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Kunaki: Automated CD/DVD Manufacturing

Blog | February 18, 2011 | Updated: February 26, 2011 | Posted by Basilisk

Kunaki is an “on-demand” CD and DVD manufacturing service accessed solely through the web. From the Kunaki FAQ:

You design and configure your product (case, disc, inserts, cover art, contents) with our publishing software. The software renders a precise 3-D replica of your product and lets you modify and review different possibilities. The software compiles your product’s content, packaging, art-work into a single digital file and uploads it directly to our facility. Then a seamless, automated system accepts orders; manufactures, prints, assembles, packages, and ships your product in minutes.

Kunaki is mainly of interest to record labels and independent artists interested in bypassing the traditional CD manufacturing process to produce small quantities (i.e. less than 100 copies) at an extremely affordable rate with no up-front investment. This is a intriguing alternative for anyone working in a niche market where typical CD sales have slipped below industry-standard minimum orders of 500 or 1,000 units. These days you can get deals on runs as low as 300 (or maybe less) but you’re still stuck with boxes of CDs and increasingly tight margins as you order less and less. This is due to the unavoidable costs inherent in the process: setup fees, creation of the master disc, etc. With Kunaki there are no minimums and no setup fees–just a flat rate of USD$1.75 or less (plus shipping) for every CD or DVD no matter how many are ordered. This is awesome if you only want a handful of CDs instead of hundreds or thousands!

As the FAQ notes, “Kunaki is not for everyone.” Here are some of the drawbacks: Kunaki products are not as good as what you will find in stores. In terms of packaging, Kunaki products arrive in standard shrink-wrapped jewel (or DVD) cases. There are no options in terms of artwork: all you have to work with is a front cover, inside panel, back tray, and a “full face” disc print. The printing quality is decent for the most part (though nowhere near as sharp as store-bought CDs) but there are some issues with the discs themselves–dark tones are strongly emphasized and the colour schema is sometimes warped in strange ways. This can be alleviated by sticking to a simple CD face design based on bright colours and stark simple shapes. One other downside is the use of opaque CD trays; transparent trays are fairly standard in the industry but you won’t be able to use them with Kunaki.

The discs themselves, although silver-bottomed (not gold or some other colour), are duplicated rather than replicated. Despite this, the quality of the physical media Kunaki produces far exceeds what you will get from a standard consumer-grade CD burner (i.e. a “CD-R” in the parlance of the late 1990s). As the Kunaki FAQ mentions, duplication technology has improved considerably in the last few years–they even claim that their high-quality duplication process is every bit as good as standard replication. Whether this is factually correct is anyone’s guess–I have not seen any credible studies examining the issue one way or another. Still, it is inaccurate to call Kunaki-manufactured media “CD-Rs” as some people do. They are not the same thing you get out of your CD burner at home. I have heard no reports of disc rot or other kinds of data decay over time and, based on my personal experience, perhaps 1 CD in every 300 is a dud. Such a failure rate is not much higher than what you find with traditional glass-mastered CDs. In any case, the CD-R stigma is largely superstitious in nature so I wouldn’t worry about it.

Another important caveat: don’t expect much in the way of customer service. From the FAQ: “Kunaki operates more like a machine than a business.” Kunaki is designed with automation in mind–they state, quite clearly, that they have no interest in wasting time with prospective clients who can’t read the information on their web site. Whereas most businesses would be quite happy to address concerns via phone or email, the shadowy operators of Kunaki have isolated themselves from the outside world. If you take the time to read the information on their site you shouldn’t have any problems though.

The only other drawback worth mentioning is that Kunaki only ships to a select list of (mostly developed) nation. Notably absent from their list of acceptable destinations are Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Malaysia, Nepal, Peru, Russia, South Africa, and Ukraine (as of early 2011). If you are doing a lot of business within any of these nations then Kunaki is not for you.

Despite these limitations there are a few ways in which the Kunaki service might be useful.

