How to start your own Record Label 101

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Postby tha megatron » Thu Dec 22, 2005 5:39 am

Didnt know if this was asked or not on the forum but thought this board would be the place to ask this question without it getting drowned by wacky topics and flamewars that always tend to happen on other boards on the net.

Anyhow...what kind of advice would people give a person interested in starting their own record label to release their tracks? Is there any sorta business licencing involved? Is it something that can be done in a real short time in terms of setting up or is it something that has to take a few months before copywrite documents and other govt. paperwork is filled out and approved? Whats the ideal set up for staff of a label? (ie...can it be done alone or is it 9 out of 10 most likely better done with a team of folks willing to work for free or eventually payment?) And lastly...how much money can a person expect to invest and/or lose when first jumping into this?

A few questions to start things off. Also can be useful for us folks trying to put our foot into the whole behind the scenes part of the music scene besides the party aspects of it.
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Postby nicemarmot » Thu Dec 22, 2005 9:05 am

This is a pretty good resource:
http://www.fat-cat.co.uk/DIY/
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Postby deepfreeze » Sun Dec 25, 2005 1:12 am

^^ yeah good one thanks

I'm geting a dubstep/grime label goning for dutch(belgum) producers
the only thing i'm stuck with is,.. how, where, and hoe??? can i contact for get the Ep's/Lp's over to the Uk shops???
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Postby atomly » Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:24 am

I read this about three times when I started mine:

http://crucial-systems.com/dmbr/
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Postby alan » Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:59 am

press some records, sell them. :D
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Postby tha megatron » Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:06 am

Big ups for all the info yall.
I guess one of the main things me and a few other folks from the Bay are possibly intersted in is of course starting a label of some sorts and also possibly do something towards the distrobution side of things. One thing that sometimes hinder the sales of overseas products is the extra money it costs for imports at shops. Id possibly would want to know how to go about maybe getting songs from artists' previous works and maybe releasing them on an american label at regular US prices (ie. a Compilation for $12.99 compared to a $30 import of the same cd).
Anyways much love for all the info provided. Maybe one day we can get the ball rollin on some big power moves in regards to getting the music spreading more and more around the world.

big ups
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Postby thinking » Wed Dec 28, 2005 11:19 am

Here's my limited knowledge of releasing vinyl:

First off, you need some tunes that you think are the hotness. Whether they're by you, or someone you know, they need to be killer beats. Next, gather up the contact details for as many of the 'names' in the scene as you can and send them a CDR of a handful of tunes, and ask them to let you know if they play it out or cut it - most DJs should be happy to do this. If you're lucky, and if the tunage is good, you should start to see some reactions both from the people playing the music, and the punters as well.

That's your basic A&R process sorted - you've established that there's a market out there for your music. The biggest hurdle you now face is getting it out there to the masses i.e. distribution. I know little about US Distro so I won't try to help you there, but in the UK for instance I know that ST Holdings have been taking on quite a few dubstep/breakstep labels in the last 12 months, and I believe they are even offering P&D (production & distribution) deals to some labels, which means they take care of the manufacturing costs and processes as well.

To solicit a distributor you need to convince them that your 12" (and future 12"s) will sell - good feedback from the scene counts for something, but they will obviously have to have some faith in the music as well. It can help if you have more than one release pencilled in and have the tunes ready to go.

Assuming everything has gone smoothly up to this point, you now need your vinyl. Get the tunes mixed down to the best possible standard you can without spending mad loot (know anyone with a studio?). Once they've been spit-polished, you need to get them cut. Heathmans in London is widely regarded as the best cutting house to use, but they aren't cheap. Have your tune mastered by the cutting house as well, because they can tweak it to make sure it will sound as good as possible on vinyl.

Okay, your lacquers are done, your TPs should be on their way to you. If at this point the cut is sounding shit, don't be afraid to go back and get it done again - you may waste a coupla hundred quid but it's better than having 500 vinyls in your living room that you can't shift cos they sound bollocks. Hopefully, everything sounds good and you can get the vinyl delivered to your distro.

That's it really. You should consider now sending a finished copy to all the 'name' DJs on your lists, and maybe look further afield to DJs in other scenes like breaks or techno - Si Begg, Tayo and Surgeon for example have all played dubstep records in their sets in the last 12 months. Always include a reaction sheet, as you can use this feedback to help promote the release, or if you're feeling flush you can use a promo mailing company like (for example) White Noise, who will take care of the mailouts and subsequent chasing of DJs for feedback.

