I’m not writing this post as a how-to start a record label; I’m writing this to provide some thoughts to help you research as you move forward with this idea. This post is also not meant as professional legal or accounting advice; always seek out qualified professionals for those tasks.
Starting your label is relatively easy on the technical front. Find a label name, perhaps trademark the name, design a logo, and incorporate your business. Then do everything companies do, sell services or products, keep straight the financial accounting, and make sure all your legal ducks are in a row regarding contracts, copyrights, advertising, and any other issues that could legally be problematic down the road. That’s it; perhaps there’s more to it. Selling tires is different than selling an artist. Tires don’t get sick and have an artistic vision, so tires aren’t all that exciting. A great working relationship with an artist is financially beneficial and extremely exciting. The product you sell as a record label is somewhat unique in that the product isn’t that easily definable. Are you selling the music, the image, or the very idea of the artist in the first place to the public? It isn’t straightforward; however, it is manageable.
The type of record label I mentioned above is a full-service record label with offices, staff, and different departments; it’s a full-time, expensive endeavour. That’s not my personal record label Listening Edge Records, by a long shot. My label, for me, is much more realistic for my circumstance. I’m a full-time professional private music instructor, that’s where my energy goes, but I also enjoy making recordings. I’m not looking to get discovered; performing is not my thing, but teaching is.
My teaching practice is incorporated, and my label, Listening Edge Records, is a division of my teaching company. Listening Edge Records has its unique logo, ISRC (international standard recording code), which identifies recordings belonging to Listening Edge Records. The label has a separate bank account, receives royalty payments, and functions like any other label, except I’m the only artist. I also have a few of my friends on the label, but it’s primarily me. So why would you want to do this?
My answer is that it’s fun, but there may be other reasons to do it. If your record label is a company like mine, you can receive tax breaks and write-offs that you can’t obtain otherwise. However, keep in mind that it also complicates matters a little. As a person, I could go to CDBaby or Distrikid and start selling, but because I’m incorporated, I have extra paperwork to file, which can also cost money. So if you decide to create your label, whether big or microscopic like mine, remember there are costs.
Having a label is fun, beneficial, and can be done on many levels, from running an amateur label like mine to a professional record label with offices, staff, and recording space. Have fun researching and starting your record label; I’m just a music teacher having fun; catch ya on the next one.