First of all, Kunaki offers netlabels and independent artists an easy way to manufacture and distribute physical copies of releases already available for free download. I speak from experience when I say that demand for CD versions of free netlabel releases is not high–but nor is it zero. There are still some people that like to have something they can hold in their hands. Kunaki empowers netlabels and independent artists to provide physical media without much effort or expense. Still, it is important to reflect on whether that effort is worth it or not. To throw some numbers out there, 10,000 free downloads might–if you are lucky–yield anywhere from one to five CD sales online (and this average is dropping with each passing year as more and more people abandon physical media entirely). That being said, selling those same CDs in person can lead to much better results if you are willing to do the work. One cool thing about Kunaki is that you can drop ship CDs to your upcoming gigs so you can have some merchandise on hand to sell or give away.

The second use for Kunaki might not be as obvious. Despite the fact that music fans are turning away from physical media there is still some prestige associated with a hard copy. Not only that, but many professionals working with music continue to assign a certain cachet to CD releases. For this reason, Kunaki is a great promotional tool for anyone looking to catch the eye of promoters, label owners, DJs, and other people working in the music business. Print up some CDs and ship them out by snail mail with a nicely designed press kit if you are looking for gigs or a “record deal” (if such a thing still exists). Hand out copies of your CD at gigs, give them to DJs wherever you travel, and make up a few for family and friends. Think of your CD as a business card.

Anyhow, that’s the pitch. If you would like a brief overview of the process (with a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way), here’s how you make a CD with Kunaki using a PC:

  1. Burn a master CD. You need to finish this step before moving on. I suggest adding a few extras like CD text with proper track titles. Remember: whatever you burn is exactly what will end up on your final product so be sure to do it properly!
  2. Download and run the Kunaki software here. This lightweight program compiles the data necessary to launch a “product” (a CD or DVD with packaging). Please note: this software only works on Windows and you will need an active Internet connection.
  3. Enter data into the “product properties” screen by clicking the green button in the top right corner. This information is presented on the Kunaki product page (example here; link may expire without warning) if you use their optional “publish at no cost to you” service. Write as much or as little as you like as long as you fill the two required fields (title and label). I like to keep things neat so I always enter performer, genre, track titles, etc. Of course, none of this matters if you don’t make the release publicly available for sale through their interface. Remember: you cannot edit anything after publishing your product so be sure your information is correct!
  4. Set album artwork on the next screen. Kunaki artwork specs are available here (official) or here (Ektoplazm version with some helpful tips from experience). Be sure to have all your artwork ready before you publish.
  5. Choose your CD drive letter and compile the product. I recommend closing all software except for the Kunaki application but this might be paranoid of me.
  6. Verify your product by launching it and extracting the contents to a new folder. Listen to the entire release or use EAC (or equivalent software) to perform a bit-by-bit comparison with the original WAVs (hit CTRL-W or navigate to the Tools menu and select Compare WAVs).
  7. Launch your product! You will need an account at this stage if you haven’t already published with Kunaki but this process is self-explanatory.
  8. That should be it! Now you can order your CD or offer it for sale through the Kunaki interface. Set a reasonable price and inform your customers of the difference between store-bought CDs and Kunaki products–it’s only fair!

So there you have it! If you make use of the service please feel welcome to share your experience in the comments. Likewise, I might be able to help if you have any questions not covered by the Kunaki FAQ. Finally, if you would like to see the product gallery in action, here is the Ektoplazm discography on Kunaki, while supplies last (as titles are deleted from the database after 180 days without a sale).


9 Comments

  • Ziro says:

