In this modern digital age, learning how to start a record label business is easier than ever before. For now it remains to be seen whether 30-second clips of songs will be enough to satiate the aural desires of commercial radio listeners. This is an area where I most strongly suggest you seek advice/aid from legal professionals. When starting a label with others you’ll need an agreement to protect everyone involved in the business (and to ensure they hold up their end of the deal). The indie labels’ trade association, AIM, has recently concluded a deal with GS1 — the UK business association responsible for bar coding — making it cheaper and easier for indie labels to sell their music in physical and on-line stores, and to track payments. They are the faces of your label. If your goal is to be the go-to label for 21st century post avant jazzcore, your focus and approach will be much different. There are only 3 major record labels in the UK and they are Sony, Universal and Warner Music. With the Snocap deal now in place, labels can sell their music direct to fans via MySpace at no extra cost, and will also be able to control pricing structures. If you prefer, you could work with an on-line payment service such as PayPal, who take a percentage of each transaction. Then there’s VidZone, the leading mobile content provider for the UK independent label sector. Artists appearing on the platform include Bjork, Aphex Twin and Danger Mouse, and customers can listen to full-length tracks prior to purchasing DRM-free MP3s, encoded at 320kbps. Now let’s say you’ve found your artist(s) and you want to keep them on your label before someone else snaps them up. Choose the licensee carefully, and make sure you obtain a reversion clause in the licence agreement, so that should the licensee become bankrupt, you’ll get your rights back! They need you, and you need them. Furthermore, should you permit advertisers, video games producers, or film and TV companies to use your music, you can negotiate separate synchronisation payments for each project. The world’s biggest major record labels are Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. This bizarre congressional oversight has in some way been mitigated by the creation of Sound Exchange, the first US organisation to collect and distribute performance royalties to labels and featured artists from the digital and satellite transmission of recorded music. The Crimea, recently dropped by Warner Records, have taken the novel step of giving away their album as a free download from their web site, in the hope that the increased profile will enable them to generate revenue from touring and merchandising instead. Consider paying a graphic designer to draft a logo (they’re trained to take an idea from words/feeling and translate it into an image). I could go on all year about how to execute each move to give yourself the best chance of success. This is bread and butter A&R stuff, so well worth a punt when on the lookout for new artists. Playlouder (www.playlouder.com) is a subscription service offering customers a hybrid, licensed music and ISP service bundled together — hence the term MSP, for music service provider. The best policy is to devise a digital strategy to run in tandem with your physical business. Now that your label is starting to shape up nicely, you should consider joining your country’s trade representative. With Dunn “it was more of a mutual agreement between me and the artist. http://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/articles, www.theofficialcharts.com/docs/OCC_Chart_Rules_Edition9.pdf, www.startups.co.uk/Small_Firms_Loan_Guarantee_Scheme.YQc-qBloX8KDRw.html, www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk/Pages/default.aspx, ADAM Audio - 20 Years Of Innovation | Podcast. You need to make this as sustainable as possible, especially early on. The Miami Winter Music Conference (www.wmcon.com) is a key date in the dance music calendar, and there’s also South by Southwest in Texas (http://2007.sxsw.com/music), as well as In The City (www.inthecity.co.uk/) in October, in Manchester. Everyone (who wasn’t born into money) in the music industry has a story about the times they were starving and struggling before their dedication and hard work paid off. Do You Need A Record Deal To Do Well In Music? International Standard Recording Codes (www.ifpi.org/isrc/isrc_faq.html) are an international identification system for sound recordings and music videos. Your lawyer will advise you but typically a label would offer an artist a 2-3 album deal. If you did, please share it with others that it may also be able to help. The other old-fashioned way to scout for artists is to go to gigs. Incorporating a limited company takes time, but you can buy ‘off the shelf’ companies from Companies House.In brief, Sole Proprietors have unlimited personal liability for the debts of their business, and will pay income tax on the profits of the label. Indiestore is free to use and supports WMA, MP3 and iTunes’ FairPlay AAC format. Joining these trade bodies can be hugely beneficial to any new label. Finally, there are countless numbers of record labels, bands and artists trying to make an impact in this huge global industry, all looking for a unique and eye catching name. And we’re not even done yet. If you have no proven track record, distributors can be reluctant to take you on. An indie label contract should also entitle the label to an ‘override royalty’ in the event that a major label buys out one of your artists. The advantage of digital distributors is that they can handle relationships with multiple retailers, specialist music sites and ISPs on your behalf — leaving you free to concentrate on running your label. If that means you have two full-time jobs or three, then that’s the struggle to which you have to dedicate yourself. The main advantage of aggregators and digital distributors is that they take away the day-to-day stress of handling multiple licence agreements and coordinating releases, and can handle encoding and royalty administration for you. So, you will need a distributor to deliver your artist’s records to the stores. In the UK, the key royalty collection societies are: **In the US the equivalent companies are ASCAP and BMI, which you can read in-depth about in our ASCAP vs BMI vs SESAC guide.
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