I have DJ'd for many years. I have also produced, remixed and released many mix CDs (the latter including several for Global Underground) for more than 10 years. This year, I released Fabric 20 on the Fabric label, Choice: A Collection of Classics (Azuli) and a reissue of Sasha & John Digweed's Renaissance: The Mix Collection (Renaissance). And while continuing to produce; remix with my longtime collaborator, producer Nick Muir; and broadcast my radio show every Sunday on Kiss 100 in the UK, I also run a record label called Bedrock Records.
I originally launched Bedrock in 1999, when there was fantastic music coming at me from every direction — music that deserved being heard by a bigger audience. The general idea behind the label was not to constrict ourselves too heavily, but to release music by established and underground artists that was of a high standard.
The label's first release (“Heaven Scent”) was under the name Bedrock, but I then expanded the label with other artists, such as Steve Lawler, Steve Porter, Luke Fair, Pole Folder and many more. I also launched the imprints Bedrock Breaks and Black under the Bedrock umbrella. (For news on what's coming up, check out www.bedrock.uk.net.) So for those of you looking to start your own a label, here's some advice from what I've learned during the past six years.
How do you put together a business plan to start your own label? What's a ballpark amount of money to start with?
It depends on whether you go for a P&D (pressing and distribution) deal or just a distribution deal when you set out. A P&D means letting other people, who know what they're doing, handle things that might be new to you, but you might not see the best return. However, if you're a bit more familiar with the way things work, you can handle the pressing yourself — but you take on the workload! Starting from scratch, I'd find a distributor you can work with and build a relationship with it. You need to meet people face to face and make sure nobody's hiding anything. Equally, be brutally honest with people about what you expect and what you need to see returned from the record. For a ballpark number, I think you can start the ball rolling with about $1,000.
How do you get distribution?
Try to arrange a meeting with the person whose decision it is to take on new labels. It's hard work these days, so you need to present that person with a picture of what your label is, where it's going and why it's different from everything else the distributor has at present.
Also, you need to have an idea of money. It's not going to go very far if you present a picture that you're the next Sony and then tell the distributor that you don't actually have a penny. But the music is the most important. Let the representative hear what you want to put out, and any time you get something new, send it to that person again. Show the distributor what it's missing and how you're building something bigger than a one-off track.
Who are the key people who need to be involved to keep the business afloat? How do you find good people, such as lawyers and publicists, to work with?
When you're starting out, do everything you can yourself. Nobody will look after things and know what everything means financially (assuming you're using your own money) as well as you. And there's a lot to learn, so don't shy away from hard work. Then, ask other people for advice when it comes to outsourcing services like legal counsel, press and so on. The whole scene is built on relationships, which is a double-edged sword, but you should find your feet pretty quickly.
Have you learned any hard lessons from running a label? What should people avoid doing when launching their own label?
I think I've been pretty lucky, but there are always pitfalls and problems. My main advice would be to be realistic and optimistic. Don't let the stress of it all take the enjoyment away, but, equally, don't think it will all come easily. Look to release music that you like, as the only way you'll persuade other people it's good is if you can be genuinely enthusiastic about it yourself. If you are lucky enough to make a profit, buy yourself a congratulatory drink and put all the rest back into building your label.
Do you treat other labels much differently than your own? How has running your own label helped you do business with other companies?
Working with other labels is exactly the same as working with my own. You have to throw yourself fully behind everything you do, or it's not going to go anywhere. Dealing with my own label has shown me how much people appreciate professionalism and how much it makes for a better outcome to everything.