I created the music soundtrack for an Irish language short film (that won 3 national drama awards) earlier this year, which I worked on with my Dad. The idea for getting involved with this actually came from one of my former school teachers, who originally taught me to play the drums.
Being involved in this project was a lot of fun and, after we finished the music for the film, we wanted to find a way to say thanks to my teacher for their original idea. Because we had just published the songs as an online album, my Dad suggested that we see what it might take to have the same album pressed onto Vinyl as a gift for my teacher. This is the story of how we did this.
The first thing we had to do was find a company that could produce vinyl albums. My Dad did some research online and decided to contact CopySmith.ie whose website seemed to offer what we needed for a price that seemed affordable for the quantities we wanted. We wanted to make just 3 copies: one for my teacher, one for myself and one for my Dad.
My Dad did most of the dealing with CopySmith and, while (he said) the ordering process was fairly low-tech (in comparison to publishing the album online using CD Baby), the service he got from them was really superb. The main person he dealt with was Adrian and he was really, really helpful all the time, especially with all our questions because this was our first time.
He provided templates for the album cover and record labels, answered emails at weekends and in the evenings and was really accommodating for any changes we needed to make. He also allowed us to send him trial versions of the artwork (to see if they were correct) before placing our order.
Based on what my Dad said, I think we’d definitely recommend CopySmith to others and I think he’s already done that with a few of his friends.
We had created four songs for the movie soundtrack and these were less than 5 minutes long in total. We also had other versions of each song (some longer and some without background sound effects) and those were around 4 minutes long too.
According to Adrian at CopySmith, this meant we could fit them onto a 7” record, so that’s what we ordered in the end. A 7” record with more than one song per side is known as an EP in the record industry, which stands for Extended Play.
We needed to create artwork for the album cover (front and back) as well as for the labels for the two sides of the record. The artwork for each of these had to be a very specific resolution:
- Album Cover: 2173 x 2173 pixels at 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch), which was around 18.4cm
- Record Labels: 1122 x 1122 pixels at 300 DPI, which was around 9cm.
We tried lots of different free graphics software programs but very few of them did exactly what we wanted (especially the 300 DPI). In the end, we chose Adobe Spark because, even though it was not free, we felt it was the easiest to use and had lots of flexibility. We could also pay by the month and only needed it for one month, so it only cost €12.95 in the end, and was worth that.
Because the music was written for a movie that was set by the sea (with a storm scene in it), we decided to design the album cover based around an ocean theme. My Dad had a few photos he’d taken at some local beaches earlier in the year and we chose to base the cover on one of those.
I then used Adobe Spark to crop sections of this photo for the front and back part of the cover, using some hue to create a blue, nighttime effect. We created separate Adobe Spark files for the front and back cover (we did the same of the labels later on). My Mam also suggested using the sun in the photo to form part of the album title: Saoirse (the Irish word for Freedom).
Once we had the basic background that we wanted, we added the other details to the front and back. The front just had the album title and my name but the back had lots more details, including the song names for both sides and various credits for the music and film creators etc.
We looked at a few of my Dad’s old singles to see what details we should put on the cover and, in the end, this is what we ended up with (the front is the left and the back is on the right):
Because the movie was in the Irish language (my former school is an Irish language school) and so were the names of the songs we created, we decided to use the Irish language for all of the album cover (and label) details as well.
Once we had made the front and back cover, we knew a lot more about Adobe Spark so creating the labels for the record took less time. Adobe Spark had lots of different features and effects that we were able to use but it did take a little bit of trial and error to settle on the right amount of detail to include. Again, we used a few old singles for inspiration and eventually ended up with these:
The lighter, blue ribbon effect around the edge is meant to look like ocean waves when the record is spinning on the player and our fake record company name, Martello Studios, is meant to spin around the hold in the centre of the record. These turned out really well too.
We didn’t have to do anything to the music files we had, except give them special names when uploading them to the CopySmith website so the vinyl pressing company would know which song to put where, on each side of the record.
Once we finalised the artwork files, we uploaded them (along with the specially named music files) to the CopySmith website and formally placed our order (paying using Paypal). We were told that it could take 3-5 weeks before the records would be ready so you need to allow for this if you’re thinking of doing a project like this. Here is what the finished records looked like:
From start to finish, the entire effort took around 8 weeks but it was all worth it when we presented a copy to my former teacher who was absolutely blown away by it. We later found out that he is also a former DJ and is a huge fan of vinyl records (doesn’t even have a music streaming account), which made it extra special!