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Self publishing - record label, or not? Studio Headphones
Old 23rd April 2014
  #1
Lives for gear
Self publishing - record label, or not?

So - imagine you're a home studio doing everything from A to Y yourself on your own equipment.

You've written and recorded a bunch of great tunes and you're thinking it's time to put them out there for the world to fall madly in love with. You may decide to spring for professional mastering.

You're not fantasizing about mega-stardom - it would just be nice to sell a few copies - electronic or physical - and you're not against it turning into a modest revenue stream.

Yes, you'll be setting up a Bandcamp/Reverbnation/etc page, perhaps your own website, Soundcloud, Facebook page, and all the usual internet things. You also plan to sign up to one of the many electronic distributors like Distrokid or Tunecore, etc. And maybe CD Baby for physical distribution. And of course you'll be joining a PRO.

If you get really energetic, you may try dropping into local record stores to see you can talk them into carrying a box of your CDs on consignment.

Yes, you realize this is peanuts in terms of promotion - but you have to start somewhere.

QUESTION - do you go out there just as Bob The Musician? Or do you form your own record label, Fred Records, and sign yourself to them and go out to the world as a record label? Pros and cons of each?

Thanks.
Old 23rd April 2014
  #2
If, as we suspect, many regular folks think that if you're on a label, the label must be paying you, that could be a negative, with regard to fans feeling motivated to make sure you get paid for your music. That said, a lot of regular folks have supposedly bought into the 'everyone-loves-a-winner' mentality and apparently feel driven to listen to some music just because everyone else is. So, really I dunno. I'm kind of stuck because back in the late 90s I was doing more mutant electronic roots pop (tough sell right here) and used a band name. I had a bunch of downloads (and even a bit of sales of on-demand albums). I'm not sure how well the band is remembered but I'm kind of stuck with it now. But in the last decade I've been making more straight roots/Americana under my own name. The two sort of dovetail -- I mean, if you can stand the singer in the one you might be able to stand the singer in the other -- but, really, separate audience sectors. I'm on the horns of a dilemma I've been teetering on for years. heh


With re the label thing, I was just taking another look at DistroKid* and notice that now have tiered payment. $20/yr still buys you one artist, unlimited track aggregation. $35/yr buys a 2-band 'label' membership that allows unlimited uploads from those two bands/artists (it goes up from there but not strictly incrementally, breaking into tiers; check their info pages) as well as scheduled releases (which can be helpful at coordinating your 'promo push' which is, they tell me, what all the wee blogs and mags all want to see you do, so they can all write about you at once and feel special [heh], custom label name(s), and custom ISRC codes.


*I haven't used DistroKid yet, but I am using Loudr.fm for a projectd, which takes no up front at all but takes a slice of your royalties -- bigger than, say, Tuncore, Mondotunes (who are cagey about the 10% their 'partners' take out) at 15%, but no up front at all. However, I'm using them for a side project that does all covers -- something I've always wanted to do but didn't want to hassle with the licensing; for covers, though, they take another 15% -- but they handle all the licensing, again, with no upfront; for this project, kind of a goof, that's perfect.)
Old 23rd April 2014
  #3
Lives for gear
I'm in exactly the same boat. I actually was just in a mastering session in Chicago, and one of the guys who work there used to own a record label...And he advised heavily against starting your own label. There's really no reason to do it anymore, and it's a money pit. Granted, he co-owned a label that sought to sign other bands. If you're just doing it for yourself, then that's another thing.

I registered with ASCAP both as a writer and a publisher. I created a publishing company name, and registered all of my works with this publisher on ASCAP, for record-keeping sake. I also applied for an ISRC code at https://www.usisrc.org/, so now I have basically unlimited ISRC codes to distribute to my songs. It's also important to remember that as soon as you publish an album or a recording, the moment that piece of work gets published in to a tangible item, it's copyright by you. The idea of creating your own record label and "signing" yourself to it doesn't really make sense...Because you probably won't be making yourself fill out a contract that entitles the works to yourself....You already own them. But creating a "label" in the sense that it's a "brand" that you can put on yourself and your music to differentiate yourself from others is important. It also helps in creating a website, or a Bandcamp, or Soundcloud where people can be pointed to to listen all things "you."

I've never tried selling my music at local records stores yet, but I would imagine it depends largely on the record store. You'll have a hard time getting your items on the shelves of something like Target or Barnes & Noble, but if it's Joe's Record Store, and you know they already stock local indie bands records, it probably wouldn't hurt to try. Just present yourself professionally, and make it clear that you represent yourself and your music. They don't need to know - or really care, for that matter - if you're the musician on the records or just the "label" representing them.

Also, with everything that's available today like CD Baby, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and just technology and the internet in general, there's really no need for a label...What can they really do that you can't do yourself? Unless you're a HUGE act, there's really no need. A lot of indie artists around Chicago (I use the word "indie" in the sense that they're independent musicians, not the genre of indie) are moving away from record labels and just doing everything themselves...It saves them money in the long run anyways. Ken Vandermark, a bigger name from Chicago in the free jazz scene, just recently started doing this and I believe it's working great for him.
Old 23rd April 2014
  #4
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by wcx08 View Post
... one of the guys who work there used to own a record label...And he advised heavily against starting your own label. There's really no reason to do it anymore, and it's a money pit. Granted, he co-owned a label that sought to sign other bands. If you're just doing it for yourself, then that's another thing....
Right - for clarity - we're talking about just for yourself. Although maybe you create two very different styles of music and want to publish under two different stage names - both on your own label.

Essentially, you've provided yourself with studio time & engineering services.

For one thing, your label might be a corporation.
Old 23rd April 2014
  #5
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If you area supports it, a distribution deal will make it a whole lot easier to get into stores. I remember reading a few years ago that a major independent artist in my area sold something like 60% or maybe even more of his copies in stores. However, in my area, we have 2 independent music store chains and one more a bit north. A distribution deal simplifies this process and if your area has it in place, you should be in every store that you would want to be in. However, I know my area is a bit of an anomaly to start with, both in the fact that most people in the genre I deal with are independent, and the fact that physical distribution is still important. However, working outside of my area more often, I do wonder how much this has changed in even the last 2-3 years or so.

Even though there are a lot of small labels here as well, most of them are just a formality. Some exist because they actually have a group of artists where others are basically an LLC to protect the individual. Either way, I would not see this as important. I would hope nobody would not buy your album if they saw an independent label. I would doubt many who would buy your music from any distribution channel where they wouldn't easily be able to tell you are putting out your own music would use these channels if it offended them. However, unless you have a real reason to start a label, it doesn't make sense to me to do so.
Old 24th April 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wcx08 View Post
...I registered with ASCAP both as a writer and a publisher. I created a publishing company name, and registered all of my works with this publisher on ASCAP, for record-keeping sake....
Isn't this sorta the same thing?
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