Two years ago, Storyteller Dan Keding helped me put together my first CD. Here are the steps that he showed me, and a few adjustments of my own.
Steps in CD Production
You need to have a strong desire to produce a CD. This is a big project, even if you don’t have problems with your production company like I did. Figure on this taking at least six months, off and on.
Find a title or theme for your CD. Recordings with a coherent theme seem to sell better rather than simply a “Story Sampler by Joe Smith Storyteller” CD. I have stuck with nature themes like “Wolf Stories,” “Northwoods Animal Tales” etc. Other folks do “Ghost Story” or “Chicken Stories” CDs. Decide what works for you. This decision colors the rest of the project.
Come up with at least 90 minutes of material for a 60 minute CD. Choose some longer stories (15-20 min) and some shorter stories (5-10 minutes) that way you can vary the length of stories in the lineup. Having extra material ready will allow you to cut material and use your strongest stuff. Most CDs can hold 72 minutes and you might want to put that much material on a CD. I feel that people might feel cheated if they buy a CD and it has less than 60 minutes on it.
Record your telling of the stories on audio tape. I use a voice-activated recorder. This will help you “capture” your stories for the project and let you time them out, if you haven’t already done that.
Write out text “scripts” of each of your stories.
This is the hard part of the process, but it is worth it.
Edit your story a few times on paper as well. These “scripts” help when you are discussing your stories with others as you work to improve them. They are also important when we go into the studio. Take along at least one friend and/or producer to the studio. The friend will be following along in your story with the script. If you flub a word or miss a part of the story, she can stop you, back you up to just before you made the mistake and have you start again. The sound technician will be able to back up the digital “tape” to the same place and you will just continue from that point on. Using this script method, I recorded 90 minutes of stories in about two hours. I have talked with other storytellers who just went into the studio and recorded and it took them twice as long to put down that much material.
Find a good quality studio with a competent sound tech at a reasonable price. While what the tech does during recording is important, what the tech does after the recording in “cleaning up” the material, removing lip smacks and other problems is even more important. I think my 2 hours in the studio plus post-production work cost about $300.
Find someone who will record a dozen 10-15 second music clips to go between stories for you. The guitar music between stories in my CD seems to really add to the experience.
Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice the material, the smoother production will go. Practice with and without using the “script”.
Rent a studio to do the recording. Take along a producer and/or a friend who can read through the script along with you and stop you if you flub something.
Do the recording.
Once you have the “master files” from the sound tech, use computer software to put CDs together all on our own. Using software like iTunes (Mac) I can take a master CD and burn my own CDs right off the computer. That way you could make a dozen copies to sell at gigs or go give away at schools and see how they are selling. If you don’t like the line-up on the CD, you can always change it at this point and burn some more.
Some time down the road, you might want to have the CD commercially produced and duplicated. Choose a larger production company that has been in business for at least 15 years. I had a problem when my small one-person production company went bankrupt. Production costs seem to run about $1.50 per CD with the case, insert and disk for an order of 1,000 or more.
Enjoy your CD. This project takes a lot of work. Enjoy it when it is done. You have now graduated to the next level of being a storyteller: being a storyteller with a recording.