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Every music fan has a sparkle of a dream, of staring up a record label of your own, to produce music the right way--your way. With technology advancing, that dream seems easier to attain than ever. Anyone with a computer and a mic can produce music, and distribution is easier than ever with the rise of Spotify and the internet.
With accessibility, however, comes amateur mistakes. Now that so many people can make a record label, they fail to understand if they can maintain a label. Hard work goes into starting up a record label that can survive, but, with a few simple steps and necessities in mind, you can fulfill your music dreams the way you want.
Before you buy any equipment, before you register any names, you need a plan for your record label. You can't just dive into the business without having a few ideas cemented and established, after all.
First and foremost, what music are you planning on producing? This is fundamental. You need to know what genre of music you will be producing. Metal? Punk? Country? Your aesthetic will be established based on your genre to best represent the kind of music you will be churning out. Stick to your style. Stick to your aesthetic.
From there, you can begin the creative process of deciding your label's name, look, branding. You need to establish this all as a means to best depict what you as a company will be doing. Make sure you register and trademark your material before going public with it.
But there is more than just the branding of your record label every potential creator needs to consider. Are you going digital or physical with your records? Vinyl? CD? Pure MP3, straight onto Spotify? These are elements you need to consider when producing your label, as it will be a financial waste to have piles of dusty records piling up with no venue to sell them.
These days, websites are an essential feature of the branding and marketing world. It should be a center for you to sell the artists attributed to your label to the masses, a Mecca to buy all your merchandise and material. It is your domain.
So, you better design it well.
A good idea would be to hire someone else to help you design it. There are numerous web designers looking for work. However, it can't hurt to learn about web design. It may eventually fall on your shoulders to manage and produce the site and its features, so you will need to figure out at the very least a few basics.
If you are on a budget, though, use Squarespace.
Again, the site you make is important. Make sure it fits the aesthetic you have set for yourself. Your website is part of your record label's brand, so use it well.
Seems like a no-brainer that music would be an integral part of starting up a record label. You may be in a band. You may be friends with guys in a band. But, you need artists.
Once you have the talent, you need recording equipment. There are plenty of people publishing stuff in their bedrooms and garages, so you need to be a step above that. Buy real tools to help you make music. Even if you are on a budget, sound recording equipment is essential.
But let's say you have that. Great. Your music still isn't complete yet. Get in the habit of listening to your music from multiple different audio outputs. Earphones. Speakers. Inside your car.
The music will sound different depending on where you go, so you need to train your ear to decipher the whole sound of your music.
Oh, and get it Mastered.
Many casual labels don't Master their music correctly. They take the cheap route. Mastering your music professionally may be the key thing to make your music sound like something worth a customer's time. Look up a means to professionally Master your music, and do it. Nothing will kill your young record label faster than bad products.
Some people believe that if you produce a quality product, people will just flock to experience it. These people have never started a record label. Or, if they did, they had extraordinary luck - like, lottery winner levels of luck.
You need to familiarize yourself with your target audience. Know where they flock. You got to hit them there. Physical advertisements are nice. Booths at convention halls and the like work too.
But, you also need digital advertisements like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Familiarize yourself with these sites, and figure out how they work.
You need to stay personal with your audience, but not too personal. Remember your brand. Your aesthetic. This will be established in your social media presence. If you establish a familiar brand, people WILL know you. Recognize you.
And release press information in an appropriate measure. Don't swamp media sites with information. Be smart. Be clever. Be calculated.
One of the key things is to get your talent to perform live. Nothing will boost your record label more than public entertainment. You need to learn to negotiate and arrange these sorts of things with different public venues.
This requires research such as reading up on other people's experiences online. Some people go in blind, and hoping that trial and error will educate them on how to arrange these things right, but trial and error can crush a young record label before it can sprout wings and fly.
Do your homework. And don't take anyone's shit. Don't be rude, of course. You want to arrange connections and friendships throughout the field so you can better navigate the network of professionals, but you can't be a pushover. Pushovers don't close deals that get your performers live gigs.
Learn the Legality
Ah yes. The fun parts. You need to understand how contracts work, how to pay your talent, and how to file company tax returns.
Unfortunately, running a record label means you need to know how to do all of this stuff. It's the less fun, but essential, part of running a company of any kind. Learn. Hire a lawyer or accountant to help, but you need to know how to do all of this. You are now running a business. It is dangerous to trust any one person to run the finances for you.
Don't be paranoid. But don't be overly trusting, either. You are running a start-up record label. That's a company. The head of the company can't hand the keys to the castle to another person. That's your job.
Run your record label right.