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Premiere Issue December 2001

Product Development Technique
Basic Audio Tape Production

Although very, very slowly on the way out, the simple audio tape can still bring a great deal of money to your business. Not only that, it is extremely easy to create compared to other audio and video products.

My philosophy is to create informational products and giveaways that help push your agenda. I've sold as much as $32,000.00 worth of audio tapes at the back of the room on one speech and $8500.00 in one teleseminar. 

One of the easiest information products to create is the audio tape. You don't even have to know how to type to create an audio tape although it will be easier on you if you choose to write a script to use while recording your tape. 

Before we get into the details lets dispense with some myths:

Myth 1: You have to go to a studio and pay big hourly fees to create a decent audio tape

Tom's Response: I have only done one audio tape project in a studio. It worked out just fine and wasn't really that expensive in the long run. I think it cost about $40.00 per hour for a digital studio in someone's basement. If you practice before you get there you can save lots of time and money.

The rest of my audio tapes have been recorded in my office using my own equipment, or by the company providing the phone service when I was doing a telephone seminar. When necessary, I edited the tapes right on my personal computer with inexpensive software.

Myth 2: You must have music on the tape and make it sound like Nightingale Conant to be successful with audio tapes.

Tom's Response: None of my tapes have music on them. They are completely informational and sell around the world with virtually zero returns.

Myth 3: You need four color packaging and lots of expensive graphics so the product looks professional

Tom's Response: I make my packaging look as good as I can, but I never spend big money on graphics. About the most I've ever spent is $85.00 for an artist to draw a color picture for me which I scanned and used both on the web as an advertisement for the product and on the cover of the product. Want to see? Click here 

This is fairly easy
The human voice is just about the easiest thing to record. I have literally used a radio shack portable cassette recorder to create demonstration tapes and tapes for sale. You don't need the fanciest and most expensive recorders to create your products. Of course I recommend that you buy the best that you can afford because you will get a greater clarity with higher grade equipment . . . up to a point. 

You see there comes a point when the extra clarity and quality is not enough to be worth the extra expense. Also, when you consider that the tape will most likely be listened to in a car or while someone is jogging, the extra little increase in clarity (which may cost a bundle to get) is just not worth it.

Methods and equipment I use

Small TeleSeminar Recording
When I'm recording something at my home office here are the methods and equipment I use:

If I'm recording a small TeleSeminar, I usually use a Marantz portable cassette recorder. I use it just because I happened to buy it a long time ago when I had some extra money. You certainly don't need a $300.00 machine to do this.

I put it next to me on my desk where I can actually see the amount of tape left as the recording goes along. I'm also timing with my watch. I use a one hour tape which gives you 30 minutes on each side. During the seminar, when I see both by my watch and by the amount of tape left on the first side that it's time to turn the tape over, I call for a halt to the seminar. I come right out and say, "Let's hold it for a moment folks while I turn the tape over." This keeps me from missing anything that was said during the tape turnover.

I continue recording until I get near the end of the second side and then I take tight control of the seminar so that I finish up totally before the tape runs out. This really reduces or in most cases eliminates the need for extensive editing and recreation of things that didn't get on the original recording.

I then take this tape that I call "Original Footage" into my bedroom where my personal stereo is located. I have a dual cassette player/recorder as part of my stereo. This allows me to make copies of cassette tapes. I carefully load in the original footage tape and fast forward it to the end of side one. I locate the last thing I said on side one. I have already pre recorded another tape that says, "You have reached the end of side one. Please turn the cassette over to listen to side two."

I put the pre-recorded tape in one side of the dual cassette machine and copy the turn the tape over stuff on to the end of side one of the original footage.

I have another tape that has pre-recorded "You have reached the end of this tape please fast forward to be ready for your next listening."

A variation of the above would be, "You have reached the end of this tape please fast forward to the end and proceed to the next tape."

You could also do custom responses for each tape like, "You have reached the end of tape 1 side 2. Please fast forward to the end to prepare this tape for it's next listening and proceed to tape 2."

I then turn the original tape over to side 2 and fast forward to the last thing I say at the end of the tape. I then record one of the above closing statements on to the end of the original tape.

Once I have the original tape doctored up with the turn the tape over and closing statements, I make a regular speed dub. This means that I copy the original tape at regular speed on to a brand new high quality cassette. Of course, it is also an hour long tape. I use regular speed because that gives me the highest possible quality copy. This takes about an hour because it is copying at the same speed at which you recorded.

Next, I put the original tape into a fireproof media safe. The copy of it that I made is called the "dub master." This is the tape I'll use to make all other copies.  Remember, with audio tape you are eventually going to wear out the dub master. When it wears out, I make another regular speed copy off the original that was in the safe and begin using that copy as the dub master until it wears out and so on.

If you are on a budget and don't have money or time to wait to ship the tape out to a duplicator, then you can make copies one at a time on your home stereo. Most dual cassette decks have a high speed dub mode which will cut down on the time needed to make a copy or "dub."

If your sales volume increases somewhat you can purchase a small office size cassette duplicator. I use a Telex mono3|3463&id=3463 that cost me about $900.00 when I bought it, but they have smaller versions.

My duplicator makes three copies of an hour long tape and rewinds them  in about 4 minutes.

When I have a big job, I farm it out to a duplicating company. I recommend you find one near you to reduce the shipping costs. Look on the web or in your Yellow Pages under "audio tape duplication."

