5 lessons learned from starting my own record label

I registered my record label in August 2010, with the aim of releasing reggae and dancehall compilations. The name of the company was Remla Productions, and by December I was ready to put out my first record which was titled The Retirement Riddim. Since then, I have released over 7 compilations, 1 ep and a number of singles. The journey has been a wonderful learning experience and below I share 5 lessons I learned along the way.

Build a team and delegate task

No man is an Island. This is so true when building a label. You can’t do everything by yourself. Running a business has multiple parts for it to work well and the same for a music business. From the start, it was just me doing everything. This included:

  • Sending out promos to djs
  • Composing instrumentals, recording, mixing and producing the albums
  • Setting up distribution on Itunes
  • Running social media campaigns

This lead to me being burnt out pretty quickly and a lot of songs recorded for the artist signed to the label not being released. Also building consistency when releasing music was lost over time The biggest mistake was not getting someone on the team to handle promotions and marketing the new releases.

A focus on promotion

One of the biggest help in promoting my music from the get go was social media. Even though i was a one man band I had a basic system of doing simple promotion. What I did was:

  • Send music to a dj promo list
  • Upload songs to Soundcloud and Youtube
  • Post the songs on facebook and twitter
  • Write a blog post on my website and embed the songs
  • Post-Itunes link in the description on Youtube and Soundcloud
  • Hope and pray

I was afraid of self-promotion and tried to be humble and not letting people know about my music. This is a big mistake because if the right people don’t know about the music how will they want to buy it?

Another mistake I made was not having a plan to reach traditional media, newspapers, and radio. I was afraid of sending the newspapers a press release to working to secure radio interviews and so on.

Spend time getting a quality product

When I first started producing and releasing music, I used to depend on autotune to fix vocals. Though it’s a good tool, it’s not always the best option for tuning vocals and I’ll explain why. Autotune will snap vocal performance to the nearest note in the scale. Sometimes, Autotune does not snap the vocal is not the note the singer intended to sing and will change the melody slightly. This can be good and bad, but in most cases, depending on the artist you’re working with, more will have to be done to correct this. That’s why having a tool like Melodyne is useful.

Also apart from the vocal performance the music and the lyrics also plays a big part, as well as the mixing and mastering of the music. Having a good song can be promoted easily. This is important because if the dj likes your song he will play it. Also, your song must be able to play alongside other songs and don’t sound out of place.

Create a platform to market from

Building a fanbase is important for the growth of your music business. Whether it is on Facebook, on Twitter, an email list, preferably email because you are in control. When you are ready to promote new music, it is easier to market to people who already like what you put out. What I did from the get go was create a website and link my social media platforms to it and used it as a hub.

The biggest mistake i made was not driving traffic to the site consistently from these social media platforms. I will post a blog announcing a new release and post it one time and forget about it. I wasn’t doing it consistent enough and not reposting it to keep the news in front of the fans long enough for it to have an impact. My promotion strategy was very short.

The other mistake I made was on the website there was no call to action to drive people to check out the music and convert them from casual readers to fans and customers. They liked the articles and kept reading them but no one was checking out my music and that was due to no call to action.

Get your music distributed digitally

Music distribution is the key to success. If no one can access your music then you’re doomed from the beginning. I started using Tunecore through the recommendation from a friend. This worked well for awhile but the only issue was that the yearly subscription fee was high. The music sales were not enough to cover the cost of the subscription with multiple compilations out. The alternative is route note. They have both a free and paid level. This works well for me and I can grow with them. I can put out more music and not have to worry about the subscription. They take a small percentage to keep it up and that is fine with me.

My only issue with route note is that I have trouble finding out when my music is up in the stores. I have to manually search for it to put in my youtube description. If they add this feature I would be grateful.

Those are the five lessons I learned from releasing music independently.

  • What artist should do before recording vocals

  • As a vocalist, there are certain techniques one has to do to prepare the vocals for a performance. This is no different when you are about to record. Warm up exercises are necessary to relax the vocals before you sing. It will make a huge difference to not running out of breath and your ability […]

  • How a music producer can save time recording

  • As a music producer how we spend our time is very important. It allows us to finish projects on time and get more things done. The recording is a huge part of what we do so I want to share with you a few ways to maximize recording time. Always have rehearsals before you go […]