Music is something that dwells with excitement in all of us, and since we have been struck with Covid-19, Music has been our form of escapism, hugging us through the feeling of sound. Music businesses such as traditional Labels and Record deals have definitely hit the ground hard as one of the many negative impacts of Covid-19, but that hasn’t stopped the growth for emerging artists due to the Independent Route and Streams expanding simultaneously, and in this blog I’ll be explaining how you can achieve the same success and more by the following Digital Marketing Strategy.
First things first…
Let’s establish your music business.
Starting an Independent Music Label is not easy, but that’s what will make the end result so rewarding. This process takes hard work, dedication and persistence, but to even begin a process, we need to start by determining our..
Short & Long Term Goals.
It is best to be really specific when it comes to listing any of your goals, this way you can develop structured plans to execute each goal.
A great example for an Independent Label would be as such..
Short-term Goals (goals you can achieve within 12 months ):
- Over 1M Streams on Spotify/YouTube/Apple Music
- More than 10K Followers on Instagram
- Earning at least $10K through distribution.
- At least 50 successful artists/producers signed
- Top charts on Billboard
- Sponsor major events, like the Grammys
- Earning at least $1M p/m through distribution.
Once you have determined what your goals are, your next step should be breaking down smaller step-by-step plans to achieve them.
The Starting Process.
As a Music Label, you want to determine the type of music you’ll represent. This does not have to be strictly one genre, for example, look at Columbia Records, they have artists like Beyonce, Polo G, Daft Punk and Celine Dion. That’s what I call a versatile list.
But as a starting brand, it would be best to niche down and find the type of artists that best suits the theme of your overall business.
Once you have found the type of music your Label represents, we can move on to..
Your audience and your music do go hand-in-hand, but this is where we take a deeper dive into defining who your audience truly is.
1. Who is your audience?
Probably the same listeners as your starting genre, am I right? Yes! But not only that, think of where they would be listening to your type of music, this way you can reach out to specific playlists on platforms such as Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube Music, where your type of audience would most likely listen to the music you distributed, which leads us to..
2. Where do they spend their time?
As we just established, it’s great to know who your audience is to implement ideas to get your music out to them. An excellent way is to know where they spend their time, for example Instagram or TikTok. Through research, it is known that there are over 1.1 billion TikTok users. Surely your audience could be within that unit, and so forth would you want to get ways to reach them, for example, distributing your music to the platform and contacting influencers to advertise your music.
Or maybe your audience spends their time at the gym? Your music could motivate them through those very same playlists or even promoting your music through Spotify ads.
3. Why should they invest their time in your music?
This is a matter of being unique. So the best way you can approach this question, is to find a problem in your field, and explain how you solve that problem.
As a Music Label, there are 2 ways you have to look at this. Firstly for music listeners, and secondly for artists to sign.
For artists who need to be signed, a major problem would consist of not getting paid enough or not getting promoted enough. This can be solved by marketing and advertising your artist as part of the deal.
For music listeners, a huge problem with music today is the lack of showmanship, performance ability and even emotion in your songs. These can be solved by the artists that you chose to sign, and how you market, train and invest in them to cater to those needs.
4. Where can they listen/buy your music/be part of your music?
This is where your website should come in handy. Your website should contain all the information, links, merch and contact details that your audience is searching for. Although, when it comes to listening to your music, a great idea would be to invest in a distributor,such as Distrokid or Tunecore, where your music can be shared to all music listening platforms.
Now that you have a direction of where you want your label headed, it’s time to begin the fun part!
Your Label Name
Needs to represent the music/image of your label, just make sure that it’s not taken!
Your Label Image
Logos, Colors, Backgrounds, Aesthetics, you name it! Make sure it is fresh, defines your brand, represents your theme and is up to high quality. Research other major Record Labels for their designs and inspiration.
This is where you begin putting your brand out to the world and introduce your Labels name to the relevant platforms.
What type of business will your Label be?
When working as a Label, it would be best to develop a team to manage different portions of the whole business. But at the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether this will be a Partnership, a Limited Company or if you want to be a sole trader.
If you opt to be a Limited Company, then your label becomes a separate entity to you and you’d have to file accounts to Companies House and they will be available for the public to view.
The pros of being a Limited Company is that your label name will be on the Companies House register, protecting your business name. It also protects your personal assets if the company were to fold. Not to mention that it adds more credibility to your label and shows prospective artists that you are a reputable company.
Or you could simply be a sole trader – that’s just you doing your thing (or with a partner) and submitting your self-assessment accounts each year. However, it will mean you are personally liable for any company debts if the company were to go under. If I were starting a brand new record label, I would personally opt for a sole trader or partnership rather than a limited company. If things start to do well then I’d register the company as a Limited company further down the line.
