Introduction: How to Establish a Netlabel - 10 Easy Steps
Formerly, it was ironically said that there were more DJs than clubbers in this world, which indirectly lead to a situation in which every new DJ would have to become a producer as well so as to get noticed. In effect, millions of Djs, instead of searching for exceptional records, began to spend their time in front of computers trying to patch together their first productions, which they would obviously try to release afterwards. The then existing record labels were not able (or simply refused) to cope with the supply avalanche, resulting ultimately in the opening of new netlabels. Does this mean that in the near future every DJ will have his own label? I doubt it. The pendulum has already swung to its maximum position and it is now slowly coming back to the equilibrium. The total value of digital music sales is continuously growing, which could mean that there are still free slots for brands with solid releases, like the one you're planning to kick-off.
If you've been thinking of starting your own netlabel, but you don't really know how to get down to it - this article should be your starting point.
Step 1: Self-examine Yourself
If you kept sending your productions out to existing labels but haven't so far gotten any reply, there's always chance, that: A. nobody bothered to listen to them, or B. they are rather lousy. If your friends tell you they're not, remember, none of these chaps would take the responsibility for letting your career slip. In other words, none of your nearest and dearest will tell your productions won't even work as the background to working with a pneumatic hammer, as it requires a dose of assertiveness, which the majority of individuals simply don't have. In case you want to hear the truth - post links to your tracks on the Sound Revolt message board. Nobody will spare you there.
Step 2: Asses the Value of Your Offer
The music you are planning to release will become your offer, so think about how recognizable your name is. If you're a DJ, you must have a My Space profile and know how many visitors have been attracted by your music. If you're good, there will be someone commenting on your tracks. If you're really good, you'll be able to find that post among the hive of the MySpace spam.
Just don't think that one of the already established names will do a remix for you in exchange for the share in profits. For a good remix, you will pay a fee of minimum $1000 to the author.
Step 3: Win Producers
Richie Hawtin probably won't agree to release his tracks under your label, but check at the math circle if by chance there isn't someone who's been spending free time making original and valuable music. Most of such tracks will never show to the public until you've blinded the home-bred producer with your initiative. Just don't think that one of the already established names will do a remix for you in exchange for the share in profits. For a good remix, you will pay a fee of minimum $1000 to the author.
Step 4: Make Up the Name
How to pick up a good name for your business would probably be a good subject for another guide, but the topic isn't really related to Sound Revolt's profile. So please, remember the most important things: the name should be short, easy to remember and easy to spell. It will have to sound good (in English!) and bring about good associations. Names like Great Stuff or Mistakes Music are fortunately already taken, but you should definitively stay away from such ideas.
Step 5: Register Your Domain
Your label will require an Internet domain, so before you've finally decided the name, you should check whether the corresponding domain (possibly .com or .net) is still available. If it is, make sure it didn't belong to one of those spammers thanks to which 99% of the emails land in the junk folder. Otherwise you'll have to make a lot of effort to clean your Internet address. Very helpful tools can be found at Domain Tools.
Step 6: Work on Your Image (PR)
Begin at your Internet site. Redirecting your new domain to a free profile at MySpace I find extremely unprofessional. Better ask your friend (the one at the math's circle, remember?), maybe an acquaintance of his who isn't too much into music, but is able to create good websites? In the worst case, you could always use one of the predefined templates, so called CMSs (free one at www.opensourcecms.com), but make sure you have modified the layout. Otherwise, your website will look as exceptional as most of profiles on MySpace.
The other important thing is the way you communicate with the media, namely press releases. If you want to take the label's promotion seriously, DO NOT disregard PRs. Press releases should focus the reader's attention, so you'll be better off making them intriguing than boring. It's good to include some catchy titles, good graphics and, what's absolutely necessary, downloadable links to the music you promote. Remember, PRs should be free from spelling and grammar mistakes and mailed out at least 2-3 weeks before the official release date, which should give enough time to potential reviewers.
Step 7: Master Your Sound
Decent PR won't be of use if the tracks that are dressed up with your label's logo sound like electro made on Atari. Apparently, there have been some releases that sounded like a wheezy 8-bit computer but fortunately that trend has already expired. So if you really want exceptionally clear and spacious sound for your tracks, do not give the mastering duty to an amateur. Another advantage of professional mastering is the fact that your tracks will be handled by a pair of fresh ears, which might bring your attention to slight deficiencies you would never be able to discover yourself.
Step 8: Set Up a Business and Protect Your Rights
This point pretty much depends on the country you're in, but the general rule says that any activity related to earning money has to be registered. As a private person, you're allowed to sell your old washing machine on eBay, but music on Beatport you can't. The easiest way is to attach your home-business to the firm of your parents, allowing you then to reduce the overall costs, but if your daddy doesn't have a company, you'll have to set it up for yourself. Check at your local authorities which options you have and choose the one which is the most convenient for you.
Another advantage of professional mastering is the fact that your tracks will be handled by a pair of fresh ears, which might bring your attention to slight deficiencies you would never be able to discover yourself.
In the matter of copyrighting, the best (if not the only) option is offered by the Creative Commons Some Rights Reserved license. CC allows others to make use of your works but only if they give credit the way you requested, which reserves the rights of you and your producers based on the selected attribution. What's important, getting the CC license is absolutely free of cost! Visit the http://www.creativecommons.org website to find out more about this initiative and how to secure the license.
Step 9: Find Receivers of Your Music
There's no doubt Beatport is the Mecca of all netlabels and the store's name has become a synonym of the selling of club music on the Internet. Let me tell you it won't be easy to introduce your tracks to the Beatport offer, but assuming you already have them properly mastered and dressed in a decent press release, the challenge should be a bit simpler. However, to get on board and to remain there are, both for Beatport and medicine studies, two different topics. In case your label is not able to generate a turnover of $600 within two consecutive quarters, you're out. There are obviously different stores, like e.g. Juno Download or Kompakt, but they all constitute 20% share in the global market of downloadable club music.
Step 10: Draw Up the Balance
Let's begin at profits. If you manage to fall into Beatport, then 80% of your profit will flow from there. A good track should easily reach 100 downloads, which will generate the store income on the level of $150-$200, out of which Beatport collects 40% (Juno takes 50%). That means $90-120 goes to your pocket. If you put up 5 numbers a month, then you can expect a profit of $500-600. Obviously you will share the profit among yourself and the authors of the music, which is usually 50-50, which means that there is still $250-300 on the label's bank account, but don't forget there are still unpaid bills on your desk. Pay the copywriting, sound mastering, web hosting fees, not to mention taxes and health insurance (let's hope your dad runs a business).