Once you’ve got your hot disc back from the masterer and your mom has listened to the final mixes and said they sound great, what is there to do next? You gotta find a way to package that mutha. Oh sure, you could get the pressing plant to do it up for you, but that can be pretty expensive and besides, that’s what practically everyone does. No, you’re gonna do it right, you’re gonna DIY it.
Whether for financial or aesthetic reasons, DIY packaging can be the best thing ever—if it’s done right. To help you do it right, Vue solicited the advice of Bryan Kulba, musician, designer and all around creative force, to give a few pointers on what DIY packaging can do for you, and how best to go about doing it. In his former bands, Kulba has silk screened, stapled, glued and sewn a number of different DIY packages.
“I think the reason it was worth it is because we physically had contact with every single CD case we ever dealt with,” he says of why DIY packaging appealed to him and his bands in the first place. “In this strange metaphysical way maybe that means something—or maybe it was a total waste of time.”
What isn’t a total waste of time, however, is the camaraderie of creating and executing a DIY package. It isn’t the kind of thing that one member should be obsessively doing by themselves in their lonely bachelor suite—this is an exercise in bonding.
“Spending four or five evenings with your bandmates doing something other than jamming or writing songs, you’re talking about stuff and making stuff, or watching movies,” says Kulba, “You’re team building in one way or another.”
That camaraderie will come in handy when terrible stuff happens to you on the road and you’ve gotta help each other to get yourselves out of trouble, but until then, you’ve gotta get this thing off the ground.
“I think the easiest way to do it is to come up with a concept of how to do it or a clever little idea and figure out how to see that idea from a prototype to something that you could do 100 times or 500 times or 1000 times,” Kulba says of how to best go about getting down to business on your DIY packaging. “What it comes down to is coming up with a really clever idea and running with it, figuring out if you can pull it off and seeing how far you can take it.”
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to doing DIY packaging. Many of them are the flipside of the same coin—for example, while DIY packaging is often cheaper than getting something made for yourself, depending on what you decide to make your packaging out of, it can also be incredibly time consuming.
“I think it depends on how elaborate the execution is,” says Kulba. “ It just comes down to the fact that your time is free but somebody else’s time costs money, so if your time is free that’s certainly a factor that should be figured into the actual production of a DIY package.”
A DIY package also may not conform to the usual standards of CD or vinyl packaging, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, explains Kulba.
“For an old band that I was in, for a seven-inch we did the packaging ourselves and found these amazing ziploc bags that were slightly larger than a normal seven-inch, so when it came to putting them in stores it was harder to put them in the shelves that all the rest of the seven-inches went in,” he says. “But on the other hand, if you make things stand out people will notice them, and there are a lot of people who appreciate records based on the aesthetics and will buy things just because they look cool or because they look interesting and I think that that’s something that will always work in your favour—if something looks awesome.”
Bands can also easily go wrong by coming up with an idea that is super awesome, but totally un-doable.
“If you come up with a great idea and it costs $10 per CD, or it becomes so large that you can only carry 200 on tour as opposed to 500 of them, that’s when it starts to get bad,” says Kulba. “The detriment is how you form your goals about these things—as long as you’re reasonable about packaging and as long as you’re clever with it, you’re not going to hurt yourself.”
The best part of any DIY package, however, is the creativity. Getting the aesthetics to stand out from any other band on the planet and having them match your band’s aesthetics is something of a challenge, but one that is interesting and fun to meet. And putting the effort in will always work out in your favour.
“I can’t stress enough that the best part of DIY packaging is you can go to different stores—craft stores, dollar stores, whatever—and you can find things that aren’t part of the canon of CD packaging and you can use them in that packaging,” says Kulba. “I think what it comes down to is ingenious uses of things that are not necessarily accepted in those terms. Plastic flowers? I dunno. Just use things in creative ways. I think that’s what really appeals to people.” V