How to Start a Record Label

Starting up a music label is no different to opening up any other form of business. At the end of it, the key objective is to break-even on your initial investment and continue to find ways to expand and increase your sales. As a record label, whether independent or partnered with larger companies, your job is to manage the artists you have signed and ensure their music gains exposure and ultimately start selling. Their success is your success, and likewise, their failures are your failures.

As my main business interest lies in Brunei, here are some of the main considerations when planning to open up a record company:

3-5 Year Plan
Nothing happens overnight. Well, maybe besides coming up with the company name. Sit down with you team to work out some high-level plans, i.e. the aspirations and what you hope to achieve after a few years. Then work your way backwards on how to reach these goals. And by goals, please do not put down 'To Make $$$' as one. A goal is something much more meaningful and profound. And the strategies that you have decided together as a team - let those become your guiding principles. Modify and amend to suit circumstances as you go along but don't change the overall mission.

Signing Artists
Before you even start, ensure you have at least a few artists and acts that will be willing to commit. Time and time again it has been mentioned that there are a lot of potential with Bruneian musicians and producers, have you scouted or are already working with one that can become the next big thing? Someone with performing experience and just needs the platform may also be another option. Either way, ensure you have a line-up that is promising and displays versatility.

Distribution
Once you've actually set up your Sdn. Bhd. or proprietorship, think about how you wish to distribute your music releases. Granted, online distribution will become a big factor, but your physical CDs and products will be just as important. Especially as a new record company, you want to promote as widely and as effectively as possible. CD stores, Book Stores, Department Stores, Cube Stores! Try to get in contact with various distributing parties in the country and find out what deals you can get with them to push out your records. This is definitely unfamiliar territory for everyone, so let your music label become the pioneers for this.

Investment
Raising up funds for an independent label will always be a challenge. But as a start-up, if you can beat the odds with small budgets, then it shows resilience and further add recognition to your brand. If you can loan for an initial investment to cover marketing and promotion, then go for it. With the right business proposal, you may be able to negotiate with companies or banks to invest in you. Or you can pool from your own sources and still excel from marketing purely on social media. Either way, it is a priority to re-coup on the initial investment, even if it may take a while to do so. But in general if after the 6th month you are still not earning, then perhaps it will be time to go back to drawing boards. Not to raise the white flag just yet.

Obviously there a lot more factors to consider, however in Brunei we have seen one to many unsuccessful music start-ups that it becomes disheartening for the newer players. I stand by that the music and performing arts industry will continue to grow, where it is up us as the tech-savvy and younger generation to let the sector flourish by making creative entrepreneurial moves.

- ZP