    Hi there, not sure if this gets directed to Mr. Ektoplazm but if so first off id like to complement your label-site which is by far the best & most professional approach to electro-music promotion in these dire times. I just skimmed through this Kunaki-CD article & feel it was very well written & almost gut-wrenching in the whole technological process of making something as simple as your own CD. the only minus would be the text print was very hard to read in the dark overlay of a similar tone. questions like where would i be without the CD.. i grew up obsessed with music & started off in the rock-glam-metal of course as anyone.. where i must of bought at least 200+ albums.. Metallica Smashing Pumpkins u name it.. until one odd day my mother decided to trash my whole collection.. a someone traumatic incident that will forever remain along with many childhood memories. naturally I started to progress to Electro & Orbital was perhaps my main influence there.. until of course we are hit with the divine justice of Goa trance & so on.. tho I am no professional musician & more of a late bloomer looking back surprised that artists such as Astral Projection & X-dream were releasing stuff on vinyl as early as 1989ish.. which is amazing considering what very basic tech they had naturally relying on very good hardware & instruments compared to what is possible today. behind me is the result of my Goa-mania.. as i currently have at least 500 odd releases of all genres within the Goa spirit.. all paid for in full store price mostly in Tokyo where I have lived out what is still perhaps regarded as the best psytrance scene.. although i have taken an indefinite hiatus from the dance community & now more or less take matters into my own hands & enjoy it at a personal level. so, now tryin to get back to the point here.. i look back and can only fathom what garbage CD manufacturing has caused.. no different that any type of plastic-based business. im no genius recycle artist either tho thought up some ways i could maybe make a table or some towering prismatic modern art out of those bludy jewel-cases but it never happened.. back then if u went to an average CD store u could buy a box of jewel-cases for say 20cents a piece, without considering the current currency crisis of the Dollar. then comes these digi-paks that take alot more effort in discarding.. as theres 100s of them behind me now with the beautiful addictive art we will naturally be seeing alot less of in these so-called times of recession. at ones point i mutilated all my Spirit Zone releases that were mostly released on digi-pak so i could store them in a folder with a tracklisting like a normal jewel-case sleeve would provide.. then started to see digi-pak releases with the ‘Dj slip’ inside. it felt horrible of course but i was just buying way too much plastic.. i have become neurotic by nature dealing with CDs as if a surgeon.. compared to most ppl who dont care & scratch & fling their copies around as if a beer-coaster. when finger oil gets left behind that becomes fodder for mold & such that sometimes get mistook with static-electric stains. to somehow bring all this ranting to a halt.. my conclusion is what is to become of all this plastic crap once I have moved on to ‘the next life’.

    there is perhaps no solution to the trash as long as music is an obsession. the best effort i have seen was by artisit Bluetech & his homemade CD schemes.. whod print like 666 CDs & organic design covers personally signed & sealed in red wax, like the ancients. tho i have never been privileged to purchase one of his releases, alot of its digital contents are perhaps not so hard to find through various sources on the Internet.. which is a topic id like to touch upon lightly in a bit.. but generally avoid.

    another topic in your article is the never-ending battle of Quality.. every artist outputs at their own hertz so-to-say and the human ear can only manifest so much.. in the end one must question what is the point of digitally extracting a classic vinyl record & making it sound perfect. on a side-note i have this cute full-length Orbital DVD that has his playful skit of one of their tracks being played along a tour of a real glass-master CD factory from master start to packed truck finish. the workers who were all waving friendlily all looked like some nuclear engineer in that dust-free environment, which just bout says it all in terms of how this is all effecting our mentality, constantly drifting away from that ideal we hold inside of living one with nature.

    as you casually stated in the article about the ratio of listeners & actual buyers, this is a very contemporary issue. as mentioned i pride myself in having bought all my releases in respect to a better outcome, which never happened, & it didnt make me a better human in any way. i was against Piracy in general.. but when the last big record-shop in Tokyo that specialized new psytrance releases finally had shut-down.. psytrance has always proved to be the weakest in sales perhaps cuz of its eccentricity compared to everyday techo. hus i had to digest the reality of it.. as i somewhat was close to some of the employees who said piracy was a main factor, but what actually hurt them more was the shoplifters that would steal original in-store samples openly provided with good intentions.. this is Japan so ppl have less awareness in terms of being overly honest. in the outcome i have become somewhat a pirate myself.. we all have our glorified image away from the shores of Somalia of course. its been a couple years now & now i am technically the ‘resident-Dj’ of Paranoid Sounds which im sure you know of if ur Mr.Ektoplazm reading this now.. as we all worship your professional releases. although sadly, there has recently been some ‘Grinch’ in the net & has been taking down alot of sites.. i wont mention any names but GaiaBeat is perhaps the recent victim of this sad retaliation. the Internet has truly become a double-eged sword in many factions of society.. the question being are you going to wield it as a weapon of hate to stab your opposition down. or are you going to promote the peace & love & flowery shit most musicians do.. but still need to pay their equipment & travel fees off administering their false sense of accomplishment onto the fighting dancer.

    anyhow srry if that was just inconclusive rambling that ended up longer than the initial article.. currently Paranoid Sounds is under fire too & will just have to navigate out of the situation with the least amount of people angry & misdirecting losses.. im sure being a label manager you are bulletproof to such threats.

    thx 4the vibes,

    Ziro Japan

    ps>> not sure where this comment ends up, but if you would like to reply feel free to send me a thought to bakineko@gmail.com

    !CheerZ!

