Jennifer B. Davis
I really enjoy the articles about HowStuffWorks. Everyday they take some complex idea or product and walk you through it step-by-step. Although the articles won't make you a genetic physicist or an economist, you will walk away with a much better understanding of cloning or capitalism.

So, it is in this style and spirit that I present some details about how our praise team came to publish and market a CD of praise and worship music. You can learn more about the CD and our group at

This information accompanies a talk that will be given at the
Pepperdine Lectureship by my friend and worship leader, Josh Stump. He'll be focused on the music itself, including the composition and arrangement process. He'll brag on our excellent producer, Kris Strobeck, and all the talent that went into arranging the music. He will talk about the impact the music is having. What people are saying about it and will share some stories, like this one about his son (warning: get Kleenex box handy).

In this post, I'll be focusing more on what we did with the music after it was recorded and we were ready to share it. This is the "playbook" he promised folks in the session, which I hope is useful whether or not you attended. For those who are not necessarily interested in music publishing or worship music, I hope you are able to take the concepts of self-publishing and marketing and apply them to your particular field of interest or your business, as most of these ideas are economical and applicable to other projects.

So, with no further "pre-mumble," here are some of the things we did to publish and promote the CD project. For each category of things, I have answered three questions: why did it matter, how did we do it, and how else could we have done it (as a way to provide additional resources).

Let's begin with our website at



Why? We decided to call the group Westside Praise, because it was shorter than our best alternative which was "Westside Church of Christ Praise Team." So, I went out and bought the URL for (still amazed that it was available). We were going to put up information about the CD, links to the e-store, and use the website in our marketing and promotion, so it was important to have this done.

How? I used Google Apps to buy the domain name, for $10 a year, and build the site. Their website publishing tools are free and easy to use. They are very basic, but allow you some ability to edit the HTML. They are worth trying, especially if you are building a mini-site focusing just on the CD project as we did (as opposed to the church's whole website).

How else? If you wanted a more robust website or design services, you could use the tools available from domain name registration companies like, GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions, or your favorite domain name seller. These will range from a few dollars a month to custom consulting contracts. You could have a professional site, with more bells and whistles than what we have here, created by my friends at Blue Rocket Studios, the pros at Wright Strategies, or the creative folks at QuirkyBird, to name a few. If you know precisely what you want and just need technical expertise to execute your vision, you could check out posting your project for bid at Rent-a-Programmer. There are a lot of great website development companies out there worth talking to if you have a project of this type.

CD Duplication and Distribution

Why? I wanted to create an online store where product could be ordered and produced "on demand," as opposed to having the CDs produced in quantity and sitting on the shelf awaiting orders. As this is a side project for our group, I didn't want to have to touch online orders or be responsible for collecting credit card numbers, etc. I wanted to get the product listed at, plus have an e-store option that we could send people from our website. I wanted the CDs to have a UPC barcode on them that I could use to sell them elsewhere (ie, like the Zoe store at their conferences, etc).

How? I used CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon. They didn't charge a set-up fee for CDs, provided some blank templates for the cover and CD artwork (that I could edit/manipulate in Adobe PhotoShop), and provided an e-store for free. I uploaded the song files, the artwork, and our account preferences online. We got great bulk pricing on finished CDs (shrink-wrapped in jewel cases), we could set our own pricing online, and the whole process took a couple of weeks in total. You can see how our store turned out here.

How else? There are lots of places to self-publish and duplicate CDs (in small or large quantities). Logic General is a good example. That said, most CD duplicators don't set up e-stores, provide barcodes, or the like. If you are interested in just selling them at the church or in the community, then you can get better duplication rates than we got by searching online and sending them a master to burn CDs from. If you need smaller quantities, you may just want to burn them and label them yourself at home.

Electronic Music Distribution

Why? I wanted the music to also be available by the track on electronic music retailers like iTunes, Rhapsody, and AmazonMP3.

