86 Palatine Road. From there, a small apartment in suburban Manchester, Toby Wilson and Alan Erasmus first ran Factory Records. A British based record label which spawned era defining bands, a legendary nightclub and, much to my Liverpudlian father’s chagrin, shifted perceptions of Manchester from decaying industrial wasteland to international capital of cool.
Clearly then, even with modest finances and surroundings it’s possible to set up your own record label, changing music history as you do it. In fact it’s even easier now, advances in technology reducing barriers on a multitude of fronts.
Got a burgeoning desire to build a musical empire or simply a aspiring musician struggling to get signed? Then here’s how to make your own record label a reality...
How to Start Your Own Record LabelAs with setting up any business, you’ll need to do a significant amount of groundwork before unleashing your records onto the market.
Scribbling down a business plan is a good place to start, as, unlike Wilson and Erasmus, you’ll need some sort of structure to a run a long-lasting and lucrative label. There’s countless details of what you should include in this on the web, so I won’t bore you with the details here.
Something I can say though is that constructing a business plan can prove infinitely helpful. It can help crystallize ideas and give your a record label a clear vision. Elsewhere, there’s all the usual things you’ll need to get to grips with, company structures, financial management and all that rigmarole. Small business accountants can help with all that sort of thing.
Getting your music recordedBarriers have been reduced significantly in this regard, as you can now sidetrack expensive studios, technological advances meaning that you can record whole albums from the comfort of your own home...provided you’ve some understanding neighbours.
The story of UK rapper Mike Skinner illustrates how it’s possible to home record and produce a successful album. His first album, Original Pirate Material was largely recorded in suburban London houses, where emptied out wardrobes were used as vocal booths and duvets and mattresses were used to reduce echo. Despite these less than conventional recording methods, the album proved a commercial and critical success and even now with millions in the bank Skinner still home records.... although admittedly his studio and methods are a little more sophisticated.
What then, is the cost of some home recording equipment? Well, at the lower end of the market everything you’ll need (an audio interface, studio monitors, some quality headphones, a MIDI controller, Music recording software and a microphone) can all be bought for just under a €1000. You may not even need to spend this though, largely it’ll depend upon the music you’re making.
Getting your music heardThis is where technology really comes to the fore. We’re living in a golden age in terms of getting music heard and getting it to market.
Nowadays, a record label can reach customers without having to rely on traditional distribution networks and there’s less need for radioplay or elaborate promotion to raise awareness. Last FM, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Big Cartel there’s an abundance of platforms out there where you can build the profile of your label and have your releases on sale in next to no time.
Elsewhere, consider getting some of your releases out on vinyl. Recent statistics reflect a renaissance in the vinyl market and it’s really not that expensive to get a vinyl record produced. If you shop around it’s possible to get two tracks mastered and 300 vinyl copies pressed up – to a fairly high standard – without breaking the €1000 mark.
Also, as you probably don’t need to tell you but I will just in case, ensure you've got some sort of social media presence. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, all are a free and an effective marketing tool that transcend countries and continents.
That should be just about enough to get you started. Now get out there and change music history a la Wilson and Erasmus.