Recording and releasing music by a new and/or unknown artist can be a very risky and costly venture especially with the current state of the record business. Whilst independent labels such as Domino are testament to what can be achieved, if you are considering starting a label on your own you need to be aware that there are far easier ways of making money!

The major recording companies are consolidating their assets to retain their position in the market, whilst the influence of supermarkets and digital stores means that recorded music is cheaper than ever to the consumer. Despite the early optimism that the Internet would provide a greater opportunity for independent labels to reach music fans, so far market conditions have not altered that much. In fact, as it stands less independent singles reach the Top 40 of the charts since all legitimate digital sales have been included.

People who have a real passion for music set up most small independent record labels. Often they are or have been artists themselves or are fans of a particular music genre or particular artist that they feel doesn’t get enough attention from the music buying public. Invariably being in it for any other reason, like a quick return on a financial investment is likely to end in disappointment. The rewards of owning your own independent record label, certainly in the early years, are more social and emotional than economic. Yet it can be a great way of developing a professional reputation, opening numerous doors into the industry or simply meeting other likeminded people and filling your spare time. And of course every now again one of the thousand or so small indie labels in the UK elevates itself from the pack with a band or a record that everyone wants. There is no reason why that label can’t be yours!

Running a label is a full time job (on top of the full-time job you may well have already). Most importantly, it requires tireless determination. You may want to set up your own record label for a couple of reasons:

  • The type of music you like is not readily available
  • You know of an artist who has potential and doesn’t have a record deal
  • You believe in a record and think it’s worth releasing
  • You are a composer / producer with material and want to release your own music
  • You may have been rejected by other labels but still believe your product is saleable
  • Your band have a following and believe you can make some extra cash from a CD release

You’re probably excited about a song that the rest of the world will love, but just doesn’t know it yet. You may well have spoken with the artist about your ideas and you decide you are going to go for it. You then need to decide on what terms you and the artist are going to work together and formalise the relationship by contract. This doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy or expensive initially, however you should work with a music industry specialist lawyer to draw up the contract you offer to the artist.

Other things you will need to do is set up a business bank account and define the business status of your label (see Trading Status section). Speak to AIM (Association of Independent Music) about becoming a member as they provide very useful information and support for small labels in their formative stages.

Most importantly join PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). PPL is not for profit association established by record companies to ensure that record labels and performers are paid royalties for the broadcast of the recordings they own or appear on. The only way to officially register your recordings is with PPL. On joining they will provide you with a unique catalogue code so that you can number and identify your releases to your label. And through PPL’s CATCO system you can register each track and each release format so that when you receive airplay for your records the royalties you are entitled to find their way back to you. Furthermore attaching ISRC codes to your individual tracks is essential for releasing online. For full information on this, visit the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) website.

Part Two will be out on Saturday 15th


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