Union Songs

No Blood For Oil CD Project

Some reflections on the project by Geoff Francis (April 2003)

no blood for oil cdThis project was conceived when early in March this year it became obvious to me that come what may, Bush, Blair (and some other little insignificant man whose name escapes me right now) were determined to let nothing dissuade them from the terrible, bloody war that they were determined to wage against the people of Iraq.

So … a compilation CD was born. We had the communications infrastructure there – the Ausworld Folk List (as it then was) - plus of course a widespread informal network of contacts. That was the easy bit, although I was astounded when our initial posting on the list produced at least two quite hostile responses.

This article, however, is mainly about the logistics involved in the project. A quick audit of what is needed for this kind of project would throw up a list something like this:

Musicians. No shortage of willing souls here – Australia is rich in talented and diverse musicians. Because of the nature of this particular project, we had a few extra restrictions. The US military aggression against the Iraqi people was about to start any day. There was no time to go through the normal processes required for an APRA licence . So we introduced another requirement – every song had to be either self-penned by the performer, or guaranteed to be in the public domain. Sadly, we lost a couple of good songs because of this. In the normal course of events, you should be able to plan for this and factor it into your timeline. But the background of war against which we were working was grotesquely abnormal.

Money. The absolute minimum up-front cost (for professionally pressing and printing 500 CDs, with printed full colour covers and inserts, and then distributing them) is about $1,300. That figure assumes that all artists and recording personnel give their time for nothing, as does your photographer and graphic design artist. I sent out appeals for any interested parties to help out with up front cash, given that the return of their investment was just about guaranteed – 65 CDs sold at $20 each was all it would take – but sadly there were no offers forthcoming. So out came the plastic card ….

Recording Facilities. That's where I was able to cheat because I have a recording studio which could be made available free of charge. Others across Australia made similar offers. And some people availed themselves of friends' home recording facilities which were maybe not exactly state of the art but just about up to the job. We set a deadline of two and half weeks for everybody to get a recording of their song to us. Format didn't matter – PC Wave file, Apple Mac or CD Audio, because converting between this formats id these days very simple. Unfortunately, one or two people couldn't make this deadline, and we ended up losing a couple more good songs.

Graphic Design. Using the Internet, I was able to track down some good quality photographs which we were granted permission to use for free (thanks, Moz). As for the design and layout of the cover, label, etc, I was able to do that myself (using Adobe Photoshop, if anyone's interested).

Mastering. Again, I was able to do that myself, using a variety of software (mainly Sonar, Sound Forge plug-ins, Waves plug-ins, Timeworks plug-ins, RGC Audio and Cool Edit Pro).

Pressing. That always takes later than promised. From sending the masters and artwork by overnight express to getting the CDs finished and back here took 23 days. We were promised "an estimated 10 to 12, 15 at the absolute most."

Distribution. That's just a case of packing lots of boxes and posting them off. One positive aspect of a project like this is that with twenty artists involved, most people will enthusiastically take, say, 10 or 20 or even 30 or more CDs at cost price. You've got an instant distribution and sales network in place, all over Australia!

That's it really. It's hard work and, like anything else, frustrating at times but most definitely worth the effort.


Geoff Francis and Peter Hicks have a website at http://home.austarnet.com.au/glazfolk/

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