My name is Jon Methodus, Kmag writer, bass music enthusiast and digital record label GM. I was recently asked if I wanted to do a feature on how to create, manage, and market yourself as a new digital record label, and at first I thought it was a little counterproductive. But after thinking about it, if I would have had a guide on how this industry works and what to avoid, my progress as a label manager would have been so much faster (and easier).
So with that, I will offer a step-by-step guide on how to jump into this without drowning:, brand image awareness, marketing your label and ultimately turning a profit, but don't be fooled, it's A LOT of work!
Before you even think about signing tunes, creating websites or Facebook pages for your label, the first thing you need is good branding. Your label name, logo and overall concept play a huge factor when you're trying to stand out in a sea, of what seems like, a never-ending list of digital labels. When choosing a name and feel for your label, try and have it reflect your own personality and tastes. Great examples of strong branding and label concepts are imprints like Shogun Audio, Hospital Records and Metalheadz. The three top labels in drum & bass are there for a reason: they look good, sound good and have very well known and recognised branding. Believe me when I tell you, choosing the right name and direction will be the longest and hardest part of this whole process, so choose wisely.
So after you've picked your label name and logo, you're now ready to start building the backbone of your label:, the music. There are literally hundreds of new releases on Beatport every week, and with so much content available to the end-user, you have to be creative, selective, and very careful with the tunes you choose to release. The first few releases are the most important, as you set the standard for what people can expect from your imprint. I like to sign tunes I would personally play and/or buy and that suite my tastes, which eventually lead to the current musical direction of the label and the evolution of the sound we wanted to consistently put out.
Anyone can create a label and get the tunes out via digital distribution sites like Beatport or iTunes, but the real question is "where do I find the music to release?". This takes time, a lot of listening, and building relationships with the artists and producers you choose to work with. Good places to find unsigned music are SoundCloud, Facebook and direct contact via AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). The key is reaching out, showing interest in the music, and building the working relationship with the producer. As I mentioned before, the first few releases are so important, don't just sign a tune to "sign a tune". Listen closely on good speakers, see how the tune will be perceived by others (have other trusted ears listen as well), and make sure -, above all -, you like what you're putting out.
So you've reached out to the producer you want to sign, you've picked some tunes, and now it's time to get to work. I suggest keeping it simple with releases:, do a few two-track singles featuring one artist, then eventually branch out into EPs and potentially full length LPs when you reach that level. There is definitely a science as to what sells or is more well received by the masses, you really need a good ear and be able to almost predict if everyone else will like the tune as much as you do…, but all of that really comes with time and maturing of the label as a brand and concept.
The biggest problem - and at the same time biggest upside - to digital labels isn being consistent. I can personally say the music we release and the artists we choose to work with all have a cooperative vibe and sound. It's taken many years to develop what we like to consider our "signature sound", and now our fan base knows exactly what to expect from us when our releases hit the worldwide web. I see so many labels putting all sorts of different styles of EDM on one label, and in my experience it just doesn't work. So your best bet, is to keep it simple, keep it consistent, and make sure people know what to expect when buying music from your label.
Another aspect of making a digital label work, that often gets put on the side burner, is marketing your music and label. You have to show a certain level of professionalism when doing this, and with the social networks so available and widely used now, they are the best forms of marketing and promoting your music. Facebook being the giant, with SoundCloud a close runner up, using social media to help promote your releases is essential, but don't half-ass it. Spend the time, add solid content to your page, make sure to upload the clips of forthcoming releases to your SoundCloud page, and above all, stay relevant!
Setting Up Distribution
With the seemingly endless amount of digital retail sites available these days, it's almost impossible to hit every one of them and get your releases to them personally, I can't stress the importance of distribution enough! Do your homework, look into the distribution companies that are best suited for the music you're putting out, they are a life saver, trust me! The distro companies will help send out your release packets to all the major retailers, breakdown the sales of each release and take a small percentage of sales for the work they've done (they gotta eat too!). Take your time, do the research and pick a distro that works best for you. Good distributors include Cygnus, ST Holdings and Triple Vision.
Build Your Reputation
The last thing I'll tell you, above all, is create and maintain a good reputation as a label owner and/or business person. Put contracts in place for releases, be up front with the artists you sign and work with, and make sure everyone gets the respect, credit and pay-outs they deserve. At this point my relationships are what have helped grow the label to where it is now, and I've done that by being very honest with my artists, paying them in a timely manner, and keeping the respect levels high on both sides.
So if you're considering putting together your own digital label, hopefully these steps will help you find your path a little faster and easier. The key to it all it being persistent, staying relevant to what the current markets are buying, and keeping your reputation at the highest level you can reach initially. Spend the time, money, and energy into your label, at the end of the day it will pay off ten fold.
Words: Jon Methodus
Aussie drum & bass producer Safire drops by for a chat and reveals where to download his Innerspace Audio track for free!
Check The Foundation With David Heartbreak
Brooklynite David Heartbreak is launching the Foundation EP on OWSLA, and reception has been hot so far. Blending hip hop with dance vibes, we wanted to investigate from the man himself.
Philth Pours Out His Heart Songs
More well known for his, well, filth, Philth has gone all romantic on us for his new EP. We chat basslines, waistlines and inspirations right here.
Goodlooking Meets Spotify
One of the most groundbreaking labels in the history of UK dance music has teamed up with one of the leading streaming services online. We bring you the info right here.
Digital Soundboy Set Sail For Boat Party
Digital Soundboy are at it again. Ship ahoy for a summer boat party, we've got the details here.
Emissions Festival 2013 Review
We check out 'West Coast Bass Culture' festival Emissions...
Love Saves The Day 2013 Preview Mix
In anticipation of what promises to be an awesome event, Hodge & Shandy have put together a preview mix for Love Saves The Day.
Clima Guest Mix And Free Track
Spanish production duo Clima have some big releases coming up, and to celebrate, they have a guest mix and a track to give away.
One World Many Cultures With David Boomah
He has gone and done it. The new album from David Boomah is out now, and of course, Kmag wanted to get the lowdown from the man himself.
Empress Guest Mix
Best known for her marathon genre-bending sessions behind the decks, Empress checks in with a heavy-duty guest mix and broad-ranging interview that spans the course of her career.
Swindle Lives For The Jazz
Swindle's new album is coming out on DEEPMEDi on June 16th. We caught up with the bass music jet-setter to discuss his work and the sense of achievement of the album's completion.
Bassclash Meets Dubstar
Leading dubstep label Dubstar is teaming up with Bassclash for a huge compilation album, out now. Find out more here.
With interest peaking in their upcoming London night, we find out more about the Innersoul crew, and what they are up to.
CM Sounds Competition
CM Sounds have some amazing music technology courses on offer. They are now teaming up with Kmag for a competition. We give you all you need to know right here.
Aural Imbalance Comes Out Of Plato's Cave
Aural Imbalance is one half of Out Of Plato's Cave, who have recently dropped an album on the Greta Cottage Workshop label. We speak to him about it here.