – Essential Facts
If you have created an audio production, it's natural for you to want to protect it from illegal copying and distribution, so what must you do to ensure that it's properly protected? It might surprise you to know that once your audio production is complete, it's already protected! Most people mistakenly believe that their work will not be protected unless they register it with a special government organization that manages copyrights. This is not the case. While there are plenty of government organizations and privately owned copyright registration companies that can offer you "peace of mind for a fee", you should know that copyright protection is automatic under international law. When you create something, you own it, and no one can change that regardless of whether your work is registered or not. However, it is advisable that you take the following steps to protect your work. 1. Keep evidence of the development of your audio production. Should someone infringe upon your copyright it helps to have some evidence that your audio production is in fact yours. Keep a hold of any materials that you created during the development of your audio production. For example, if your production includes a voiceover then the script you wrote would serve as evidence. Burn a copy of your production and keep it in storage. Even something as simple as the receipt for the royalty free background music you used will also serve as additional evidence. 2. Deter infringement. Make it clear that your work is protected under copyright law by adding appropriate notifications to your CD cover, CD disk, MP3 meta tags and to any web pages from which your audio can be purchased. At the very least this notification should include the copyright symbol ©, followed by the year the work was completed and your name. For example: © 2017 Your Name. All Rights Reserved.
A word or two on the problem of illegal sharing of audio productions.In this digital era, illegal file sharing is quite common. If you create an audio production and release it to the public then the chances are that someone, somewhere, is going to copy it and share it with others. Some people find this disheartening and I can understand that. After all, you may have invested a large amount of time and energy creating your wonderful recording, not to mention the money you may have spent on recording equipment, graphic design and royalty free relaxation music. Don’t let this thought immobilize you! Don't let it stop you from creating what you want to create, and don't waste too much time trawling the internet looking for offenders. One could argue that obscurity is a much bigger problem for most artists than copyright infringement is. I’m not suggesting for one minute that you ignore copyright infringements – you should definitely address any instance of infringement, but take heart in the knowledge that some sharing of your work might actually help to make you more well known. At the end of the day, the vast majority of people are honest, and it's simply unproductive to worry too much about copyright infringement matters. Take appropriate steps to protect your work and then make your peace with the fact that a small percentage of the population will share your work with others. It's an inevitability.
Links to government operated copyright resourcesUS Copyright Office UK Intellectual Property Office Australian Copyright Council
Recording a Voiceover – Tips & Techniques
Getting a fantastic vocal recording requires the right equipment and the right technique. Pay close attention to these simple tips and you’ll not only improve the sonic quality of your recordings, you’ll also improve the way you express yourself vocally.
Tip 1. Choose a microphone that was designed for voice recordingAs mentioned in this article, Choosing a Microphone, not all microphones are suitable for recording voiceovers. You really must use the right type of microphone if you are intent on capturing a professional quality sound.
Tip 2. Use a microphone windshieldWithout a microphone windshield you will probably ruin your recording with "plosives". Plosives are small blasts of air that escape from between your lips while you are speaking. Many microphones come with a soft foam windshield that covers the head of the microphone. These do provide some protection from plosives, but In many cases they are insufficient, especially when you’re up close to your microphone while recording spoken words. You will need a standalone nylon windshield like the one shown here: This type of microphone windshield is constructed of a sheath of nylon material that is stretched over a circular frame. These windshields provide an air buffer between you and the microphone and will completely eliminate plosives. D.I.Y Tip: It is possible to create a makeshift windshield by stretching a nylon stocking over a coat hanger. Open the coat hanger out so that it offers you a large surface area and then tape the windshield to your microphone stand. It might not be pretty, but it will be 75% as effective as a professional windshield.
Tip 3. Silence is goldenMicrophones are very sensitive and will pick up all the ambient sounds around you, not just your voice! The sound of your computer humming, the sound of the traffic outside, the sound of your air conditioning unit – these are all examples of sounds that can ruin a good recording. Your microphone will record the sound of your chair creaking, the sound of your necklace jingling and even the sound of your stomach grumbling if you don't address these sounds in advance. You can eliminate many of these problems by: a. Moving as far away from your computer as possible, and/or using some pillows or furniture as baffles to muffle the sound that it emits (be careful not to block all the air vents in your computer’s case for too long. Without airflow your computer can overheat. Nasty problems may ensue!) b. If external noises are a problem, relocate yourself to a more quiet location, or record late at night when the hubbub of the world has died down. c. Remove any jingly jewellery and/or “swishy” clothing. Either that or you’ll have to master the art of sitting VERY still. Professional recording studios usually use isolation booths for vocal recordings. These "silent spaces" are ideal for recording, but you can still capture a good quality recording at home provided that you take every reasonable measure to eliminate ambient noises.
Tip 4. Check your levelsOne of the most common mistakes that people make when recording their voice is recording either too quietly or too loud. It’s essential that your recording signal is reasonably strong, but does not exceed the maximum volume allowed by your recording software (a problem referred to as "digital clipping"). You’ll need to understand how to use the volume/gain controls of your particular recording setup in order to ensure that a good strong signal reaches your computer, without clipping. If your voice has been recorded too quietly, then you’ll find yourself compensating for this by adding loads of volume after it has been recorded. Doing so will cause any other ambient background noises to become louder too. If your voice recording is too loud, then you’ll hear distortion. This must be absolutely avoided. Do some test recordings and watch the level meters on your recording software. Aim for a maximum volume of around 5-6 decibels below maximum at the loudest point in your recording.
Tip 5. Perfect positionA good starting point for microphone placement is to sit or stand with your mouth approximately 6-12 inches from the head of the microphone. Getting nice and close to your mic (6 inches or even less) can give you a really nice intimate sound, but be very careful. Most voiceover microphones experience what is known as the "proximity effect" and can result in an overly bassy sound if you get too close. Standing too far away will make your voice sound a little thin, and will also allow more ambient background noises to sneak into your recording. Try to keep relatively still (if possible). If you are recording at a close distance, even small shifts in your position can make a dramatic difference to the sound. If you move around a lot then the volume and tonality of your recording will constantly change, making your performance sound unnatural.
Tip 6. Relate to your listenerWhile you are recording yourself speaking, do your best to imagine that the microphone is a real person and that you are speaking directly to them. Talk as if you were relating to a friend, rather than as someone who is reading from a script. It's so important to master the art of speaking naturally, or you'll end up sounding robotic and stilted. Express your emotions. Have an opinion. Get your point across. Relax and be the real you, speaking fluently to another real person in this moment. Remember - you are not practicing dictation, you are just having a very one-sided conversation with someone who cares about what you have to say.
Further reading (highly recommended)Much more in depth information on this subject is available in the free ebook, "How to Create Professional Hypnosis & Meditation Recordings". It's available from our parent website (Enlightened Audio) via the following link: https://www.enlightenedaudio.com/how-to-create-professional-hypnosis-and-meditation-recordings
Recording Equipment Requirements
So you want to create your own audio production without the help of a professional studio? In this day and age, it's more achievable than ever. This article will introduce you to the equipment you will need in order to record your own voiceover, mix it with music and then create a finalized audio file for CD or MP3. You may find that you already have some of the equipment you need!