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How would you run a record label??
Old 9th January 2003
  #1
Lives for gear
 
atticus's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
How would you run a record label??

I suppose that the falls under the category of music biz politics, so here goes. How would you all set up and run a label if you were starting from scratch? Everyone on the forum here has to deal with the music industry in some way, so if you had to start a label what would you do? Would your label have a studio in house and all kinds of propriety gear as EMI and all of the other labels had for so long? Would musicians be treated differently? What kind of music? I'm curious to hear your opinions and ideas.
Old 9th January 2003
  #2
Lives for gear
 
atticus's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thats sad, but true heh
Old 9th January 2003
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
cram's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Unless you need the write-off. rollz

I would never even consider starting a label unless I had a few things in place first.

1. Market research, what is steadily selling in your market? Is your market local, regional, national, global? This leads to:

2. Distribution. This is the single most important service a label provides. Without it a label is just a name on a business card.

3. Money, credit, loan, whatever. You need capital for every aspect of running a label. Every little thing costs.

4. Staff. It's suicide to try to do it all by yourself.

5. Connections. If you have an inside track to mastering houses, dupe houses, print houses, agencies, session musicians, drug dealers, etc. You will get 'buddy' prices, 'buddy' deadlines, and 'buddy' consideration. This is VERY VERY important.

6. Contracts/forms/protection. This means Attorney's. Learn it, know it, live it.

7. Records. Not the fun kind. Get an accountant.

8. Street Teams. Free Labor.

9. A patient, understanding, loving, forgiving, significant other.

10. Desire. Without a love for what you are doing, you are doomed.

BTW, none of these things are independent. Without all of these things together, you will fail.

Have a nice day!
Old 9th January 2003
  #4
Lives for gear
 
atticus's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
All great points, but I'm curious about the concept, not just the business. How would you make your label better than the others?
Old 9th January 2003
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
cram's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
?? ??

I guess I need to go back to my one-liner replies.

Quote:
How would you make your label better than the others?
I would sell better music.
Old 10th January 2003
  #6
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I'd sign artists that have something interesting to say and can actually play and sing... heh
...but then I'd probably go bankrupt!

I might do it anyway someday sooner than later...
Old 10th January 2003
  #7
Founder
 
Jules's Avatar
Well both running a record label & long term cocaine use have been described in the same way..

You might as well sit under a cold shower and rip up $100 bills - you would get the same effect!

Old 10th January 2003
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
ghoost's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Dave ...

How timely you are with current events ... rollz

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/10/bu...odaysheadlines

Anybody think we could get TM to log in on this question .... heh
Old 10th January 2003
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Midlandmorgan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
How would I run it? I'd run it into the ground...I have no real issue behind the board working musical genre I don't necessarily enjoy (or even stomach...) BUT I think there would be a real conflict if I were responsible for SELLING stuff like that...and, my tastes/preferences in music have a proven track record of not having any real mass appeal...

So, in a short amount of time, I'd be shifting from saying, "Let's get this released in the summer with a big push in the Southwest" to saying, "You want fries with that?"
Old 10th January 2003
  #10
no ssl yet
Guest
All of the replies have been of extreme validity. Especially Tom's. I'd like to add that since I don't know the type of music or what your market is It's hard to give a true answer.

I'd give advice common in all new ventures

BE EXTREMELY AWARE OF THE BREAK EVEN POINT AND BOTTOM LINE.

Keep overhead as low as possible (be thrifty but not cheap)

Have great product.

Spend less than u make

Work 12 to 16hour days telling everyone you ever encounter about your product and where it is available.


You can make money. The question is how much you need to make to feel you are where u want to be.


