35 Things To Consider When Starting Your Own Record Label

  1. Why are you starting your own label? (What is your motivation?)
  2. Why would anyone want to buy your music anyway?
  3. Is there currently a market for your kind of music? Prove it!
  4. If you are not releasing your own music, have you ever read a recording contract? Are you aware of all the traditional clauses that are in such 75-100 page contracts?
  5. Do you know anything about copyright law?
  6. What is a Mechanical Royalty?
  7. Have you ever heard of the Harry Fox Agency? What do they do?
  8. What do you want to achieve by starting your own label?
  9. What do you know about the day to day business of selling music?
  10. Will your new company be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation? (Do you know the pros and cons of each?)
  11. Have you registered the name of your company to make sure you can use that name?
  12. Will you need any recording equipment or office equipment and supplies to run your label?
  13. Do you have a recording studio you can work with?
  14. Do you know any record producers and/or engineers?
  15. How much money do you think it will cost you to startup your label, and to finance the recordings and marketing of the recordings for the first year?
  16. Where will the financing come from?
  17. What local, state, and federal tax responsibilities will your label have?
  18. How will you sell your records? (Live shows, Internet sales, mail order, catalog sales, Distributors, Stores?)
  19. What specific distribution and retail sales plans have you arranged so fans of your music can easily buy your releases at record and other retail stores?
  20. Do you have the money, time, and determination to compete in an industry that releases over 500 new records a week?
  21. How much does it cost to manufacture CDs, Tapes, and/or vinyl?
  22. What 'configurations' will you need to manufacture your music?
  23. How many copies do you need to manufacture for each release?
  24. What are 'package deals' offered by manufacturers, and are they right for you?
  25. Will you need to make any posters, bin cards, or other promotional materials? If so, how many and how much will that cost?
  26. What specific packaging choices are available and which is right for your releases?
  27. How did you estimate the number of copies you needed?
  28. Did you count into your estimation the number of free CDs you will have to give away for promotions of various kinds?
  29. How will you go about finding new acts to sign to your label?
  30. How important do you think the graphic element is in designing your label's logo, and specific cover artwork for your releases?
  31. Do you know any graphic artists with record jacket design experience?
  32. What specific information should go on the cover, back cover, spine, booklet, and on the CD itself?
  33. Do you have your own Barcode? Why do you need one?
  34. Do you know how to write a music marketing plan, a distributor 1 sheet, and other promotional materials? and...
  35. Who is your customer? If you think you know them, then describe them in very specific terms. ( Why am I asking you to do that?)


Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab