Here at Reckless Yes we’ve been a record label for coming up to two years but it’s not so often we reflect on how that came to be, or all the things we had to know and have experienced to get off the ground so fast. This afternoon we spent a couple of hours giving a free workshop as part of Write:Record:Release doing just that – talking about our story, our individual experiences in the industry, ways of releasing music, and how to get along with the music media.
Record labels and music media
Here’s a few key take-aways for those who weren’t able to come along:
Think about what success looks like to you
It might not be playing a 60-date European stadium tour, or it might. It might be making a multi-Platinum genre defining classic album, or it might not. Perhaps selling your music to someone you’ve never previously met is you marker, or perhaps you want to get a review in Q, or a gig in a place you’ve never played before.
Whatever success looks like to you (and it’ll probably change as you go and achieve things) you need to have a clear idea of where you’re going.
Think about how you’re going to get there
Once you have that idea of where you’re going you need to think about how to get there! If your aim is to have a track in the public domain your way of getting there may be to research aggregators (like Record Union or State51) to release it onto Spotify, iTunes, et al and to upload it to Bandcamp. If it’s to release an album on limited run coloured vinyl, you might want to try and attract the attention of a record label who might help (find our demo submission policy here).
If you want to reach more people with your music you might want to get added to a Spotify playlist or start contacting journalists, bloggers, broadcasters and publications who like music like yours. Or if it’s that review in Q maybe you want to think about taking on a PR. There’s so many routes through the music industry now, you just need to find the one that leads for the success you’re trying to find
Have an idea who your audience is and where they hang out
Whether you are planning on taking DIY routes or looking to get signed it’s important to know who your audience is so you can better work out where they hang out (online and offline). Work this out then (without being weird and stalkery) start to build in those areas. If your audience hang out on Facebook, put your effort there. Remember that people are after experiences far more than they are itching to hear awesome new music from awesome new bands (some of us are, but we’re not the norm), and that they’re unlikely to pay for music immediately. Build a fanbase who are loyal and engaged – like with all things quality (fewer of them but more inclined to listen, buy or share your music) is better than quantity (more of them but less inclined to listen, buy or share your music).
Think about who you need on your team
Again – whether it’s a DIY approach or it’s a label you’re looking for think about who you need on your team. In the higher echelons of the old industry you might find yourself surrounded by a manager, a label A&R, multiple PRs all dealing with different channels plus a load more people. Now, you can build your own creative teams to help you reach your audience – photographer, videographer, digital pro – these people are probably more important for you to get to know than actively chasing labels or the media. Build your profile right, reach your audience, and growing your team within the industry will be easier.
Working with labels and the media
If your road to success includes stops with a label and the media there are some things to think about. Firstly – for both areas – check the submission policy. Most labels will have something on their website about whether they accept demos or contact, and if so how to do it. Ours is here. Media too will generally have a contacts page and list of contributors. Do some research and find who might be most interested in you. You won’t be right for every label, or appeal to every journalist but with a bit of time on research you can narrow down the field to some best bets and then show them what you’ve built so far and give them what they need to decide if they are going to support you.
We talked about loads more and got asked some really great questions – do we think the appetite to consume music has changed since the ’90s, where do we discover new music, how do we know something is right for the label – and we’d love to talk more about all these things. We might have some ideas on when and how we do that…watch this space.
Big thanks to Jay Dean of Dubrek for asking us to take part in the series, and for hosting the panel discussion this afternoon, and to Real Creative Futures. The Write:Record:Release series continues throughout June – check the Real Creative Futures website for full event listings.