“How to Start Your Own Record Label”

In Music Business by Africa Music Law™1 Comment

Today, it is not uncommon to see many independent record labels in Nigeria’s music industry. Depending on who you ask, this is a bad thing. In my view, this a good thing. From a few formidable labels like Kennis and Storm to more labels like Chocolate City, Alapomeji, Mo’Hits and Capital Hill, the emergence of this labels serves as a great economic stimulus, helps reduce unemployment rate and most importantly gives much needed hope to the young ones right behind.

If you agree it is a good thing and/or want to join the growing list of music entrepreneurs, this article provides a basic overview of how to start your own record label.

1. Understand it’s Business: There is a fine distinction between performing as an artist and operating a music business. Understand the distinction. Have your basic business plan together, network, observe and if you can, work for other labels so you can learn the ropes.

2. Choose a Name: You have decided to start your record label. What will you call it? Think this through. Don’t just drop any name out there. Keep it short and sweet. If your goal is to reach all Nigerians, consider a simple name that all ethnic groups can easily say. “Mo’Hits,” “Storm,” “Kennis” and “Capital Hill” are good examples.

3. Have a Partnership Agreement: If you will partner with a friend or two, then you must have a partnership agreement in place. In the entertainment industry there is saying to “be careful who you get in bed with.” Take this to heart even if your friend is “so cool” and has been your “paddy since elementary school.” As extremely uncomfortable as it might feel, get something in writing that clarifies your relationship with anyone you partner with, especially your friends. Who is handling the daily operations of your business? Who is providing capital to keep the business going? How will you split the profits? How much percentages of the business will you own? What happens if someone wants out? Work the details out. The consequences of not doing so usually means losing the very friendship you were trying to protect.

4. Choose your Artists: As a record label, your job is to identify, secure, develop and promote your artists. Be sure you have mastered the genre of music and kinds of artists you want to represent so you can spot and grab that next big star before others do!

5. Have your Artist Recording Contract in Place: A recording contract is the agreement your company and your artists enter into. It can be complicated if you have never dealt with this. In “Oyinbo” land you would usually get a lawyer to draft one for you. In Nigeria, there are some equally reputable lawyers with music backgrounds that can do this. Ask around for referrals. If you simply can’t afford a lawyer, get online to find sample contracts and take the time to research what the terms mean. Be sure to tailor your sample to what works for your company and artists.

6. Promotions: You have your business plan, partnership agreement, artists and their music releases and signed recording agreements ready to go. Now its time to promote your artists! If you have the cash flow, then by all means hire a PR company. If not, you will need to learn how to promote your artists. You can start with our article titled “5 Tips to Create Media Buzz for your Music!” Also, while you promote your artists, never forget to also promote your record label. Storm does this well. It always has its artists saying, “Storm Records” or “Storm is in the Building” in any music video, appearances marketing or promotions.

The above is a skeletal outline. There are so many intricate aspects involved in setting up your own record label, the execution of which is really trial and error to see what works. However, at the outset, it helps to have some general principles that can help you avoid expensive and unnecessary headaches. Now go make it happen!

Cheers,
Uduak

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