Running Up That Hill… How Easy Is It To Start A Record Label?

It’s the career of dreams – money, fame, fortune, and rubbing elbows with Hollywood Elite…. or so you think. Just how easy is it to start your own record label, and what do you need to get your foot in the door? Stop in to learn a thing or two.

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How many people do you know that have contemplated a career in music at a certain point? Probably 100%, but once we discover that we have no discernible musical pedigree, we throw that dream away. But for those people who have a major passion for music, but don’t necessarily have the musical talent, they can still find their way into the music industry. Some people go via the production side, others may venture into music journalism. Today, we’re going to talk about those that decide to venture into the recording industry. If you want to nurture aspiring musicians and provide a platform for their creative output, a record label is something that’s needed in the modern age more than ever. With the changes in the musical landscape over the last 8 to 10 years, not just in terms of the styles and popularity of certain genres, but in the way music is now digested, a record label might not be seen as such an essential component of the music industry. But a record label isn’t just a way to distribute music, the right record label is able to develop new talent, and also support musicians in their hour of need. So how easy is it to start-up a record label?

Get The Boring Stuff Nailed First

It’s not particularly exciting to say that you need a solid business plan behind you, but when you think about the number of record labels that you might not have heard of that have gone under, it’s more than likely because they didn’t have a plan in place. Ensure that you have the smarts, not just to keep a business afloat, but also have the passion to push forward. You don’t have to be an amazing business person to thrive in the music industry, but it certainly provides a distinct advantage. When you look at the big record label owners, especially the big three, every owner, started out with nothing but a little bit of business acumen, passion, and a lot of luck.

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How Much Money Do You Need Behind You?

It’s all relative. The more money you can get behind you, the more you can invest into a base of operations, funding for the artists, while also paying yourself a wage you can live off of. Remember, you don’t actually need to pay for everything, and there are many record labels who didn’t pay their bands very well, while others split everything 50/50. Your instincts, in combination with some business smarts, will give you an inclination as to how much you will need at the very beginning. The costs do vary, based on what you want, but when it comes to distributing a track or promoting your acts, the idea is usually that the more money you have, the better. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Distribution is one of the major components of keeping your label alive, but this is probably the biggest expense on a constant basis. Now, it can be cheaper to distribute music digitally, which is a very sensible option at the beginning, but once you define what music you are selling, you can get a better idea of the fan base, and if they prefer to go to the record store and pick up vinyl, rather than download something digitally. In addition to this, while the internet has provided numerous ways to distribute music, it has also provided new and unique ways to acquire funding. Many artists have grown weary of the music business and set up their own crowdfunding campaigns to release their music. The money will certainly help you at the very beginning to keep your business alive, but when you are working with the artists, there can be a lot of fallout due to money, especially if you’re not upfront with your artists. A great example of this is what happened with the group TLC.

Following Your Instincts To Acquire The Talent

For all of the issues that can arise in relation to the money (make sure you get some good lawyers to help you craft those contracts!), you have to trust your instincts throughout the entire process. You’re running a record label that has talent you believe in. Now, there are so many musicians out there, vying for their piece of the pie, that you’ve got to put the hours in to find the right talent. This may mean open mic nights or tip-offs, or you scouring the internet at 3 in the morning for the next big thing. Don’t forget, even Justin Bieber was discovered on Youtube, and Shawn Mendes on Vine, so don’t count social media out! Let’s be upfront, the first year will always be the most difficult. You will be struggling for money, and trying to make ends meet, but if you have an artist you believe in, you have to go the extra mile to secure their trust. There are many stories about managers and record label owners who have put up artists in their homes, and this signifies the amount of dedication you would need to have as a record label owner.

Starting a record label, in essence, is easy, but we can all start one tomorrow, providing we have the know-how. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get the relevant information online, that you could start-up anything with adequate capital behind you. And if you have a passion for the music industry, and you want to see new talent on display, then a record label would certainly be a good option for you. But, it’s a lifestyle that is fraught with highs and lows, and you may not make much money at the very beginning. But, if you have the guts, determination, and the passion to push through, when all your other competitors are doing their best to leave you in the dirt, then this may very well be an entryway into a larger life. We hear so much about the music industry and how appallingly it treats its artists, maybe it’s time for you to fly the flag for the hundreds of independent labels out there that are trying to do one thing, and one thing only, get fantastic music out there. While we all had dreams of entering the music industry as teenagers, so few of us following through, because it is a major challenge, are you up to it?

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