DIY or Die: A Helpful Guide to Vinyl, Cassette + CD Pressing Plants for Underground Artists

The saying "DIY or die" means different thing to different people. To me it means hard work and dedication to your craft. To you well, it could be something completely different. Which is the beauty of this cool thing we call the punk/hardcore scene. In this article I will talk about some things I have found out during my time in (and out) of the punk scene. 

Some background first. I am not just some shmuck that thinks he knows it all, and was only in the “scene” for like a year. No, my brother and I cut our teeth together coming up in the scene learning how sometimes shallow and not accepting it can be, to meeting some of the best people I know to this day. It’s a funny thing the music scene; Everyone is in it to make it at some level. Success is measured different for different people. To me, success is if a tour can pay for itself and I am not broke or in debt hundreds of dollars when I get home. 

I have learned much and talked to everyone I could, when I was on the road. Many of the people I spoke with I sadly forget their names and faces, but I remember the things we talked about. How to save money or how to screen print (which I am still horrible at and have no knowledge on how to do) or whatever we felt like talking about. 

Okay so, the entire point of this article is to save money and do what you feel is best for you and your band at the stage you are in. Meaning this; every band is well different. Some have aspirations of touring and others want to stay in their home town or city and be a solid band there. There is nothing wrong with either. But what is wrong is this, find where to get to get the best deal on your merchandise. I know, I know cheap doesn’t always mean good. Well in this case it does. 

These are places that I have researched and or worked with in the past with my old band who is still out there playing shows. 

First let’s talk CDs. So I know that the CD is no longer the “cool thing” but really because of that it has become something almost niche with better sound quality and longevity than tapes. But the best place I found for CDs to get made in what is called the Eco-Pack is from a small operation out in Salem, OR called Atomic Disc. They rule. It is a small operation with excellent service and quick turnaround times. The Eco-Pack is excellent for short run CDs or for your band's first, third or 10 album as they are cheap to get and come in full color even with your songs on the CD. They offer other packages as well for vinyl, and of course, other CD packages, but the Eco-Pack is great for anyone at any level and has the best price! 

Photo found on AtomicDisc.com

Next let’s talk about my second favorite thing: tapes. Tapes are a neat DIY thing you can you to reach out to anyone. Someone like me will most likely buy a tape and think, “Wow, what a cool item by that really cool band.” I’m a sucker, what can I say. But what a lot of people may not know is that tapes are personal. There are so many ways to get them from the small scale of 1 to 5 up to a larger scale of 100 or more. Know your audience so you know how many to buy. 

Tapes are cool because the band can make them at home or have a friend make them and then you have free reign on the packaging. The great thing is if you decide to do this there are many way to save money. 

First you can buy the cassettes blank and then dub them yourself and buy the cassette cases and make your own inserts. Sure, that saves money, if you know how to do that type of thing and websites like Duplication.ca make it easy to buy the supplies you need to do it yourself. They also offer great services for doing the duplication, art, and cases as well. Some of the better deals I have seen online for short runs. You may not a better route and if so, great! Next there is National Audio Company, a Missouri company that specializes in cassette tape duplication primarily for larger quantities, but again the package price they offer for 100 hundred tapes is a great deal.

Photo found on Duplication.ca

Finally, there is a small company out of Cleveland called AtoZ Audio which is another good place for short run cassettes in smaller quantities. They have all of the information you need to have your music and artwork ready to go and of course package deals on cassettes. Last but certainly not least, we move onto my favorite format vinyl. 

Vinyl is something that has been around forever and will most likely stick around for the rest of human existence. Many argue the sound quality vs the compact disc. And really, it’s all preference. I like vinyl and the pops and fuzz and static you hear when playing it. This is where things get fun. So if you made it this far great, congratulations I kept your interest long enough to see what I type on the page and see where my crazy ramblings lead us. 

Now this way may require some work but if you are willing to do this it can save hundreds on vinyl. Now, we know of the places like Pirates Press, a California-based company that offers great deals across a variety of packages. But there are others like Little Elephant Lathe Cuts, who take your music and cut it into the vinyl. There is a video on their website of the process. It is really cool. That is a great cheap method if you want to do a short run on vinyl. They also offer larger quantities as well. But why do short run you ask? Well, short runs are cool because if you’re a band that tours every now and then and has a decent following a short run will be best. You can use them on your small tour to get your new EP or even album out there.

The best deal I have seen is through Little Elephant Late Cuts for a small amount of 20 7" reocrds cut and ready to go with the white inner sleeves shipped to you. Now it all depends on your budget and what you want as a band. The company offers great package deals as well. This all depends on how much money you have to work with, but let’s say you have a very limited budget and are looking to spend as little as you can, well, this is where I come in with the know-how and where to go.

So you have your 7" records from the lathe cut factory delivered to your door with the white labels and white inner sleeves. But now you need jackets with your artwork. Where do you go? Well a place I mentioned earlier Duplication.ca has all sorts of supplies needed for you for records and in bulk. So you can buy as little as 10 7" outer records jackets. The downside is that they're plain, but if you know how to screen print or know someone that does, a screen printer can print your artwork on those record sleeves! Running price about $290 for everything minus the screen printer’s fees or if you do it yourself. 

Next there is Palomino Records. They have some of the best prices for 100 records I have seen. They have an easy to read break down pricing sheet. 100 8" runs about $635 or so on their site, but again, that is with music, labels, and inner sleeves, which then leaves you needing the outer jackets again. But fear not we can go back to our pals at Duplication.ca and see if they offer just outer jackets on their site, or you can go to ILoveImprint.com and look at their prices. They offer deals on just jackets or sleeves and print in full color. Pricing varies of course. 

Photo found on PalominoRecordsPressing.com

As I mentioned before, these are things I found myself, and when I was coming up in the music scene, I didn’t have anyone share with me. Most people kept where they got t-shirts and all of that stuff to themselves, or kept it like a closely guarded secret. I never understood why they did that. Where I came from in Ohio, the music scene was almost nonexistent unless you played covers in a bar band. Nothing wrong with doing that as those bands tend to make money, but for original bands, it was very few and far between and most were older guys that have been doing it for a while and didn’t want to talk to some new kid asking questions. Not sure if it’s a right of passage for old musicians to new but if it is, it needs to stop.

The more bands out there and the more we all support each other and the bands or projects we are in, the better the music scene becomes and the better it is for everyone. 

So, if you are like me and curious and wanted to know where to go, what to do, and how to do it, I hope this helps. Otherwise, if you know a new band looking to get things printed or music release, help them out. Show them this article. Whatever the case, these are tools and my suggestions to help you find a good deal. I am in no way endorsed by any of these companies nor was I paid to say any of the things I said. These are just my honest opinions on things I find cool.