Can Anyone start a Record Label?

Why stop at just your own stuff. Why not just host a site and ask any artist interested in joining to join up. Im not a Graphics Designer but just how easy is this?

Seems there are a lot of ways to do it. I don’t know the music business at all, but I can’t imagine there are a lot of people making a ton of money that way at present…

it’s slightly more expensive to get digital distribution/a Bandcamp account for multiple artists.

You’d probably need to write some kind of paper napkin contract with the artists.

it’s a bit more hassle to administrate than just releasing your own stuff…

That’s about all the obstacles I can really think of.

Also, running a label is clearly a social good, so you will probably get a nicer sunlounger in heaven.


*but not, as mentioned above with the expectation of making any money (although you might!)

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Can you? Sure.
Should you? Depends.

Big q is, what exactly would you be offering artists that they can’t get either by themselves or elsewhere.


these days, with availability of such platforms as Bandcamp, starting your own label is totally unnecessary in most cases — because such platforms made releasing your music without transferring any rights on it really easy.


Adding to that, it’s also real easy for indie radio stations etc to search for brand new relevant content via the tag system without even having to bother about marketing and whatnot.


For me, it seems worth doing if you’re willing to pay more attention to the admin, community and marketing than the music, or have time to do all of it.

If it’s just a label to associate with some artists, it might not be worth it.

If you want to get into “building community” - cross-pollenating the artists, forming supergroups, remix swaps, events - then it’s a better option.

I often daydream about a really left-field label idea. Include the fans “in” the label: use the cooperative/syndicate/burning-man models such that artists and fans share cost/rights/ownership; perhaps build tools to help manage copyrights, licensing, earnings and so-on in keeping with these ideals. In that way, the label becomes a vehicle for political change/activism, as well as a community and marketing tool.


OK I can write a post with my little experience of a digital and vinyl label I manage with a friend between 2010 & 2015


Audiences appreciate the details in things like this - stable of artists, continuity of artwork, backstory of label head, focus of label sound or style. You could just open the floodgates and say hey who wants to be on my label, but it’s the same as anything. A skate brand sponsoring skaters. Jeans companies with models. Not anyone does those things - you need talent and you need to fit. Your label is a sound and a vision and an idea, and the artists on the label embody that.

Still, I was reading about some label boss the other day, and he was saying his hand was kindve forced on it, he just had recordings and material everywhere and his life was full of it, it made sense to put it all out. I kinda like that, making a label out of necessity rather than pushing the vague idea uphill.

I like the idea of starting a label, and would enjoy that as a day job, admining it, making cover art, printing things, organising graphic design, sorting masters out. The whole process would be great. But is there any income to support that life? Maybe not. It could be a passion project, save up some coin to spend some time doing something like that, and who knows, maybe it takes off


Just do it :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I’m a DJ since I have 14 years old doing school-children party first then moved to new years eve, wedding while my thing was dancing (hiphop, break and sort of thing).
While dancing on house and breaks mainly my thing I moved to specialized myself in house first (by meeting another dj who playing mostly house sound factory style of house) and then more techno stuff (because I listen a lot of techno when I was a student). I take many years while djing to established myself in production and live performance. At some point, after few release I have the opportunity to manage a label records firstly in terms of A&R and then full management - meaning A&R, press and dealing with our French distributor from Paris.

Can Anyone start a Record label ?
If anyone with no idea “at all” of music distribution & network… I would say it will be more than a challenge. And the road will be a long one before to get to a point your company or yourself didn’t loose money and start to make profit. (and eventually redistribute to your artists)

Things to consider :

  • Label and Artist relationships is difficult
  • Artist not only hope to make a musical project to happen or be released
  • Label, as the artist need to build a fan base
  • Label, need to have a decent promo mailing list with pro dj, radio, magazine
  • Label, need to have a professional network in the music industry
  • It’s easiest when you are known as an artist-dj-producer to actually create a label
  • Since few years it is very difficult for a label to sell 300 vinyls copies and repress
  • Press cost for vinyls was around 1200euros for 300, today price is double at least…
  • You have to comply with law in the music area in your countries (France is sacem etc)
  • You have to advert and promote like any other business (and it can cost a lot if you are not smart to target your campaign)
  • You have to progress on a lot of things to make you and your artists happy in term of business relationships.
  • it’s a lot of work and for many people (not only you) if budget limited or close to zero i don’t think it’s a good idea.
  • A Team behind with a great mixing of skills will be a very big bonus (but then how people get paid, it’s up to you to make it works)
  • If you stay in a little town, behind a computer without to meet the pros, your label could be a Spotify playlist and not a real label records.
  • The era and the crazy amount of digital label : read also things about the Digital music shops online experience (for instance Beatport) before to jump to fast on building a new one in this gigantic ocean of existing label records.
  • One Artist = One personal Label record doesn’t make sense at all. But still you can sell your music online on your website, sell it the price you want with no cost except the website and payement gateway - how much you sell then : the network - I mean it’s simple as that. traffic and network of course on top of that you need to make things people actually like and want to buy, and/or play for sure that’s the key ingredient.

