How to Start a Successful Indie Record Label in 6 Steps

There has never been a better time to start an indie record label than now. Artists don’t have to rely on big companies anymore, and many decide to start their own label so they can keep most of the profits from their music. These artists may also want to help promote new acts. Starting your label can be a great way to maintain your artistic integrity and increase your revenue while enjoying more freedom. This could also be an opportunity for any entrepreneur with a genuine love of music to make money from something they’re passionate about. Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to take to start a successful indie label.

Have a Clear Business Plan

If you want your label to be successful, you have to treat it as a business, and all successful businesses start with a plan. You should first identify what type of music you’ll be selling and what kind of approach you’ll be taking. You also have to know where you see the label in one, five, or ten years from now.

You have to identify your streams of revenue as well and start looking at licensing and streaming platforms, merchandising, live shows, etc. You’ll also have to start looking at the overheads for your business. One of your biggest expenses when running a record company is studio time, so you will need to start looking at studios and how much you can expect to pay to record there. You might even have to relocate if prices are too high where you are.

Places like Dallas, for instance, have studios that can rival any other city in the country, minus the costs. Pirate, one of the main Dallas recording studios, offers top-of-the-line equipment for a fraction of the price you’d have to pay in a major hub like New York or LA. Some people have called Pirate the best Dallas music studio and a lot of it has to do with the freedom they offer. They allow teams to really feel at home, which is something you always want to see in a studio.

Build a Legal Team

You’ll also need to find yourself a good lawyer. This is who’s going to write contracts for you and look over contracts you’ll sign with other entities. They may also inform you of any liabilities you’re exposing yourself to and how you can protect yourself from lawsuits. And, if you are the target of a lawsuit, they’ll be able to help you.

Having a solid accountant (and accounting software) is extremely important for a record company as well. They will be able to tell you if there are any issues with your finances and whether you need to make adjustments. You also don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS, so, if you don’t understand how business taxes work, you’ll have no choice but to hand over your books to a skilled accountant. Take your time when choosing this kind of professional. While many people are technically qualified, just like anything else some professionals will be a better fit for your label than others.

Choose a Name and Build a Brand

Branding and the name you choose are very important for your record company. Think Bad Boy or Universal. These names evoke something and are somewhat of a representation of what the label does. This is why you need to look for a good name for your label and have a clear brand. 

If you’re looking for a name that will work in your niche, you should look at some of your competitors. You can inspire yourself from their branding as well. Look at their logo, social media, and the type of visuals they use. These are all things that will allow you to create a solid brand image.

Build a Website

You will absolutely need to have a good website as an indie label. This is what will show how professional you are. If artists come to your record label’s site and it looks unprofessional, you can expect many of them to look elsewhere. Having a nice-looking website will also be very important if you want to book talents for shows.

A nice website will show them in the best light possible and allow venues and agents to know what type of artist they are fast. People will also think twice about working with a company that doesn’t have a nice website, so this is something you’ll need to pay special attention to.

Start Looking for Acts

Without an act, you won’t be able to be successful as a record label. Many record labels start with an artist that they’re already managing, so it could be a good idea to start as a manager first and find a sure talent before you start. But nothing is stopping you from starting a label and looking for talent afterward.

The first act that you sign will be very important as it will ultimately be what your label will be known for and will become part of your brand. Ideally, you want to go with an artist that already has some sort of following. This can easily be checked through social media and their numbers on work they’ve published already.

You also have to check how good their live performance is. Even if an artist is great in the studio, they will have a very hard time succeeding if their live performance isn’t up to par. So, we would suggest that you check the artist live before you decide to approach them. You should also get as active as you can in your scene so you can get exposed to as much talent as possible.

Start Marketing Your Label and Acts

Once you have one or a few acts, it’s time to start promoting them and your label. You can use a combination of new and traditional marketing methods to build your acts, but you have to be original. Having a great pop-up performance by one of your artists go viral, for instance, could work wonders for both the artist and your label. So, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and consider working with teams who understand things like guerilla marketing and new marketing methods.

This is everything you need to know to start building a successful indie record label. Make sure that you understand the legal implications of starting one first and be ready to deal with tough competition.

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