One of the biggest roles of a Label is to release records, and thankfully we are now in a digital age where this has been made easier for Independent Labels. Find a Digital Distributor that will upload your music to all stores and platforms. CD’s and Vinyls will be more expensive at this stage, so it would be best to start digitally and work your way up there.
Best examples of digital distributors would be Distrokid and Tunecore, but it’s up to you to find which works best for your business and budget.
Not only will the distributor launch your music, but it will also show you KPI’s. You can check different analytics involving your sales and performances on different stores.
Information, Tools, Team and Resources Needed:
The following team would be needed,
- A Music Lawyer
- A Music Producer
- Your chosen Digital Distributor
- A PR Company
- A Radio Plugger
- Music Video Director
Make sure to research and find the most suitable producers, PR companies and lawyers for your business. Each of those listed above will play a huge part in developing your label and protecting its interests. So you need to make sure that the people you work with will fit the core values of your label.
Obviously it is best to keep in mind your budget when deciding on this part of the plan.
Not only is this necessary for the team, but also when investing in a studio, along with recording and engineering equipment for your artists.
Knowing your Competition
Now that you are in the whole “Label game”, you ought to know who you are competing against.
There could be Record Labels who started out just like you, and made it quite far. This is a great chance to use their success or current position to your advantage.
Start with smaller labels. Firstly, you want to find out what Labels who are at the same level as you, are doing. See what they are doing differently, what is working for them and where you are beating them.
Google is your friend. Simply research the different labels you come across and visit their sites and sources. Go into depth by seeing which sites pop up first and why. How quick are their pages loading? Their webpage layout. Don’t forget to take all these notes!
Check their Social Media Accounts. Move your attention to their content. What social media marketing strategy do you see them applying?
Reach Out to them. This will be best for experienced and far driven Labels that are generous enough to share details of their success to guide you to your own.
Who will be responsible for creating the plan and who will be implementing the plan? This all comes down to what we previously discussed about what type of business and what team is being made.
As the creator, it is always best to add your input, so deciding who does that with you is vital.
Fun Fact: Def Jam Recordings was originally founded by Rick Rubin in 1983 in his New York University dorm room to release a single by his band Hose (a punk group). DJ Jazzy Jay introduced Rubin to Russell Simmons, who quickly became Rubin’s Def Jam partner.
For more information: https://www.thebalanceeveryday.com/def-jam-records-music-label-profile-2460618
Finding Your Artists
You need to set up an A&R function at your record label. A&R stands for Artist and Repertoire. Every record label typically has A&R Scouts, and an A&R Manager. It is the job of these A&R people to hunt for suitable artists for their label.
They should already be a success as an independent artist, so you will need to bring something to the table which shows that you can take their career to the next level. What can you offer that they can’t do themselves? Is it more financial investment in PR and marketing? Is it the resources to help develop them whilst they concentrate on the creative side of things?This is similar to the topic of finding a problem and providing a solution.
Now let’s say you’ve found your artist(s) and you want to keep them on your label before someone else takes them. You’ll need to get a recording agreement in place.You need a Music Lawyer as this stuff is very specialist.
Legal contracts between you and your artists are absolutely critical. You need to agree and sign on the royalty split between artist/label as well as set out the artist’s responsibilities for delivering a certain number of albums to you, and by which date, including the territories this covers.
With any record label contract, you will want your artists to sign up on an ‘exclusive’ contract so that they cannot sign with other labels. You are putting in a lot of time, effort and money into the artist and the only way to reap the rewards of their success is to have them exclusively signed to your label.
How do you earn Money as a Label?
Most of your income will come from royalties. 🙂
Income can also come from a variety of sources, such as streams, video views, concerts, merchandise, publishing and sync licensing. But it is now well established that the most efficient way an artist or a label can earn a decent amount of money regularly, is through touring and merchandise.
As the label, all the money for the artist will be paid directly to you. It is your responsibility to work out your/your team’s amount, and then pay the artist their remaining money. You, as the label, will be responsible for issuing a royalty statement to the artist detailing all the money that has been earned for each record. So, develop a royalty statement template and keep a note of the accounting dates for your artists.
You are now ready to become an Independent Music Label!
You have now attained the knowledge of how to start a Music Label! I hope that this blog has helped you with your strategy and given you guidance on finding success in the music business.
My name is Jaden Kloppers, I am 19 years old and I am an intern at the International Institute of Digital Marketing™. Cape Town, South Africa born and raised, spreading my wings globally. I am artist, music producer, dancer , media editor and soon to be world wide sensation through my hard work and talent.