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niki's avatar

How to create a label (music)?

Asked by niki (699 points ) January 7th, 2010

As a musician & songwriter (indie) myself, after reading a lot of articles & news about many artists/musicians nowadays seem to prefer creating their own music labels, I am now also curious to know on how to create a label (specifically, an indie label, not a major one)? and what important things, & steps needed to form one?
are there any “formal” procedures I have to follow?
or basically any artist/musician can just start creating one, if they wish?

thanks.

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6 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

I appllaud you for your sincerity…there are a lot of resources (websites, books, articles) on this sort of thing. You may want to research some textbook publishers that deal with music business, and/or music publishing, as a starting point. There are also some “tried and true” legal books for reference out there; one that I remember reading about 20 years ago that may still be updated is the Donald Passman book (can’t recall the exact title, something like “All you need to know about the Music Business).

Also, realize that in the post-millenial digital music era, you don’t necessarily need to strive for a “big label@ recording contract. You may find favor with smaller record labels and starting with online-only distribution. A couple of sites I recommend reading about:

http://creativecommons.org <—details a new kind of licensing that is an alternative to copyrighting.

http://www.tunecore.com <—an independent company that connects unsigned / independent artists to online storefronts such as amazon, iTunes, CD-baby, etc.

In spite of the downward market and an uncertain future for the “biz” as a whole, now is a great time for those with an entrepreneurial spirit and drive-you no longer have that singular option of “signing your soul to rock n’ roll” in order to male a comfortable living. But it does take a broader skills-set these days-managing your talent, keeping track of your financial affairs, being multimedia-savvy, and being able to understand the tech of digital recording. But if you’re truly dedicated, you’ll find that it’s a very exciting business to consider for a career, and now more than ever, a more “level” playing field.

sndfreQ's avatar

Also, you should try and first understand all of the roles that comprise a “true” record label. Most starting out are “boutique” labels that only have one or two acts. Realize all the branches of a company that are involved in producing the content, bringing the content to market, managing and promoting, other collateral (touring, merchandizing, global distribution, licensing music for other media, for example, movies, television, video games, corporate use, etc.), and the “straight up” business side just like any other business-finance, accounting, payroll, distribution, and publishing. Very rarely does a label survive without a multi-person team to handle all these aspects. So just realize that if you are serious about it, there will be a lot of “mouths to feed” to keep the business going.

sndfreQ's avatar

Oh yeah, and probably the big one for starters is, a strong (capable and experienced) legal team…contracts for almost every task in the business are the norm…and for all that you need good legal representation.

RareDenver's avatar

@niki This is something I’m also looking at doing hopefully sometime this summer, I haven’t the time now but I’ll be back with a rough guide to how I am going to go about it.

RareDenver's avatar

So I’m looking at starting a Digital Record Label (don’t want or need the cost of printing CD’s or Vinyl’s that may not sell)

First of all I think any small label needs to concentrate on a particular music style so if you are thinking of releasing tracks by artists other than yourself it would do good to ensure they complement the music you are producing. I’m going to be setting up an electronic dance label, so far with me and a couple mates as the artists and each artist will take the the vast majority of the royalties they produce leaving a little behind for the ongoing costs of running the label (this is something we need to get together and discuss, it may well be that it has to be a bit of a fluid arrangement to start with as we come across costs but we will try to keep them to a minimum)

Royalties? These come from sales and broadcasts on radio/TV and money from each comes in via different streams. In the UK the is an organisation called PRS for Music We’ll need to register our tracks with them and when/if they are broadcast then royalties will be generated and distributed to us 4 times a year. I don’t see anything coming from this in the short term so we will first concentrate on royalties from sales.

Website? As a digital only label this will be our shop front so to speak, luckily one of the guys involved works in IT and is very adept at this kind of thing and the website will be his baby so to speak, as far as hosting goes we are looking at a few firms like 1and1 or 34sp the site will have an online shop to buy tracks but most people don’t buy their tracks direct from a labels website so we’ll have to get them out to other site.

Selling Music? This is the difficult bit but we can at least get our tracks onto the popular sites like iTunes and Amazon without much hassle thanks to companies like Arists Without A Label they offer a distribution package which gets your music onto major online music stores and have distributed releases by Moby, Orbital, Chicane and Rosin Murphy so they know what they are doing. They don’t charge a fee but they do take 15% of all sales and pay balances out 4 times a year, sounds pretty fair to me.

So that’s what we are thinking of doing basically, I hope you found that useful or it gave you some ideas at least, any specific questions feel free to PM me.

Wish you all the best and lets stay in touch and see how we do.

forestGeek's avatar

I, along with a close friend, have been running my own record label since 1995, but I know I’ve had the pleasure (or pain) of doing it differently than most. I started it because I wanted to release my own band’s vinyl and cassettes for our tours. Being a hardcore punk band & label, there were never any expectations of making it “big”. We also never really feared getting ripped-off as there is not a lot of money involved and it’s non-cutthroat like much of the rest of the music industry. I really have always been in it for fun and love of the music only…we just never had to think about contracts, copyrights, lawyers, getting screwed, etc. That being said, I still learned a great deal about the music industry and how it all works, just on a smaller scale.

I personally wanted to learn all I could, and therefore I did, or was involved with every part of it myself, with exception of the actual pressing of the vinyl (though while on walk-through tour I even got a tour of the United Record Pressing plant in Nashville where we pressed most of our records).

So I started out with just putting out a single 7” record by my band. I of course was involved with the recording, but also the mixing and mastering of it. I created the art for the cover and spindle, got the quotes from the pressing plants, silk-screened covers and patches, printed stickers, and even assembled the finished product. It was a lot of hard work, but well worth it!

With the finished product, we made up press kits to send to venues. We started selling the records at our shows. I mapped out tour routes and got on the phone to the venues that housed our type of music, as well as other bands in the towns we wanted to play in. Setting up these tours were a lot of work, but the connections I made with each call soon became extremely valuable and even made friends for life.

These tours were not only a lot of fun, but the networking I did really helped me set up the distribution network I ended up using for years to come. Everywhere I went, I looked for other labels, bands, venue, record stores, info shops, etc. After a few tours, we had a really solid distribution network in which I knew I could rely on.

Then came the marketing. Besides the tours and this distro network we built, we also took any chance we could get to send our records and tapes to radio stations, zines and venues. We played live on the air at a local radio station. We screened our own t-shirts and gave many out at shows. We printed a shit-ton of stickers and gave them out or plastered them everywhere we went. Any show we or any other band we released ever had, we would create flyers and post them all over the city. Whether people liked us or not, they knew our name!

More recently I’ve taken to mySpace, twitter, Facebook, etc for networking and getting the word out. Being a hardcore punk label, I am on the fence about some of these outlets, but anyone not worried about the corporate scale of these I’m sure would highly benefit from them along with iTunes, Amazon, etc.

So here’s what I’ve learned with all this:
• Do it for fun and the love of the music first and foremost. Don’t ever forget why you started doing it in the first place.
• Be part of every aspect of the industry so you know what goes on and are less likely to get screwed or maybe can do it DIY for less.
• Network anywhere and anytime you can.
• Make as many connections in the industry as you can.
• Market the shit out of anything you do, in any way you can.
• Always be looking for the next, or new ways to promote both your bands and your label.

I hope this helps a little!

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