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When the Creatives Become the Suits:
Artists are Forming their own Record Labels
Almost everything you need to know about starting your
own record label was outlined at a L*A*M*P workshop,
from the legal requirements to the administrative
details, but there is still a lot to be learned.
Reported by The G-Man
"Pay royalties to artists? What an amazing concept!"
And with that preamble from Keith Holzman, author
of "The Complete Guide to Starting a Record Company,"
Leslie Waller's day-long workshop on Starting and
Operating an Independent Record Label kicked into
Sharing the opening presentation with Holzman was
entertainment attorney Paul Menes, who almost
immediately pointed out that the topic was huge and
that even a full day's worth of panels would only
serve as a primer for all participants. But what a
primer! I filled six pages with notes, some of which
I'll pass along below.
In addition to Holzman and Menes, the experts at the
fact-packed event were: Bobby Borg, author of "The
Musician's Handbook"; Ira Kalb, author of "Zero Budget
Marketing"; Bernard Baur of Music Connection Magazine
and the newly-launched Baur-Godwin Artist Development;
Pesci, in licensing and creative services at Cleopatra
Records; Ryan Kuper, head of Redemption Recording
Company; Jeffrey Weber, Grammy-winning producer,
record label consultant, and member of Studio
Vernon Neilly, CEO of Boosweet Records.
At various points during the day, the panelists made
some chilling observations about the record industry,
including the following:
Holzman: Of the 26,000 indie CD releases last year,
the average sales totaled just 1,300 units.
Baur: "An indie artist selling 30,000 copies of an
album will make more money than a major label artist
selling one million copies."
Menes: "The music business is now completely
Weber: "Radio airplay without payola of some kind is
extremely hard to come by."
The primary emphasis was on what you must accomplish
to become your own independent record label, including
writing a business plan, identifying your distribution
and marketing methods, and addressing many legal
issues, including name/logo search, domain name
search, trademark search, and the filing of all
necessary paperwork in each of these areas.
More than once, attendees were directed to online
sources of information, including NARIP (National
Association of Record Industry Professionals,
Billboard Magazine, and the Library of Congress (see
URLs below).More Notes, Highlights, & Quotes:
Holzman: "You'll work 16-hour days starting a
record label, but you can succeed with the right
attitude. My brother (Jac Holzman) founded Elektra
records with $600 and an extraordinary ability not to
take 'no' for an answer."
Menes: "P2P (peer-to-peer filesharing) proves the
viability and desirability of music. It's the pay
structure that's at issue."
There are things you'll need to know,
including obtaining a unique bar code from the
Universal Code Council, CD Red Book Standards for
proper manufacturing, and the RSRC codes that will be
embedded in each track of your CD releases.
Menes: It will pay you in the long run to obtain
legal counsel to help with such contractual points as
extension options, payment structures, recoupment,
grand rights, song ownership, re-recording
restriction, branding, dispute resolution. (this panel
was daunting, but absolutely necessary).
Baur: "You won't get a distribution deal without
showing a marketing plan."
Weber: "Making a record is easy; selling it is a
Neilly: "A distributor may offer to help you with co-
op ads and promotion, but only if you're already doing
your own promotion and advertising, or obtaining radio
Borg: You've got to be pro-active. At the very
least, you will need to contact other indies, both
labels and artists, and try to exchange links with
them. This inexpensive marketing is inexpensive but
can be critical.
Pesci: Marketing to radio doesn't guarantee sales,
but it generates attention that can reach your
audience in the long run.
Kuper: You have to do a unique marketing plan for
each CD release. "Your marketing plan can be 1-2 pages
of bullet points, but you have to do it."
The day was exhausting, illuminating, and fascinating.
And the networking alone was worth the time spent at
the event. All I can say is: Ya shoulda been there.
The G-Man is on iTunes and at G-Man Music
Other contacts for this article include:
Los Angeles Music Productions:
Complete Guide to Starting a Record Company
The Musician's Handbook
Bernard Baur/ Dito Godwin
Ryan Kuper/Redemption Records
National Association of Record Industry Professionals
Library of Congress