Inside the mind of a label services expert | Features | MN2S

As distribution manager for MN2S’ label services department, Chris James works with dozens of labels every day – from titans of dance music like Def Mix through to newcomers like ColorsLDN and all in between. We picked his brains on all label services related matters to get some expert insight.

What’s your background in labels? Where did you work before heading up MN2S’ label services department?

I came to work in the music industry as a producer wanting to learn the ins and outs. Before MN2S I worked with Gusto Records, part of Gut Records, and also Lock N Load Events. I run my own label, Sketch Records, with a friend. We had an intense period of releases and events a while ago now and are planning to re-launch the label soon.

What does your role as distribution manager at MN2S label services involve doing on a day-to-day basis?

A typical day will involve checking and then delivering releases to online stores and physical distributors, signing new labels to MN2S, negotiating the best terms for compilation licenses on behalf of our labels, pushing releases at retail for featuring, giving advice to clients.

When people say “there’s no money in running a label anymore” – what do you say to them?

Yes, there is – when a label is run the right way. We have many successful labels that have started from their first release with us, and others that have joined us at a more developed point. There are some key aspects that they all share, which are a consistent and regular release schedule, strategically including artists/remixers with an established following, pushing the label brand where possible at events, putting time and effort into their social media, and of course releasing great music!

What’s the most common mistake you see new labels make?

It’s wise to plan as many releases as possible before launching the label, so the mastering, artwork, promotion can begin without rushing or causing delays. Releasing vinyl gives labels a certain cachet but can be expensive if approached in a gung-ho manner. Being committed to putting in the effort and understanding the method to building a label are very important too.

What styles / sub-genres do you find are particularly in demand in the sync and licensing work you do?

It’s very varied, as clients from a huge variety of industries come to MN2S for these services with their respective requirements. Our established reputation in dance music means this is where we see most activity.

You work on physical as well as digital distribution. From your perspective, is the vinyl market as burgeoning as everyone says it is?

All the indications are that there is an increase in demand for vinyl right now. I think it will take some time to see if this develops into sustained growth but we’re working with our labels to make sure they benefit.

Where do you think we stand in the fight against piracy? Have we turned a corner or is it as bad as ever?

It’s hard to measure accurately. Anecdotally, I’d say progress has been made and the increased awareness of the issue with ISPs, law enforcement and the general public will continue to make illegal file sharing harder over time.

What tools / services do you recommend to clients to help prevent or reduce piracy?

There are several services out there that our clients work with – MUSO and Ripblock are good places to start.

What new developments in the music industry do you think labels should be excited about right now?

It’s never been easier, quicker and more cost-effective to start and run a label; technology and a revolution in the relationship between label and distributor has brought about this new egalitarianism, which is great for music, artists and consumers.

Where do you stand on the streaming debate?

Having weighed up the pros and cons for our labels, we feel it’s important for content to be on the major streaming sites. We deliver to Spotify, Deezer and so on and the recently launched Beatport streaming service.

What do you think royalty collection societies need to do to better represent underground dance music?

Until very recently, the major public performance space for underground dance music where collections societies had effectively no presence were, of course, clubs. There is now a discussion going on as to how to collect this performance data and when a system is in place, labels and artists will be able to earn royalties, as with music that is played on radio/TV.

Do you think major labels have modernised sufficiently or are they still too slow to adapt?

Like any business, major labels need to provide something that people want and so far it seems they do. Majors are nothing like they used to be in the heyday of CD album sales, and it remains to be seen if they will last in the form we see them currently.

Click to find out more about MN2S label services.

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