With iTunes Sales rocketing to the moon and continuous clips of Lady Gaga, Pitbull, T-Pain, Katy Perry, Adele etc… playing on your TV set day in and day out its hard not to be influenced in being part of the fun and wild Music Industry. You have the talent, you have access to a recording studio and you have learnt a thing or two about uploading your music to your Youtube page. This nowadays is not enough, we show you the BluePrint formula used to create a Successful Record Label.
Think ahead. Although many successful record labels started off with someone winging it, there are many that fail for that very same reason: poor planning. Creating a record label is a business and a full time job. Consider the following before you start one:
Cash flow. Do you have enough money to pay for manufacturing? What about promotional materials? It’ll be a while before you get any money back from records selling (if they sell at all). You might need a grant or a loan to hold you over. Some labels raise extra funds by putting on club nights or gigs. It’s recommended that you don’t quit your day job.
Business plan. Independent record labels can take off without a business plan, but you’ll need one eventually, so why not write one now, when it’ll benefit your business the most? You’ll definitely need one if you want to apply for grants or loans, and it’s a good idea to have one if you ask people to invest in your business.
Licenses and forms. Think about how you want to structure your business: sole proprietorship? partnership? corporation? Get a business license and file appropriate tax forms. Register with any relevant organizations (e.g. Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society). You may also need a retail license if you’re selling records directly to the public.
If you decide to work with a partner or partners, ideally you will want to work with people you can rely on, trust, share and receive information with and most importantly people you can get along with. Working with friends is great but remember and remind them it has to be as professional and timely as possible, especially in the beginning stages because this is where a company can fall apart and end altogether. Having fun is always great for the job setting but there has to be a line in the sand which all parties cannot cross.
Office space, you can get by with just a post office box and a business phone number, or you could establish a complete office, if you have the funds. You can build your own studio or pay for studio time somewhere else.
Choose a name. Brainstorm 5-10 good names that you feel will fit your business. You need to tell people who you are and the type of music you produce. In short your business name should say it all. The reason for choosing a number of names for your record label is that if one is taken you can still fall back on the others and not have to waste time rethinking your names.
Go to a domain name registry and see if any if these names are already taken. Try for .com and .net as these are the most popular and visitors will be familiar with them. This quick check will let you know if anyone has the names already online and will help you with your ultimate choice.
Consult local government (the State Registrar in the US) to check if any offline businesses have these names. This will ensure that you are the sole user and nobody can infringe on your rights. It also stops you from any unpleasant lawsuits later on if people contend your rights to use a business name.
Select one unique name. Choose the best name from among the ones that you are left with. Remember it needs to be one that is appropriate for your business and music. Register a domain name for your upcoming website. It is important to do this quickly before it gets taken by someone else. When you register your domain name, always get both .com and .net so that nobody can have a similar name to you and leech off your marketing efforts.
Register the name with the appropriate authorities. This will make sure that this is exclusively your own business name and will protect your rights. You may need to file for a DBA (doing business as) license so you can identify with your label’s name when conducting business (accepting and making payments, for example).
Design a logo. You might also want to print stickers, posters, stationary, business cards, etc.
Corner your market. Choose and study your genre. Sit down, either alone or with your partner(s) and think of the style(s) you want your record label to be. It would be best if you picked a style that you are very familiar with and have extensive knowledge about. Musicians don’t like being forced into a box, but choosing and sticking with a particular genre helps a record label know their market (who buys that genre) and build contacts with people who deal with that genre (record shop owners, DJs, journalists, etc.). Research your genre, and find out what it’s missing. Observe and predict trends. You need to fill a niche. Talk to local promoters, studio owners, music shops, distributors, journalists, and anyone who can offer insight about what’s hot and what’s not. Who is your target audience? How old are they? What are they buying? This is also good research for a business plan.
Find talent. Scour the local band scene and find bands who you think will earn your label a good reputation in your genre. You can’t compete with the big record labels, so you want to go for interesting records that slip under their radar but will be a hit with your specific market. After you find a band you feel is a great fit for your label, talk with the band or the band manager and offer a contract signing them to your label. The key word here is “sign”. That means you should have a contract for every artist, drawn up by a qualified lawyer. If a track or an artist gets big and you don’t have a contract, things can turn ugly, and your label might get the short end of the stick. Some labels don’t do contracts if there are one or two singles at stake, but insist on contracts when there’s an album deal on the table.
