7 steps to start and grow your record label: Define your business model and brand identity
Starting a record label has always been quite an adventure, but the digital ecosystem has made the journey smoother.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to start and manage your own digital music distribution business, being a record label.
From creating your digital brand and understanding all the legal bits and bobs behind music licensing to virtually delivering your catalog to the most important DSPs, managing your artists’ royalties, and creating a solid PR & Comms strategy to promote your artists’ music on different online and offline channels.
If your goal is to run an independent label online and easily make your artists’ content accessible to anyone in the world, you’ve come to the right place.
The purpose of this guide is to show you how to set up your own record label step-by-step and make your online music distribution business grow.
In the first episode of this how-to guide, we want to give you some valuable information about setting up and structuring your record label, creating your brand identity, and learning how to deal with legal affairs.
Define your business model
When entering the music industry as a record label, the first thing to think about is to plan what type of label you want to be.
The idea is to set some objectives and structure your music business considering what you want to achieve under a specific time frame, always keeping in mind the markets you’re going to sell your artists’ music as well as the creative, financial, and legal aspects that may arise during the process.
What type of artists do you want to sign? Where do you want to release your artists’ music? Will you be running the record label as a sole trader, standalone business, or will include other partners? How are you going to distribute your artists’ music catalog? What is your marketing strategy going to be?
These are the questions that you should be asking yourself when creating your business plan.
Following are the business models you can establish when creating your record label:
- Sole trader / sole proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Corporations (S & C)
Starting your record label as a sole proprietorship, which means that you are running the business on your own as a unique proprietor, may be the simplest and cheapest thing to do, but you have to consider that all legal and financial issues, including earnings and losses, will be tied to you.
It’s like running your record label from the perspective of a business person rather than an entity.
You’re responsible for income taxes and paying any other contributions under your name. Bank accounts and loans would also be tied to you personally.
If you want to start your independent record label with other people, you’d need to consider having a Partnership Agreement where each part clearly knows what the rights and responsibilities are for everyone.
That means setting up the percentage of ownership, profit shares, salaries, and tax payments from the start.
It’s also about the idea of involving all parts when it comes to decision-making, from who runs each department, what artists to sign, where to distribute, or how to split the work to decide on what to do if anyone leaves the business earlier than expected.
Limited Liability Company
If you want to run your record label as a business entity, then the best is to go for a limited liability company or a corporation.
LLCs have the same legal protection as corporations, but fewer formalities to fulfill when it comes to administrative requirements.
In a record label that is a limited liability company, all members aren’t personally liable for the company’s obligations.
If you decide to base your label as a corporation, then all administrative, legal, and financial paperwork will be attached to the company.
Another aspect to consider when starting your record label is to join the trade associations corresponding to your music business, from a royalty collection society to music publishers associations.
Your record label branding
“How to find a record label to release my music?” This is what most independent artists type on search engine boxes when looking for a label to build up their career by distributing their work on all major digital platforms but also whenever they want to get more exposure on social media and traditional PR channels (magazines, billboards, physical stores…) and expand their fan base worldwide.
If you want your company to appear on the first results, then it’s vital to work on your brand identity and your online presence to make sure your record label is widely known in the independent music scene.
Your brand is the representation of what your record label is and what makes you unique. Your “x-factor” to distinguish yourself from competitors.
It’s a way to visually express your business personality, core message, and values, letting current and potential clients know what type of artists and music genres are under your umbrella.
All the elements of your brand – your logo, fonts, colors, name, tone of voice, and tagline – should remain the same across all digital channels and marketing materials to keep consistency and make it recognizable for users.
Your brand identity should be present every time you release any music from your artists, but also whenever you share a message on your social media channels, you launch new merchandise for your record label or create ads and banners to promote your catalog.
You can develop your label’s identity on social media, for example, by creating a branded message to connect with your audience, making your company recognizable everywhere.
You can also expand your brand’s reputation and credibility by adding new services to your existing offering.
To do so, you can use a white-label solution, which allows you to grow your business offer while reinforcing and consolidating your brand identity.
You can manage your record label’s music distribution in one single place and customize the platform by using your brand name, logo, background image, and domain, and present it to your clients and artists as your own.
This is a great way to build and strengthen your brand identity as you can use the tools integrated with the white-label platform to expand your service offering to your current clients and use it to attract new ones for distribution.
Do you want to expand your record label’s services with SonoSuite’s white-label solution?
Don’t forget to keep visiting our blog to read the following episodes from our “7 steps to start and grow your record label” guide.
The next chapter, “Select your record label’s artists and repertoire”, will be available very soon!