Starting a label

Advice on everything from getting your music heard to setting up a label and royalties.

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Starting a label

Post by CaezarZinger »

Hi!

I am trying to start my own label as a producer and I want to know if there is any label owners here. I am not really certain of how and what I’m supposed to do in order to be able to start the label in the first place as far as preparations go. I just wanna know how you got customers and how much payment you take and/or if you have different sums depending on how many songs are being recorded? I want to know all the logistics that has to do with preparing the label so I can start making money on what I truly wanna work with in the future.

I’m also thankful for any tips you can give me!
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Re: Starting a label

Post by blinddrew »

I don't mean to sound rude here, but I think what you have is an idea, what you need is a business plan.
You need to have your own answers to all those questions you ask, and you need them calculated to work out what your returns are going to be.
You're thinking about entering a saturated and very competitive market, what's your Unique Selling Point (USP)? Why does someone come to you and not the established competition?
You need to be able to articulate why you're a better proposition for the artist, for all the third parties you'll need to work with, and for yourself.
I have worked with a label that thought, "If you build it, they will come." Was as good as a business plan. It wasn't.

Sorry to come across negatively, but you're basically asking, "How do I run a business?" and that's not something that can be answered in a forum post.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by rockydennis »

I have no idea. But taking a quick look on Amazon - there's a few well reviewed books on the very subject. So maybe start there?
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=start+record+label
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Re: Starting a label

Post by BJG145 »

SOS ran a seven-part series on this in 2002...

https://www.soundonsound.com/music-busi ... part-1#top

...and a later feature in 2007.

https://www.soundonsound.com/music-busi ... cord-label

No doubt the landscape has changed since then but I expect there's still a lot of solid info.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by James Perrett »

This is a big subject - but plenty of labels started knowing very little. There's a great documentary on the early days of Rough Trade which might be worth watching.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw99tWb3W38

It may also be worth saying that just about all the label people that I know are music fans rather than musicians. Running a record label is about selling rather than making records - labels employ geeks like us to make the records but they have the final say as to what actually gets released because they hopefully have a better idea of what sells well.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by gyates329 »

I am not a label owner but I aspire to be one or at least an executive producer. First steps are probably finding a name and paying to become an LLC. If I were to start a label I have worked with 100s of artist and musicians young and old signed and unsigned so that is where I would pull my customers from. I would also establish a pooling system or demo submissions. Labels usually own the masters and get broken off a piece of every sell each individual artist has. I would recommend working in the music industry for a while before starting your own label. It does cost quit a bit of money to start a label, you need business no how, and deep knowledge of how the industry works.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by Stickman0_3 »

Hi

I started my label with the help of the "Name Your Label" service offered by Ditto Music. Have you investigated that at all? it may be useful to talk to them.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by BigRedX »

IMO the most important thing you need to ask yourself about starting a label is: as a label what can I offer my artists that they can't already do themselves?

As an artist what I am looking for from a label is the following:

1. A publicity department that knows how to market my music in the most effective way, and has proven personal level industry contacts.

2. A publishing department that can get my music placed in the most appropriate TV shows and film soundtracks for my genre.

3. A known "house style" for a particular genre (or genres) of music. For small labels having a known style is one of the most effective ways of introducing new artists to fans of other artists on the label, to the point where the audience can buy any release, even by someone they've never heard of, and there is an excellent chance that it will be to their tastes. Like Factory Records in the 80s and more recently a label like MORR Music.

If you can't do those things there is little point to your label as these days anyone with a recording and $50 can get their music on all the big download and streaming services. What the label needs to do is to be able to direct the audience to the music.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by James Perrett »

I'm currently in the process of reading "All The Moves (but none of the licks)" by Clive Selwood. While it isn't an instruction manual, it is a very entertaining look at the music business from the point of view of someone who both ran their own labels (Dandelion and Strange Fruit) as well as worked for major labels in the 60's and 70's.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Moves-but- ... 0720611539

There is a short advice section for anyone thinking of starting their own label although the book came out just before digital distribution became prevalent so some of the advice is a bit dated.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by Mike McLoone »

CaezarZinger wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:14 pm I am trying to start my own label as a producer and I want to know if there is any label owners here.

Yes.

CaezarZinger wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:14 pm I am not really certain of how and what I’m supposed to do in order to be able to start the label in the first place as far as preparations go.

Register as a sole trader. Will depend on your country. In Germany it's arond 25 euros. Be aware you will then be required to keep accounts and do tax returns for your business as well as personal income tax returns each year (not fun).

Register a domain and throw up a simple website. Maybe 20 euro.

Go learn how to use DistroKid or CDBaby to get music on to Apple, Spotify, Amazon etc.

Congratulations, you're now a record label!

CaezarZinger wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:14 pm I just wanna know how you got customers and how much payment you take and/or if you have different sums depending on how many songs are being recorded?

Customers - It's mostly streaming and there is little money in streaming. But that's where the listeners/customers are.

Payment - Ummm, it sounds like you mean taking money from artists to record them, like a studio. That's not really what a record label does.