Record in a studio. If the artist doesn’t have a recording and you don’t have a studio, shop around. Look for an engineer who has experience in your genre and an owner you can work with. You might be paying for some or all of the studio time. Ask about lower rates if you block book time for two or three projects. It’s a good idea to have a producer there (you or a musician you trust) to make sure everything turns out well (and your money isn’t wasted). It can cost $150+/hour. If you pay for a portion or all of the recording, then you can withhold earnings from the band until you make back all the money you put into the recording, and you have more of a say in how the album sounds. This needs to go in the contract, though.
Promote the music. Your goal here is to do everything you can to chart locally. Make enough copies of the music to promote it as follows:
Contact local college radio stations – push to get your music played.
Send recordings to independent magazine and newspapers – hope for favorable reviews.
Put on great performances. The members of the audience will go home and tell their friends about your fabulous show.
Print your website address on the program so that you can attract your fans to the website and they will buy more.
Sell copes at the show. Make note of the songs that your live audience love and record them into a DVD or album of your greatest hits.
Sell them from your website and allow a sample to be downloaded from your site.
Make use of MySpace and YouTube to promote the music on a larger scale.
Give away free tickets to your upcoming concert.
You can even pitch the music for televisions shows, commercials, cell phones, video games, but get legal advice before licensing the music.
Press the product. Get the recordings mastered before sending them to a manufacturer, if at all possible. An experienced mastering engineer will know how to make the final product sound like an album rather than a collection of songs, making it more commercially viable. Ask around. Get quotes. The more copies you make, the lower the cost per copy. When choosing packaging, think about how retailers will display them. Ask distributors for advice.
In the US, each release will need a catalog number (usually a 3 letter abbreviation followed by the numbers, i.e. CJK415) and a universal product code (the barcode on the back of the product) to be seriously considered by distributors.
Sell the music to distributors. To get as much product on retail shelves as possible, you’ll need to convince distributors to help.
They will want to see that you’ve established some success on your own (charting locally, selling product on consignment, live shows, mail order and other direct sales methods) before they even consider carrying your music. Here are some questions you will want to have answers for before you even contact a distributor:
Has the artist had any success with established mainstream labels?
Does the artist have a following, if so, how well known are they?
If the artist is unknown, what specific promotion ideas does the label have?
Are there any well known “guest” musicians on the recording?
Does the recording, and artwork meet the standards of the musical genre?
Is there any current airplay on commercial or non-commercial radio?
Will there be independent promotion on the release to retail and to radio?
Has the artist hired a publicist, and/or what is the publicity campaign?
Will the artist be touring in support of their release, and is there a schedule?
Does the label have the financial resources to provide “co-op” advertising, in which the record label and retailer split the cost of media ads?
Does the label have the financial resources to press additional product?
Does the label have a salable “back catalog” of proven sellers?
How much product from the label is already out in the stores?
Does the label have other distributors selling the same product?
What are the next releases from the label, and when are they coming out?
Product is sold to distributors for about 50% of the list price, and is accepted on a negotiable billing schedule of 60 – 120 days per invoice. The label usually pays for shipping charges. Most national distributors require that they are the only distributor of a particular product. You might also be required to pay for advertising on the distributor’s monthly newsletters, and/or update sheets, as well as catalogs (costs subtracted from invoice).
You’ll also need to give them a negotiated number of free copies for promotional purposes, along with “Distributor One Sheets” (fact sheets with promotion and marketing plans and price information) and “P.O.P.”s (Point of Purchase) items, like posters, flyers, cardboard standups etc., for in-store display.
Distributor One Sheets should have the following information on a single sheet: label’s logo and contact information, artist name/logo, catalog # and UPC code (barcode), list price (i.e. $15.98) of each available format, release date (to radio), street date (for retailers, if different from release date), brief artist background description, selling points (discounts, marketing, and promotion plans).
All promotional product need to have the artwork punched, clipped, or drilled” to make sure that they aren’t returned to the distributor as “cleans” (retail product).
Keep your fingers crossed. In the music industry, it’s often hit or miss. Hopefully, the music will connect with your market and sales will take off, but some of your music, sooner or later, will bomb. Try to make it so that the big successes cover the losses, with extra left over to pay for operating expenses (and your own paycheck, so you can keep doing what you love without starving).