Three tips for starting a record label

Case1: You’re in a band and you’d like to release an album. You’re convinced of the quality of your work. Still, there is no record company that seems to be interested in giving you a deal.

Case 2: You have been involved in music all your life. You know lots of great bands in your area, but they all seem to struggle to get their name out. Also, you’re not convinced on the way most labels seem to operate.  You are convinced that you could create better alternatives that could help those bands and of course yourself.

I could sum up more examples, but I think these shall do. If you’re stuck in a situation where the music you make or like isn’t appreciated the solution is easier than you think; start your own record label!

Yes, it is hard work. You’ll have to start from the bottom and work your way up. You’ll have to be prepared to donate your free time to the exhausting techniques of marketing and promotion. But, it’s easier than ever. The Internet is the best possible platform to start up a business. Online record labels are taking over the traditional record labels as we speak. New social media and the Internet 2.0 have created products and services that can give you all the advantages of fast and quality promotion for a fraction of the cost of offline promotion. Here are three valuable tips for starting your own record label.

Define your goals

If you want to succeed with your record label you’ll have to make sure that you set goals. Even if you just want to independently release your own album. Creating a strategy that works is everything. It’s all about pre-planning. Take your time, sit down and write down all the goals you want to achieve. Think about the following things: What do you want to reach? Where do you want to be a year from now? Where do you plan to sell your records (online or offline)? How are you going to finance the production of the album? How much are you willing to invest? What genres do you want to represent? Are you going to do everything yourself? How are you going to promote your label and the artists?

Write all possible questions down and answer them carefully. In fact, what you’re creating is a informal business plan. Even if you’re the only one who ever sees it, it will be your personal guide to follow. Create your own steps to success.

Create deadlines

The most important factor for staying motivated is seeing your goals coming closer. This is incredible helpful and can make the difference between failure and success. Set deadlines for every aspect of your independent record company. Make these goals as concrete as possible. Some examples: Having 1000 fans on facebook by the end of this year. Releasing a first album by the end of august and sell 500 copies. Have your bands play a minimum of four shows every month, starting this summer. You see what we’re doing here? Don’t give yourself any alternatives. Create goals and deadlines and pursue them in every way possible. You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve if there’s just enough pressure.

Divide your label into departments

Every major record label is divided into different departments. This has a simple reason: it makes it so much easier to focus on every single aspect of the record business and creates a nicely arranged organization. It doesn’t matter if you’re in charge of all these departments. It is a way of keeping an overview of your goals and present yourself as professional to the outer world. I think the following departments are all equally important: tour marketing, production, promotion, sales/distribution.

  • Tour marketing: booking gigs, arranging a tour, promoting these gigs and tours, contacting venues, events and organizations, spreading a press-kit…
  • Production: looking for studios, producers, engineers, budgeting the recording of the album, arrange recording, mastering, artwork, publishing…
  •  Distribution: spreading the music online and offline, contacting record stores, selling music on gigs…
  • Promotion: online promotion through new social media (Facebook, Cd-baby, Twitter, Myspace, Bandcamp, blogs, website, …), contacting magazines, blogs, and newspapers for reviews, arranging interviews, making a video clip, merchandising, setting up a mailing list…

You can see how many tasks have to be done. By dividing them you have a better overview of what you already have achieved.

So to sum up: define your goals, create deadlines and divide the tasks by creating departments; follow these three steps and you’re on your way to create a successful record label.