Having your Own Label
Many people start labels. Its not as big a deal as you might think. Its a great way to put your band about and learn something about how the industry works. My label is very small fry and generates virtually no income, but I love doing it. Why? You don't have to listen to anyone from a record company telling you how to do music - except yourself and the other band members! It feels brilliant when people tell you one of your releases is the best thing they've ever heard. Its great to get other bands and labels sending their stuff in gestures of support and confirmation.
My Label (by the way!) Deadly Beefburger Records
The short answer is that it is frustrating waiting for other labels to take an interest in your band - and they'll be more interested once you've got releases already, especially if some of the buying public like them.
The effort needed to have a label depends on how much you want to gain from doing it, and how good the releases are in relation to their intended market. You will quickly find out how good your music needs to be, especially if you release something which is under par in the market it is intended for. A pile of boxes of CDs or records look pretty sad in the corner of the kitchen for 2 years. On the other hand, considering that copies of albums can cost less than a pound each to make and sell for close on £10, there is a simple economic reason - making some cash. It can be especially satisfying if what you do to make the money is something you love doing. Breaking even should be easy enough if the release is sensible - good quality, not too many copies, etc.
What To Do
The things you need to do are really quite simple in theory:
- think of a name for the label and design a logo,
- decide on a recording you like,
- get it mastered,
- design the cover,
- have someone manufacture a load of them,
- sell them.
Firstly, at the most basic level, a label is more or less a name and a logo which you stick on the records and CDs you put out. Many people assume that a record company has to be a big factory with pressing plants and all that stuff - WRONG!!
Equipment-wise you don't really need anything for a label other than a phone, although in this day and age it helps massively if you have a computer with access to the internet (for both emailing and promotion through having websites, etc). I use a PC with software for mastering music to CD, graphics software for doing all the necessary visual stuff - such as CD and record covers, posters, and tons of other graphicy things like stationary.....blah, blah.
Oh, and a trustworthy pair of ears would be useful!
It is very useful to learn some skills with these bits of gadgetry for many reasons, but one extremely important one is long term costs. It is cheaper to do yourself whatever you have the skills and motivation to do. You can't press thousands of CDs but you can do the PQ encoded mastering, which saves a couple of hundred on every release. You can't print the covers but you can design them yourself by learning a few simple things (although really satisfying cover design may take a couple of years practice). A cover design by an artist could cost you a packet. There's detail about manufacturing on (believe it or not) the manufacturing link.
Some of these are mentioned in the section on promotion. You need to develop some of the skills generally associated with business and making people like you - its a simple fact that if you are nasty and not rich, people will not help you. You will need to develop the skill and confidence to phone people and ask them for both information and favours. For example, you need to find out manufacturers' prices, whether or not you can get distribution for your releases.
Ordinary Business Considerations
You may, depending on how legit you want to be, have to spend some time learning and understanding some of the general procedures for starting and maintaining a business - just as you would if you were starting a second-hand car firm, or a builders. This site does not cover these things (they bore me!) but there are a plethora of books and pamphlets out there designed specifically for this purpose. You need to be aware of taxes and finding ways to avoid paying them.
NOTE: It will be useful to look at the brief descriptions of record company departments (on the 'record companies' page) to get an idea of some of the skills that will be needed to run a label.