Starting your own record label can be a daunting venture. With so much to think about, from design and promotion to finance and distribution, it’s not something to be undertaken lightly. However, with the right attitude, business sense, and (most importantly) the right music, it’s still possible to build your own record label from scratch with nothing but a bit of cash and a bundle of ambition.
Starting a label is a time-consuming and costly affair, and there’s a lot that can go wrong if you don’t have access to the right resources and advice. At MN2S we can assist with almost all aspects of the process, running everything from distribution to rights management. This allows you to focus on your creative vision, safe in the knowledge that everything else is being handled professionally by an agency with over 20 years of industry expertise.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is start. You can sit around all day dreaming of your perfectly-crafted debut release, fresh from a buzzworthy up-and-coming producer and pressed on 1000 copies of limited-edition turquoise 180g vinyl, but if you don’t sit down and make that first phone call, it’s never going to happen. If you believe in yourself and the music you want to release, then you’re halfway to starting a record label.
2. Find The Right Music
A record label is only as good as the music it puts out into the world. Without tunes that you know people will love, and most importantly that you love, you’re not going anywhere. Try to work with artists that share your creative vision, with whom you can build a personal relationship. Attempt to get a range of opinions on the music you aim to release – you might rate a record, but if nobody else does, you’re not going to get far. Your label should be aimed at sharing your music with a wide audience, and to achieve that there must be a demand for the music you want to represent. Get your releases professionally mixed and mastered, and don’t make any compromises on quality. Most importantly, for your debut release, be sure to choose something extraordinary: you only get one first impression.
3. Know Your Motives
Why do you want to start a record label? Ask yourself this question before you begin. It’s good to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what you hope to achieve. The best labels started not from a from a desire to make money, but from an irrepressible urge to release music that the founders felt people needed to hear. Yes – it’s a business – and like any business, it’s at least partly aimed at making a profit. But the truth is, you’re more likely to be financially successful if you focus first and foremost on building your label around quality music that you believe in, that both you and your audience have a genuine connection with.
4. Build A Brand
The best record labels aren’t just record labels: they’re instantly recognisable brands that listeners closely identify with. Though it’s bought and sold, music isn’t merely a product or a commodity, it’s an art form that engages people on an emotional level. Consequently, record labels have a unique opportunity to form stronger connections through their brand than almost any other type of business. The most successful labels have carefully built brands that became symbols used by fans to create and project their identities. This unlimited possibility for brand engagement means that branding is one of the most important considerations in starting a record label. At MN2S we offer a range of services to labels aimed at helping create and maintain recognisable brands that project and promote your unique vision.
5. Establish A Visual Identity
Think of your favourite record label – what do you see? Chances are a visually striking logo springs to mind. From Atlantic to Warp Records, the most successful labels have a firmly established visual identity and aesthetic that consumers can easily recognise as the face of their brand. Before anyone hears your music, this is what they’ll see, and it’s one of the most important opportunities you’ll get to persuade people to give your releases a chance. It’s not only the logo that matters but everything from the font used in your press releases to the all-important album art on your first release. Details matter and listeners are more likely to respond to and identify with your brand if you have a distinctive aesthetic that stands out from the crowd. Whether that’s a plain black sleeve with an enigmatic stamp on the label or an outrageously psychedelic piece of graphic design, remains up to you – just make sure your visual identity is memorable, original and consistent. At MN2S we can provide expert assistance with design as part of a comprehensive label services and management package. Our design services cover artwork for digital, vinyl and CD releases, in addition to all marketing materials for digital and print, including posters, web banners, and email newsletters.
6. Create An Online Presence
Without a substantial online presence, any record label will struggle to build an audience and promote itself successfully. Effective use of social media and PR forms a fundamental part of any marketing strategy and can be invaluable in gaining the right kinds of exposure when starting a label. Create a Facebook, an Instagram, a Twitter page and hell, maybe even a MySpace. Build a website with a stunning design that represents exactly who you are. Get your releases into the hands of music journalists and influential bloggers that can appeal to the audience you’re aiming for. Develop buzzworthy PR campaigns that promote your music and get it noticed by the right people at the right time. Granted, these aren’t easy tasks to accomplish when you’re already focused on everything else that running a successful label requires – that’s where we come in. MN2S can assist in developing social media strategies, managing accounts and implementing campaigns across all platforms. Through our established network of PR, promotional and media contacts, we can also co-ordinate online coverage in addition to campaigns for TV, radio and print media.
7. Use The Right Distributor
Music distribution is one of the most important and least recognised aspects of running a record label. Partnering with the right distributor means getting your music into the right stores, on the right platforms, and in the right playlists so it has the chance to be heard, loved and purchased by as many listeners as possible. Since the advent of digital music and streaming services, digital music distribution has grown in both importance and complexity, becoming a key part of any record label’s business strategy. At MN2S we have a wealth of experience in all avenues of distribution, both digital and physical. Our global distribution network is built on firmly established relationships with retailers and streaming platforms, ensuring prominent placement for any release and giving your music the exposure it deserves.
8. Sweat The Small Stuff
It’s easy to romanticise the idea of starting a label, envisioning swift financial success, lavish album-launch parties, and gold-lettered invitations to the Grammys. The truth is, though, that 99% of your day-to-day grind won’t even come close. Like any business venture, starting a label involves a whole lot of administrative and legal minutiae that can’t simply be glossed over. Without attention to detail and the willingness to spend time mastering the hard stuff, your label isn’t likely to succeed as a business. Admittedly, most people don’t start a label out of a desire to pore over contracts and become uncomfortably acquainted with Microsoft Excel – they have a creative and artistic vision that they’re busy following. Partnering with MN2S means that you can focus on that vision while we take care of almost everything else. With decades of music industry expertise to draw from, we can provide legal and business services, advice on licensing and sync, alongside assistance with accounts, rights management, and royalties.
9. Be Persistent
No one ever said it would be easy. Starting a label is not without its risks and challenges, and as with any business venture, there’s a real possibility of failure. Be prepared to suffer setbacks and be willing to overcome them in any way possible. Though ambition is beneficial, it’s best to manage your expectations – don’t expect to become Columbia Records overnight. Keep a consistent release schedule and don’t give up if your first few releases don’t gain much traction. Try to grow your label organically, and don’t push to expand at the expense of your artistic vision. The key to success is determination.
10. Do It Yourself
The most important thing to remember is that you’ve got to make this happen yourself. Often, when starting out on your own, you’ve got to take on a variety of roles: financier, organiser, promoter, negotiator, manager. Partnering with the right people can help you get off the ground and keep things running smoothly, but ultimately your success will be determined by your willingness to give your all and do it yourself, making no compromises along the way. Get going.
MN2S offers a variety of services aimed at helping record labels succeed in the global market. In addition to providing invaluable industry expertise, we assist labels in distribution, rights management, promotion, social media, legal, licensing and design, enabling you to maximise revenue while fully realising your creative vision. Find out more here.