Q: How many songs should I put on my CD?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Thursday November 30, 2006
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An Audio Masterclass website visitor plans a CD, but doesn't know how many songs to put on it. Is this a case of 'less is more'?

A question from an Audio Masterclass website visitor...

How would I know what songs to put on my first CD? How many titles should I have on it? I see most of them start with ten or twelve but I can't figure out what ones to put? Only two that I wrote should be on it.

The first thing we need to know is what is the purpose of the CD? Is it a demo CD, or is it for commercial release?

For a demo CD, there are two possible answers to this question - there should be three songs, or just one.

For a demo CD, three songs is always enough. You can show your range of abilities, and hopefully excite whoever is listening to want to find out more about you. If you have more than three songs, you might easily bore them right from the outset.

Always, by the way, put your very best song first. And trim the introduction right down so the song starts straight away on the best part. You might even consider putting the chorus first.

If you write your own material, and you have a really, really good song - one that shows hit potential straight away - then it's best just to use this one song as a demo. If it really is that good, you could be signed on the basis of that alone.

If it is a commercial CD, then you have other concerns.

First and foremost, you should get YOUR songs on the CD. Not your best friend's, not those written by other band members. YOUR songs.

Why?

Because ultimately that's how you will make money. Even if your band had a rogue manager who siphoned off all your earnings, you would still get your song royalties for the rest of your life, and beyond.

That's why band members always argue. They want their songs to be the ones on the CD.

So, how many songs?

Personally I don't think a CD should ever last more than forty-five minutes. Except for compilations and classical music.

However, many CDs do. So you should look at CDs that are in the same genre as your music. If that's what the market is buying, clearly that's what the market wants.

There is an interesting question about the ordering of the songs...

Should you order the songs so that you take the listener on a fascinating musical journey, maybe leaving the best to last?

Or should you put all of your best songs right at the start of the CD?

Although the former option is perhaps artistically preferable, the latter will lead to more sales. People listen to the first few tracks, then their attention switches off.

Next, you'll have to think about crossfades. Another time...

Image: Multimediadiscount CC BY-SA 3.0

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