  • Rf says:

    I have no problem with Kunaki CDs obviously someone is really finicky about the superficial factors. As someone who still owns the CDs from as far back as 1994 I can say that they are not all the same, first of all most of them have a three letter coding such as DDD which is supposed to represent a certain level of “quality” which I never bothered to explore, second of all even CDs with similar codings suffer from mastering imperfections, varied sound levels and generic 3D artwork. So even these so called “CD-R” are far superior to CDs for which people shelled out premium “import” prices at major CD outlets from several years back.

    Do you plan to have other ways in which we can support your label besides purchasing audio CDs, maybe like t-shirts or art, what about large capacity DVDs with a choice of selected top rated titles in certain styles so that one disc could house many releases (7 or 8 on a modern dual layer DVD) with a nice cover to go?

  • Basilisk says:

    @Ziro: Thanks for writing such an in-depth comment! I have also escaped from my neurotic record collecting habits. In my case I was lucky enough to sell everything off a few years ago–back when there was still some demand. In fact, selling my extensive record collection has funded this web site for a couple of years! I think of it as my kind of recycling ;)

    @Rf: Eventually I will offer some new ways to support the site… right now I need to focus on finishing school. By summer I should have some idea of what happens next and I will certainly make a post about it.

  • Jeff says:

    Hi;

    I just tried Kunaki and while I was very happy with the printing of my artwork and the sound on all the tracks, the CD Text (artist name and song titles) were not present on the Kunaki produced CD! My master CD which I used for the Kunaki software, definitely has the CD Text on it because the CD text appears on my car CD player when I insert my master CD into it. So…I’m not at all sure how to resolve this? If Kunaki makes an exact bit-by-bit duplication of my master CD, why has the CD Text not been duplicated? Thanks very much! Jeff

  • Jay says:

    Kunaki does not seem to read mounted ISO.
    I don’t know if anyone else has had that experience.

  • Ziro says:

    Heya Basilisk something called me back to this article & thanks for the friendly reply. i just realized your reply came at a rather controversial time in Japan (2-3 days before the mega-quake that changed the worlds shape, literally) & thought id take the liberty of dishing out the old sack of emotions, as most who know how mouthy Ziro can be.

    all i can say is its been a long year & a half.. i was in Tokyo on the top floor of my mansion here at the time & it was undoubtedly the first time to experience such a violent quake.. where u literally see things being flung & bounced off the walls as if a paddle-ball.. as the quake changed the lives of many in japan & needless to say whats still going on at full trauma in Fukushima as i speak. i chose an ironic day to write this being the 67th anniversary day of the A-bomb in Hiroshima which will be followed by the Nagasaki memorial in a few days. whats unbelievable is apparently Harry Truman’s, the President that commanded the A-bombs onto Japan, grandson will be attending the Hiroshima memorial this year at the ‘peace-dome’ of whatever but due to the Olympic hype i could care less of, im not paying attention to any of the news this year.. which is unlike me who has alot of time to scour the Internet of daily evidence of how sad & sick & ignorant our world is.. & am planning to keep this custom of a week of mourning silence in the aftermath of August 6 1945.

    hopefully without getting into my personal life which i wind up dumping on alot of ppl who i meet here (online) & as i did a bit already above.. i been trawling this site again for stuff & noticed the news here with the upcoming shift you are planning & well.. im sure u know as well as anyone that making the best of ‘donations’ is controversial as it is.. & u & i both can ponder the irony in promoting a ‘free’ site into what seems like the rebirth of Michael Jackson & the next new kind of label of dance music. ill be honest & say i havent donated but more of ‘being there in spirit’ types maily cuz im against Internet currency/shopping which doesnt even exist anyhow.. we realize most ‘scene releases’ are juiced from a slutty CC anyways. i cant criticize ones passion & sense of momentum & direction but it just seems like a game of Othello where ur checker pieces are overwhelmed by surrounding enemy forces in hope to turn the tide in the last few spaces. i realize ur planning alot more than just renovation but even go as far as to creating a community if not a school for the next generation of fishy electro-froggers.. & despite i have my reservations into changing a interface that seems quite perfect to me, change is something we all desire.

    and as Master Buddha had said in one form or another, Existence is Suffering, caused by Desire.

    as i have said many times the Quake was a big wake-up call for me & cannot be more grateful other than the environmental chaos it has unleashed onto the poor Pacific Ocean.. which some new token of garbage appreciation being washed up onto west-coast USA along with many ghostly spirits. i care not to go into detail of the Nuclear Crisis but needless to say im very disappointed they restarted some Reactors along the Sea of Japan.. its currently mid-summer in japan now in scalding humid heat tho it seems Tokyo will somehow ride it out despite no Nuclear Reactors functioning in the vicinity.. i realize this is due to restarting a retired thermal-plant burning oil at the rate of Libya but it makes one wonder.. what all this addiction to Uranium is all about.. life is filled with travesty as it is. my life is based on nonstop irony, or coincidence it seems.. as just when u sent ur reply above i was most probably in a movie theatre watching Here After which is a psychic tale of a survivor of the massive Thai Tsunami which im sure u have some tales of since u seem to travel to Thai alot. the Tsunami here struck a few days after & the movie itself was banned from theatres a day after due to its graphic scene of monstrosity.. unlike the recent Batman incident which really blew my mind.. nowhere enough space to discuss that here.

    we live in a word where we lost count.. its not an incident anymore where its just a few killed by a madman.. but its even less of a concern when all the evidence is ‘washed away’.. who cares about the ocean anyhow. we forget far too easy, i guess is my point.. until its you yourself being put on trial.

    anyhow before the drags-on, again, i have mixed emotions onto your transition here but it seems the wheels are already turning & can only wish u all the best.. perhaps it is inevitable since Ektoplazm has truly created its own (slimy?) form over the years. id like to somehow conclude 67 years since ground-zero, being somewhat Japanese myself, & guessing you are in ur early 30s i feel our 30s generation is the vanishing point to where all our perceptions of WW2 dissolves.. meaning the 20s generation is less & less concerned about the consequences of War, may it be religious or ecological. in fact im completely disillusioned of the next generation.. setting aside all the Goa prodigies from Israel whom dont count.. just talking about the general self-righteous punk who seem to get less-spiritual all the time. perhaps this is stereotyping with 10 fingers too much but we arent blind to progression.. its like if u didnt listen to Pleiadians IFO & nearly crap your goa-pants from dancing like a samurai-sword.. why even bother to connect.. i for one am tired or trying to ‘open others’ minds’.. knowledge is best attained by yourself.

    thanks again & best wishes ekt ekt ekt..

    cheerz,

    Ziro Japan

    ps>> wrote that out to while enjoyin Irukanji (quirky name) Z-lisu 2009 wowy.. spectacular album.. & am currently making a compendium of all the bits & pieces of downtemp EPs & lookin forward to churn it all in the blender in the next few.. i been slimed!

  • Elizabeth says:

    When you use Kunaki, will they print the title of your CD on the spine, or did you have to type the title onto your artwork? Thanks.

  • Dave Turner says:

    Anyone who thinks that “the CD-R stigma is largely superstitious in nature” is deluded. This very statement brings this whole article into disrepute.
    CDrs (which is EXACTLY what this company make) WILL fail due to their very nature. Average lifespan for any CDr is 5-10 years. With 5 being the average. Real glass mastered CDs, with every packaging option you can imagine, are now available from most manufacturers from quantities as low as 100. Any money spent on ‘duplicated’ CDrs is a waste.

  • Askesis says:

    Hello Dave Turner,

    What manufacturers accepts only 100 units to do a Glass CD Master, for replicated CDs? I don’t find they. Since I seriously consider doing an order of maximum 100 cds.

    Thank you


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