How? CreateSpace put the songs on AmazonMP3 as part of the publishing process above. To get the files on iTunes, I went another route. I sent a finished CD to a company called CD Baby, which digitized the files for electronic distribution, plus made the CD available on their online store. I provide finished CDs to CD Baby for their inventory (from the bulk orders I got from CreateSpace). For a small registration and the cost of the 5 CDs sent to them to start the process, they did the rest. Within a month, the CD tracks could be previewed and bought on about 20 of the leading music distribution sites.

How else? There are other ways to submit content to iTunes, but this seemed like the most direct.

Song Book Publishing

Why? I wanted to provide a way for people to get the sheet music arrangements of the songs so that they could sing them in their own churches. I wanted the book to be available from Note: the composers of the songs registered directly with CCLI (Church Copyright Licensing Inc) to allow churches the right to perform and reproduce the words and music.

How? I used CreateSpace again for this project. The largest book they have is 8" x 10" which caused me to have reformat the music (mostly in Photoshop) down from their letter-size originals, but their pricing was good and they would set up an e-store, arrange for an ISBN number, and other features which made it attractive. For the cost of a sample book and shipping, they got it set up and sellable on the web.

How else? There are many other reputable book publishing companies out that allow you to self-publish and make the finished product available for sale at online bookstores or your own site. These includes Xlibris, BookSurge (another Amazon company), Lulu, Blurb, Zazzle, CafePress, and many more that you could probably find by searching online for "print on demand" or "self-publishing."

Artwork and Photography

Why? We wanted a professional CD that would look nice when merchandised online and in a retail environment. We wanted something that was meaningful to the members at Westside, was reminiscent of the music on the CD, and was unique.

How? The cover artwork elements were drawn and painted by one of our teens, Jeremy Bawcom, who is the son of one of the praise team members. A talented member and friend of the praise team, Juanita Martus from Martus Touch Photography, took group photography that we used in the layout. These were combined with some typesetting in Adobe PhotoShop, using the templates provided by CreateSpace and some I created.

How else? If you choose to hire a designer for the website, you can ask them to do the artwork for the CD as well, so it has a unified look. You will want a cover, the insert insides, the back cover, the tray insert back and front, the cover of the CD, the banner for the e-store, and the front and back cover for the song book. You can hire a freelance designer to do the design by asking around your membership, placing an ad on Craig's List, contacting a local art or design school (at the college or high-school level), placing a request for bid at Elance or Rent-A-Programmer, or by getting stock art from iStockPhoto or Flickr (a Yahoo! company) and doing the layout yourself.


Why? We wanted to spread the word about the CD, the songbook, the new music, and the group.

How? These activities are worthy of their post or series of posts. We started by praying that the music be useful and meaningful, as it had been to us and to our congregation. This helped give us a shared purpose and I believe that the Big Guy helped us reach the right people.

Here are some of the things we did that might be useful to you as you create your own marketing plans:
  • We used social networks like Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and more to share the news of the release, starting with personal marketing from the praise team members themselves.
  • We started taking pre-orders at church and from family and friends, offering promotional pre-order pricing, including a volume discount which proved to be a key part of our marketing efforts.
  • We build promotional widgets using SproutBuilder to embed into blogs and Facebook profiles.
  • We offered copies of the CD to influential worship leaders, authors, speakers, and ministers across the country and members shared extra copies with their family and friends. Literally hundreds of CDs have been given as gifts in this way as members sent them to friends, dropped them off on cross-country vacations, and sent them to former members.
  • We will promote the CD at events like Renewal, TLC (Together with Love in Christ, the Portland area churches annual group worship service), Pepperdine, and other conferences. You can find the CDs for sale at the Zoe Group store at their conferences (like Fresno, Lubbock, and Nashville) and at the Taylor Publications' store at the Pepperdine Lectureships.
  • We contacted local media outlets and those associated with the church (ie, the Christian Chronicle who featured the group in an April issue of their publication).
  • We built links to the site from blogs and other communications.
There is so much more we can do in this area and we have other ideas to experiment with (perhaps for our next release, Lord willing).


If you have questions about any of the above or want to learn more, leave a comment below and we'll find a way to connect.
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