And this next comment applies only to the music business


PAY YOUR ****IN ARTISTS!!!!!!!!
Old 10th January 2003
  #11
Here for the gear
 
Nutmeg's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Conections are one big issue!
Best way to start a lable, publishing or management is probably to start on the other side as artist.
That way you'll know the biz, people and needs of your later clients.
But in case hat you don't change your mind and still want to start biz this days here is a link with some advises: Starpolish
Old 10th January 2003
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I follow the "Lead horse" theory. That's "leed" not "led".

The only way to make a label work at this point is to get a hit quickly. Either by signing an existing recording artist with some previous exposure and great potential, but who has been mishandled, or have extreme faith in your instincts and sign a new artist.

Either way, to get off the ground you're going to have to put most of your eggs in that one basket and hope to connect, because the cost of getting an artist noticed is so high, spreading your resources around will get you nowhere fast.

If, and I emphasize IF , you click to a reasonable degree early on, you will have created a lead horse that can pull your entire label forward with some commercial credibility, and help create opportunites for other artists on the roster. But spreading the love around evenly right out of the gate will likely have you pushing up daisies in no time.

Frankly, a hit on an existing artist who has had a bit of success but had a bad label relationship and needs a fresh injection of cash and belief is likely the best course, IMO.

The odds are greatly against any given label startup. I've watched several here in Nashville funded by actual billionaires and staffed by talented veterans bite it, even when country music was riding high on a wave.

It's tough. Oh, and one last thing. If this is not already true, it soon will be. TV will soon be more important in breaking a new act than radio. Don't believe me? You try selling 2 million units on O-Town without television. Not.

Replace the word "Entertainer" with the word "Artist". That's where it's going. I'm not saying I like it, mind you.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 10th January 2003
  #13
Founder
 
Jules's Avatar
I might 'have to' start a lable as a spring board for artists I publish. releases would probably be loss making 3 song 'singles' destined for alt rock / indie ariplay. The WHOLE idea would be that a bigger lable would swoop in and pay me some 'f**k off" money for the masters and to reliquish my rights to release the material in future.. God forbid I release a single that actually SELLS! (immagine what a nightmare THAT would be!)..... kidding of course...

Pressing
artwork
studio time
Plugger
Press person
Freelance 'lable manager'

Probably burn up Β£2k or Β£3k UK pounds MINIMUM per release

Old 10th January 2003
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
In the US, it's about $1,000,000 to get a single on a new act to #1 Hot 100. No, I'm not kidding or guessing.


Regards,
Brian T
Old 10th January 2003
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Eeeeek! My post about the importance of TV earlier in this thread seems so sadly true.

Sony just tapped an NBC exec with absolutely no prior music experience to head up Sony Music.

All I can say is "Wow". And we wonder why the music biz is in the crapper?

Check out the article here


Regards,
Brian T
Old 10th January 2003
  #16
Founder
 
Jules's Avatar
grudge
Old 10th January 2003
  #17
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
I would have expected that w/ the Hot 100. How much does it cost to break an indie record on college radio? On Adult Album Alternative?

Bear
Old 11th January 2003
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
ghoost's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by BrianT

Sony just tapped an NBC exec with absolutely no prior music experience to head up Sony Music.

Check out the article here

UNBELIEVABLE ..... Brian .. you are indeed prophetic ....
Old 11th January 2003
  #19
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Here's hoping that TV guy will turn out to be a breath of fresh air who can delegate production rather than micromanaging it himself!

The highest paid person at most labels is the head of sales. You need to hire somebody having both serious street credibility and some serious favors they can call in when the right occasion presents its self. Probably the only way you'd ever get the right person for a new label is to offer them a full partnership.
Old 12th January 2003
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
How will I run a record label?? Hmm...

First off, I will bundle most of the chores on Tom Cram's list into a bag, and hand that all off to the major distributers, and work backwards from there. IOW: Start an indie label geared towards luring distribution contracts with majors.

That takes all kinds of dirty work off my hands from the get go.

Now we need to:
1) Build (or have an existing) studio capable of producing "pro" sounding product,
2) Have a small team of collaborators that can compose/produce/engineer great music,
3) Recruit promising vocalists to sing and be the "stars,"
4) Sign on with an agent/management agency/entertainment att'y type who is "plugged into The Matrix," who can effectively market these products and services to the entertainment industry at large, as well as coordinate the financial/legal/accounting services needed.

Now: Back up, and look again at the phrase "to the entertainment industry at large," - - that means not just "getting signed," but procuring publishing and licensing situations for any and all music that is coming out of this "boutique studio label" as I like to think of it as.

So yes, we can get our singers "signed" if they are up to that. But we are also marketing the music to film, TV, advertising, established artists on "other" labels, etc...as well as any other "out-of-the-box" applications we can possibly dream up. Take a look at ALL of the markets and ask, "Who needs music?" And supply them with it.

Some basic photography/graphic design/video capabilities will be done in-house, to whet the appetites of any interested investors/partners/clients. IOW: add PhotoShop, QuarkXpress and Final Cut Pro to the computer along with the Pro Tools app. Get visual. "Perception is reality" (Andy Warhol).

So, we have this "factory" that combines raw musical and engineering talent with undiscovered vocal talent; Create exciting and contemporary works of sound-art; Produce it, conceptualize the image, package it to the prototype stage, and farm it off to the major distribution outlets.

That's pretty much what we're attempting here with Curve Dominant.
Old 13th January 2003
  #21
Gear Nut
 
🎧 15 years
My dream is to one day own a "Successful" record label. I'm taking it one step at a time. Right now it's all based out of my home. I'm building my studio and working on songs as well as coming into contact with some of the most gifted artists I've ever heard.

The reason I decided to start my own record label is that I didn't have any desire to become a slave to any of the existing ones. My best freind and cofounder actually turned down a deal with one of the biggest artists in our genera for the same reason.

Nowadays people hear music with their eyes (The Sony thing makes sense). But I want people to feel the music so I'm taking obsacles out of the way. Check out our first offering and our mission at 7Psalms.com

We're just growing and relying mostly on word of mouth for now.
Old 13th January 2003
  #22
There is only one
 
alphajerk's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
i would just pick up a lot of the niche bands the majors are dropping that sell @ 250k each go around, spend wisely... make SOME money... let the artist do as they feel best with their music. slowly expand their audience, give them time to grow as artists. enjoy the music that results from it all.
Old 14th January 2003
  #23
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
To answer the question.
Try to get a reputation within the industry, then run side by side with a major, such as what Madonna's Maverick does. This allows much much better distribution, larger budgets if needed, and some bean counters to be accountable to. If you're doing your job well and making some money, then they "ideally" leave you alone.
Without a couple million $'s, it's pointless unless you want to work a town at a time.
And don't tie up younger artists in long deals or take their publishing hostage when you're an new indie. This is what runs new artists into the ground before they even start...people without experience, promising them the world, delivering nothing. Then well established (indie or majors) labels don't want to have anything to do with them with all that legal baggage...

I also think that what alphajerk said of picking up artists that can sell a few hundred k's...make their record's for sub 100k, and get them to open out on major tours negotiating little label tour support...which turns into cheap advertising as well recognition on radio spots/interviews, even if they aren't spinning your singles.

But my other statement is that I really am tired of people saying that they don't want to be a slave to the industry and that indie is the only way to go, etc. etc. Have any of you ever been an artist or a songwriter for a major label or publisher? I'm sure that if you were offered a $500k cash advance and another $500k to make the record, that your attitude may change. As well as I'm sure if you were offered a $300k advance by a publisher to write songs for a year, you wouldn't whine about it either?!

I'm not saying that there are any geniuses running the majors any more, but sometimes people get on this "indie" bandwagon, because it's the only option for them and they haven't nor will they ever have the opportunity to get signed by a major.
I truly believe that if you're writing amazing songs and content, that majors WILL or CAN be interested in you, and you WILL have the power to overpower the creative content, maybe not your image, but majors do leave their artist/songwriters alone with their music if they put out stuff that sells.

I know selling records isn't everything, but people wouldn't be making "labels" and "recording studios" if they didn't have an intention to distribute to as many as they could. Instead, they would buy a "home project studio" and burn some CDs and give them to there friends and family and be happy.

Professions that have a high "hobby" rate really have the propensity to give people premature authority or labels, such as I'm JoeBlow and I'm a professional singer/songwriter/producer/president/engineer/guitar player, making sure they leave out that they are the only ones involved in the operation.

I guess all I'm saying is, that why don't people try to work with majors and change the way the industry is within the majors, as they will be around for a while. We need some good music on records and on the radio for goodness sake!!
Old 14th January 2003
  #24
Mindreader
 
BevvyB's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I agree with whoever said don't do it.

I also agree with whoever said if someone hands you a million that you'd take it.
Old 14th January 2003
  #25
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
The thing about an advance is that it's like dotcom paper millions until the music has sold: it's not real money. It is actually a loan.

If someone were to be offering me a big advance, I'd be looking at the structure of the contract and be making sure that I don't have a better chance to make real money by other means. What percent of major label signings never show a profit? It's pretty substantial. And consider how long you can be held to your contract before being released from it. That can be several years having made real, take home money in another arrangement. Of course, you could be a runaway success in the majors, but the odds are against it.

Human nature is to take the money, but it isn't business sense. Creating a business structure that supports real artist income and educating your potential artists as to what you're offering would be an essential part of the sort of label plan I would devise.

Bear
Old 14th January 2003
  #26
Lives for gear
 
doug_hti's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Gone Fission
The thing about an advance is that it's like dotcom paper millions until the music has sold: it's not real money. It is actually a loan.

Bear
I disagree about the "loan" part. I think advances are great for a couple reasons.
First, they are typically interest free. If you are SMART with your money, wouldn't you rather put that cash to work and do with it what you like.

Secondly, the album recoups the advance. I've never heard of any legitamate deals that make you pay back cash for an old advance. New albums will probably pick up past unrecouped advances (on the same deal), but that's the worst that can happen (TYPICALLY)

Third, when you get dropped from a deal or walk out, you keep that money, regardless if you album is out of print or selling one copy a week, never being recouped.

Fourth, with lawyers it's harder and harder for labels to keep you truly (always exceptions) stuck in a deal or to shelf you where they aren't marketing or putting some dollars in your project...A) they can't afford it as much anymore and B) Unless you've signed a deal without a lawyer looking at it, you can turn that into a breach of the contract on their part and you just hire a big gun lawyer and sue them out of the deal as well as career damages and loss of work, etc. But yes, some of these 1st time 7 album deals can be pretty rough.

Fifth, the way things are structured, the advance (typically) is the going to be the only money you'll see from that particular project for a while unless you've unexpectantly sold way more than the label's projection, in which they will find some way to not pay you until the next project, in which you're unrecouped once again.

However, you don't want to go for such a big advance that you're scared out of your mind everyday that you're not going to make the label the money that the bean counters need and get dropped before you've had a chance to prove yourself....but that pressure may be a bit more on the publishing side of things...

You also need a good size advance to hold the label or publisher accountable to pushing your stuff...and for them to show good faith that they REALLY DO believe in you. If not, they have the potential to lose interest SO SO much quicker and will not ride out any of the downs a career has.

And like other people are saying. THERE ARE MUCH MUCH BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN TO START A LABEL
Old 15th January 2003
  #27
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
I thought Ike Turner had legal trouble because he didn't provide product for advance money. But generally speaking, yeah, they don't come collecting it if you don't recoup. But it could be the only money you see for a few years, and after everyone's gotten their cut, it isn't as much as you think it is. Sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it isn't, and you've got to be a psychic sometimes to know which time is which.

Bear
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