CaezarZinger wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:14 pm I want to know all the logistics that has to do with preparing the label so I can start making money on what I truly wanna work with in the future.

Don't we all! ;)

M.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by James Perrett »

Mike McLoone wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 12:02 pm
CaezarZinger wrote: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:14 pm I just wanna know how you got customers and how much payment you take and/or if you have different sums depending on how many songs are being recorded?

Customers - It's mostly streaming and there is little money in streaming. But that's where the listeners/customers are.

This is where it very much depends on your musical style. The main labels that I work for are selling an awful lot of vinyl and a reasonable number of CD's. Vinyl pressing plants are backed up for 4-5 months in Europe and even longer in the USA due to the phenomenal demand.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by Mike McLoone »

James Perrett wrote: Fri Jul 09, 2021 6:51 pm This is where it very much depends on your musical style. The main labels that I work for are selling an awful lot of vinyl and a reasonable number of CD's. Vinyl pressing plants are backed up for 4-5 months in Europe and even longer in the USA due to the phenomenal demand.

Certainly, some forms of music today are predominantly physical. Country music on CD being one example. Some techno purists still want vinyl. And yes there is a small avenue for novelty items, such as cassette.

However, by far, the vast majority of music sold or listened to today is digital download or streamed. This is shown in the RIAA statistics, just as an example:

https://www.riaa.com/u-s-sales-database/

If one is to get a label off the ground quickly (and cheaply), then bypassing the physical pressing of CDs and/or vinyl will save thousands. The added benefit is eliminating the risk of not being able to sell the physical product.

It should also be noted, that even if physical product is created, the physical AND streaming versions will also have to be made available. It's normal to include a download code with vinyl. Therefore the work and expense involved for pressing up a vinyl (around 3x more expensive than CD, incidentally), will also include mastering for streaming services and digital distribution with an aggregator such as CDBaby (who have now stopped selling CDs!). Plus the added cost for including the download codes. This adds up very quickly, and for someone just trying to get into the game, as the original poster, it's a significant financial risk.

The original poster also did not mention any genre. If they are concentrating on country music, then yes perhaps, get a CD pressed up. If it's techno, then maybe vinyl. However know where these are going to be sold before hand. Deals with the distributors who can get a CD or vinyl into high-street stores may also stipulate that they do the pressing themselves. So doing research before jumping in and creating product is essential.

From my own experience, giving out promo copies of a CD, the reaction inevitably is "Oh, a CD! I'm not sure I still have anything I can play it in. I think there was a CDROM drive in my old laptop which is gathering dust in the attic / garage (this varies, but invariably it's not plugged in and ready to go). Isn't it available on streaming?"

I've heard this so many times now, that I am beginning to believe the RIAA lies, aka statistics, do actually represent the shift in the music business.

Personally I love the CD; it's durable, PCM quality which beats almost all streaming services, no subscription, some chance for artwork & booklet. I discovered last week my Yamaha hi-fi amp will accept a firmware upgrade from an audio CD, connected over the SPDIF input (yes really!). One can even play back a DTS surround stream from the humble audio CD. It really is a fantastic format. Just not how most people listen to music these days.

Mike
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Re: Starting a label

Post by BWC »

Mike McLoone wrote: Sun Jul 11, 2021 9:52 am
...the reaction inevitably is "Oh, a CD! I'm not sure I still have anything I can play it in..."...

The modern equivalent is giving out cheap, small capacity USB drives, though those have issues of their own, and will still cost, so the point is valid. It's a good idea to know your target audience from the start, and be ready to cater to their preferences.
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Re: Starting a label

Post by Mike McLoone »

Apple have been dropping USB-A ports from their machines since 2016. But there are a few labels offering entire back catalogues of an artist, plus a few pictures and what not, on a USB stick for sale. These are too expensive to just give away like CDs though.

Also, there is the general advice that one should actually never insert a USB stick into ones computer if it's just been given to you (or you found it on the street). The problem being with hackers, this is a fantastic way to get a virus or malware onto your computer.

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Re: Starting a label

Post by BWC »

Mike McLoone wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 7:02 am Apple have been dropping USB-A ports...


Apple can do whatever they want, but I don't see USB compatibility, in some form or another, going away anytime soon, and there are usually plenty of adapters laying around if needed. I've also seen small drives with USB-C connectors.

Mike McLoone wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 7:02 am These are too expensive to just give away...


I don't know, for a large quantity of small capacity drives, there are some pretty cheap deals out there, even with logo printing. The ones with USB-C connectors are still too expensive though, for now.

Mike McLoone wrote: Mon Jul 12, 2021 7:02 am ...one should actually never insert a USB stick into ones computer if it's just been given to you (or you found it on the street).


Agreed. If only people knew, and actually followed, good security practices, the problems of malware, identity theft, etc. would be far less common, and no music given away on USB drives would ever be heard, but...

I actually don't think that there's much point to this sort of promotional tactic these days; I don't do it myself, and have no plans to do so in the future. Just saying, it's a more modern alternative to giving out CDs, and I wouldn't be surprised if some are promoting in this way.
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