NB: warning with mailing list - spam applied here as well as any other business


Graphic Designer is only a very small part of skills needed and you can really pay that to someone. Create a Record label is nothing to do with that. at all. (and I’m Graphic Designer as well so I know that haha)

What I have in mind now
I think it would be interesting to compare (even if the comparison is difficult) the mass distribution / farmers and to be inspired by what is happening today. To find an interesting model that could unite musicians around the same cause

What we know :

  • we actually didn’t win money with music anymore
  • we lost cd so there’s no compilation or dj mix sold anymore
  • we may win a bit of money with gigs, events
  • radio still there and diffuse our music (eventually)
  • Advertisement, Music for Movies, TV shows, Video games can still be interesting to deal with
  • music apps still need to better redistribute fees/royalties (especially on small artists)
  • we still need to have music released to stand a bit on top (so people know you)
  • artists exchanges in terms of releases, bookings etc can still work (you book me I book you - then it’s based on human relationships not really business) win + win things
  • the more we advance in time, the more the artist must master a whole bunch of different professions, alone to stand out - and this is the main cause of failures (super hero doesn’t exist in real life)
  • one for all and all for one, it can works but to make it happen : you have to delegate and trust and anyone should-must get something out of this in some ways

What I think :
It is very likely that the movement is re-ghettoized again, it could be that all the professionals go back to vinyls against digital, forcing professionals to buy music again, club to have turntables to make dj gigs work again, enthusiasts to buy turntables to listen to their artists preferred, collectors to recollect … Piracy and subscription solution to overcome this problem I think is a failure. It is in the rarity that the interest of underground music resided and by nature digital is contradictory with the charm that rarity could subjugate.

Digital by its ease of access and costs floods the market, quality is immersed in quantity and people and even professionals find it difficult to manage it. The advantage of vinyls is that given the financial cost you would tend to release only music that is really important to you or that you really love musically and , by principle and it is completely game-changing. While digital tends to serve as tools to grow the network and manage deals differently to the detriment of the quality of the release that’s is for sure what I observe this last 10 years at least.

Other Intermediate - Pro may thinks differently for sure… and especially in different music genre and non-clubbing or dance floor oriented music


If you had switched from digital to Vinyl do you think you would still be going and growing today? This is interesting to me as I’m an ex touring (Vinyl DJ) and Record Shop owner in the 1980’s. If digital is saturated and pirated beyond the point of making money(which it wouldn’t be my reason but just as a hobby in retirement).

Another thought since you mentioned it is radio. Has anyone thought of starting an Electronic only radio station? Maybe there already is one. That would be great fun.

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Do you mean something like this?


I’ve released a bunch of records and tapes over the years. It’s as easy as opening a bandcamp account & having enough extra money to finance the first release. If you’re doing it right, you should break even or make a bit of profit to finance the next release. Nowadays labels don’t really pay for recording, artists have to shell out cash for studio so it’s pretty low risk to run an indie label.

If you’re willing to trade, you can easily amass a pretty sizeable record collection or run a distro. It takes a fair bit of effort though, so I’ve always rather sold my releases directly. That takes a fair bit of time, though so either approach has downsides.

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it’s simple to open a label account on bandcamp. you don’t even have to do the details of adding releases. the artists can do it and control their own pages and you can make a header and add those releases to your label page.

it’s what i ended up doing w/buried in time after i gave all the artists control of their releases and bandcamp pages. it looks like this.

i then forwarded the domain too the bandcamp page. easy peasy.


If you don’t mind me asking, why did you start an online label? I’ve always kind of wondered what the role of a label is if the releases are all digital. Are you a curator? Do you offer help with artwork? What value does an online label bring to the artist as opposed to just them putting their music up on bandcamp themselves?

Thats crazy.

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i started it in 2005. we did physical releases. CDs and some vinyl but went online only some years ago for various reasons…releasing physical things and selling them, promoting them etc is time consuming and difficult even if you’re all in on the tunes and believe in them etc. it’s also expensive and mentally fucking to look at a pile of boxes in the basement that are unsold releases even w/all the effort. thankfully that number has gradually dwindled and there’s only a handful of vinyl/CDs remaining… which is nice since people are still into the tunes enough that they find an audience still.

many people on the label had moved on doing different things and didn’t have time to play gigs and make tracks regularly.

still… there’s 40 releases or something… close to it. and there will be more… but digital only.

it’s under most people’s radars but i think is still relevant even if mostly i’m using it to release my own stuff. all the people who were part of the label are friends and still making/releasing music in various places… some on vinyl w/other labels.

i wish i had the cash and time and energy to dive back into it full steam but i just don’t. it’s a lot of work even w/a small label.


I hear you! i’m involved with two tape labels at the moment and trading tapes is a pain in the ass. I’ve spent so much on postage and customs to trade with people outside of the EU that I don’t even want to think about it. It’s a lot of work but I do love the feeling you get when opening a package with strange stamps from like Japan or Siberia, with strange DIY tapes inside.

I personally love labels as opposed to like, self releases or just artists having a bandcamp simply because a label is a curated collection or music. It saves you time when you know you share a similar taste to whoever is running a label. That’s what I really miss now that a lot of underground DIY music has gone digital, someone telling me what to listen, hah. It’s also probably why I don’t really check out digital only (self)releases.