A 'how to' guide

Independent labels are about creating a family / crew of like minded artists, a sound and idea. A driving belief in your music and attitude, a base for your audience to come enjoy other similar artists.

The label Batty Bass was born out of a club night that was home to a core family of DJs, performers and artists. I had absolutely no experience in labels, only some serious determination and drive (I’m still no expert and I’m still learning all the time). I read books and gathered as much advise as i could from people who worked in the industry, to gain some basic knowledge. A lot of what I heard back from label people was negative reports about money lose, so....

To begin with, creating a label has nothing to do with making money, it is about pure love and belief of the artists your working with. However, you will need some money to kick start your label, with unavoidable costs for each record and essential needs for the base of your label, like websites and logos. There is also legal information you will need to learn about your label and contracts, so doing research is a must.

Identity is a huge part to play for a label.. what is your sound, what is your visual identity, what is your message? Look at any great label and you could instantly recognize them through artwork and sound.

Making sure you have a designer on board who can create a unique identity for you is essential. This goes for websites, videos, logos ... all artwork, strengthening the brand and making the family presence even stronger. This can be subtle or or it can be flamboyant, it doesn’t matter, it just needs to be creative, give a vibe and stand out.

Thinking ahead is essential, so when you are planning to start your label, think about how many releases you would like to put out in a year, write a plan, a mission.

There are a few ways to go about distributing and selling your music. A distribution company handles all your stock and distributes your music to all the records stores, online and actual shops, at a cut of your sales.

You will need to have your label set up, with your initial core crew and logo, with at least 3 releases finished and ready to go before you approach a distribution company. Researching who similar labels distribute through is a good way to find the right distributor for you.

Vinyl is making a comeback at the moment. Although we would all wish to have the music we made sold in the physical form of beautiful vinyl, it is not possible in a lot of cases for small labels. This is very expensive process, and earning your money back is a huge risk. It’s risky but if done right, it’s worth it and gives a label an added stamp of creditability and helps it to stand out from the rest. Again, I stress, it’s a big financial risk, one you must be prepared to make no money from.

There are still expenses selling it digitally, like mastering, artwork and promotion. Get to know the platforms you will be promoting through, like Facebook fan pages, Twitter, blogs, websites. Think about the best ways to connect with your audience. The best, most effective methods are always unique, so think outside the box and be original. The industry is awash with labels that frankly sound and look boring, if you want to be heard ... be interesting and different!

Getting established remixers on board is a great way to launch your record label, and create some attention, this also helps to establish new acts you might be launching. Getting your tracks out to key DJs before they are released is essential, if the DJs you love are playing it and spreading the love, then you’re reaching a fan base that are going to be into your sound, then your fans will take it from there and spread the buzz themselves.

Starting a club night is a great way to establishing your sound and artists, while directly connecting with and building your fan base, it’s amazing to be able to judge a record’s reaction with your core audience. This can help you with cash flow for your label, with everything feeding itself. Blogs and radio shows are also great ways to express your mission and establish your sound. Giving away free podcasts, videos is a great way to keep connected to your fans and spread the love. Be inventive as possible with this, again, this world is awash with things that look and sounds the same. There are no rules. However, with any business, you need to be organized and financially aware, keeping on top of your releases and costs is a must to allow the label to survive. There is a lot of planning that goes into putting out each record and responsibility for putting artist’s work into the world.

So think ahead, think about your sound, think about your crew, think about your fans, think about your cash flow, think about how you want to present yourself to the world and where in the world you want to take it!

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Hannah Holland is set to take part in a Roundhouse Rising workshop focussing on music production this Saturday (February 18th).


More information on Roundhouse Rising.

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