Regular or Bin Loop
If you are only doing a one shot deal for a couple hundred tapes you can just supply your dub master to the tape company and they will duplicate it from your master (they will probably make another dub master as a backup).

If you are doing large numbers of tapes or you expect to comeback for more copies regularly, you probably want to let the duplicating company prepare a "bin loop master." This is a special master that allows them to duplicate your tape at very high speed. This costs you more up front, but you save in the long run because the dubs are cheaper.

Record directly on to your computer
I don't normally record directly on my computer if I'm doing a live Teleseminar because I'm afraid of computer crashes which rarely if ever happen to a tape recorder. If I'm not doing an event live, I will most likely record directly onto the hard drive of my computer. This will immediately create a high quality digital file.

I know Macs can do this easily although I don't know how. On a PC the record capability is included with Windows. It's called the sound recorder and can be found by clicking Start > Programs > Accessories > Entertainment > Sound Recorder. This is definitely the "el cheapo" method and I don't recommend it because you don't have much control over the sound quality.

I use an $80.00 program called Sound Forge XP. You can find it at This is a streamlined version of their professional grade sound editing software that is far too sophisticated for our needs. You will have a little learning curve with this software, especially if you have never edited sound before on a computer. I can tell you though, once you get the hang of it, it's really fun and cool. You can actually see your voice on the screen and cut and paste just like with a word processor.

Let's say you stumble over a word during a speech or teleseminar and then correct yourself. You simply highlight the stumble, hit delete and it's as if the stumble never happened.

You can also adjust the sound quality by adjusting the different frequencies. For instance one time my voice was recorded over the phone lines and it had a high frequency noise on the tape. By using the Equalization (EQ) part of the software I was able to completely remove the annoying sound. This takes a little experimentation, but you don't have to be any great expert to do it.

Large TeleSeminar recording
I generally have the TelePhone bridge company record my seminars now. The reason is that I've got plenty of money and it takes the recording load off my mind. I can better concentrate on emails coming in from participants during the seminar and the seminar itself. I happen to presently use for my large TeleSeminars.

The microphone for TelePhone seminars is obviously the telephone microphone. I use a Plantronics headset microphone, but I have found overall that their reliability is in question. I've been fortunate not to have a problem during a TeleSeminar.

For direct recordings again, you don't have to have the best of the best to make this work. My Butt Camp CD was recorded with a $9.95 headset microphone I got at Radio Shack. 

I highly recommend that you use a headset microphone because it is just more handy. It leaves your hands free to manipulate your notes without stopping or making excess noise. Also if you are doing TeleSeminars headsets are much less tiring than trying to hold a handset to your head. 

If you can afford a really high quality microphone and don't mind spending a few bucks you can visit a large music store and try out ones like the rock stars use. You'll have to adapt the connections to use it in your computer. This is generally overkill, but be my guest if money isn't an issue.

When recording a TelePhone seminar I take the telephone cord that is coming out of the wall and put a "Y" adapter on it. I send one part of the "Y" to the telephone and the other part of the "Y" to the recorder. Make sure you test this out thoroughly before you try a live TeleSeminar. If in any doubt about the connections, take the recorder and your telephone to Radio Shack and ask them to help you with the connections. Just ask them what connections you need. You probably will only need the "y" adapter and a few short telephone lines. Bring the entire deal home and test, test, test with a friend calling you (make sure you tell them you are recording unless you want to end up like Linda Tripp of the Clinton era).

For direct recording to your computer you plug the microphone into the sound card that is in the back of your computer. There will be a very tiny icon (either a sticker or a picture of a microphone etched into the metal of the sound card) on the back of your computer. You might need a flashlight and a magnifying glass to find it. Once it's plugged in the right hole you can generally leave it there forever.

Other recording options
Two other recorders are being used that are very high quality. They are digital in nature instead of analog (analog generally means normal magnetic tape). Recording directly to a digital signal generally gives you a higher quality.

The first is a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) recorder and the second is the Sony Mini Disc.

Here's a link to compare a few DAT recorders They can be had for under $600.00

Here's a link for the Sony minidisc which can record up to 320 minutes at a shot for under $400.00 

Both of these machines have the advantage of being extremely portable, yet extremely high quality in their recordings. You can take them on the road with no problem and record speeches, interviews and the like.

Tips to get good sound quality at home

  • Record in a room with lots of clutter. This reduces echoes and harsh sounding sound.

  • Unplug your phones so they don't ring in the middle of your recording (although you can go back to your last sentence and record over the ringing using your Sound Forge XP software)

  • Turn off your air conditioner/heater. The background noise may be heard on your recording.

  • If you have lots of street noises you may want to record in your basement or at a time when their is the least traffic.

  • Some people sit in the doorway to their closet. Talking toward the hanging clothes makes a really good dead space with no echoes.

Well there you have it. A simple way to make extremely high profit information products that can make you a fortune.

Next month we'll talk about writing your script/outline and other ways to get content for your audio tape products

In future issues we'll discuss really cheap but gorgeous packaging for your tapes, CDs and other products.

Other upcoming topics

  • CD Production

  • Email courses

  • Ebooks

  • TeleSeminars

  • Consulting

  • Video Tapes

  • Webcasts

  • Radio Shows

  • Videoconferencing from home

  • Streaming audio courses

  • Streaming video courses

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