Now you have to sit back and cross your fingers that a) shops will stock your record and b) people will buy it. Don't ever ever forget that even if your record sells out completely, it will still take approx 6 months for you to recoup your costs. With this in mind, you shouldn't consider actually pressing up vinyl unless you are absolutely sure that you can afford to lose all the money that it will cost - it is always possible that that's exactly what will happen.

Don't be afraid to approach people in the scene - most have an email address where you can reach them, and dubstep is small and young enough for those names who are established to remember what it's like to be in your situation. All of the above is only one way to skin the cat of course, and there are plenty of other ways to go about it. If you can just make sure that your tunes are 100% release-quality, and ensure you get good distro, the rest should (hopefully) fall into place.

Good luck.
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Postby tha megatron » Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:09 pm

Thanx for posting that man. I think I have a better understanding about starting up on the label front now. I think me and some folks out here in the Bay Area that are into the dubstep/grime sounds will greatly appreciate this info and will use it as a guide because i know a few of us that are looking into starting a label of some sorts.

Big ups for sharing this and hopefully this can help those who have never done anything like this before like myself.

much props.

mega
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Postby paulie » Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:33 pm

If anyone wants any help feel free to email me. Don't know much about the situation in the US though.
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Postby deepfreeze » Wed Dec 28, 2005 6:20 pm

Thanks 2 everyone, that cleard up a hole lot for me.. :lol:

sum of U wil be hearing from me :)
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Postby seckle » Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:16 pm

honestly, if i was starting my own record label, i'd be looking at pressing up 200 whites and doing the main business with mp3 download sites and cd singles. remember that if you're a us label trying to get vinyl into england into the shops there, you've got to fly to london with product in hand to sell. i know for a fact that most of the shops in london do consignment deals with new labels, as long as they don't have to import it in officially. a good idea would be going over to a Fwd/DMZ/Destructive party and handing out some cdr's to people to get your name around. for the most part, i'd say traditional start up label strategies aren't going to work in a scene as small as this. i don't want to sound discouraging at all, but then again i don't want to paint this rosy picture of how easy it'll be either. good luck man.
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Postby seckle » Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:18 pm

also, i'd be inclined to say that there are far too many labels already.
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Postby unlikely » Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:47 pm

nah we need as many labels as poss,


all the dubstep labels are run and funded primarily by the producers within them and I know I don't speak only for myself when I say we aint got the money to keep releases as up to date as they could be

more the merrier!
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Postby alan » Wed Dec 28, 2005 8:51 pm

labels are always good
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Postby nirz » Thu Dec 29, 2005 4:15 pm

heres my two penneth worth Ive run two labels in my time... first off send the tunes to DJ's who play out alot they will have a very high qualitycontrol on what they like and play ... if you get alot of them playing it you definatley have product worth releasing.
Vinyl sales are really slow at the minute (at least in drum and bass they are, i got mates in the d+b scene who are in the industry) so I would look to start out selling online first, the reason i think this is the one is that me and my mates have a hard time getting hold of tunes up here (many dubstep labels dont even make it up here and the ones that do are in ltd numbers) so me and my mates buy the mp3s burn cd's and play em from cdj's. Secondly getting a distribution deal is tuff there is lots of competition and costs are high (not many pressing plants left and by 2009 pressing vinyl will be illegal in europe due to enviromental laws) costs are lower selling online and you could afford to sustain your business for longer online than in the format of material products.

good luck mate !

as for too many labels comment I dont think thats the case now but it is a danger, there are too many labels in drum and bass and its hard to make money because of that. I think that some of the dubstep labels should sell more stuff online that doesnt/wont be released on vinyl to increase there income and help the business along.
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Postby atomly » Thu Dec 29, 2005 11:19 pm

More people need to start distros. That's the real bottleneck in the world.
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Postby alan » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:07 am

yea people should start more distro.
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Postby thinking » Fri Dec 30, 2005 11:09 am

atomly wrote:More people need to start distros. That's the real bottleneck in the world.


A bunch of Distros in the UK have gone under in the last few years due to slumps in vinyl sales. Independent record shops have been disappearing for the same reason, and also because more people are buying online, which further exacerbates the Distro problem as there are a smaller number of shops but with greater bargaining power, reducing their potential profits.

In the last few years I can think of 3 or 4 large Distros off the top of my head that have had to close.
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