Label Role 1: Distribution
Sure, there’s not much call for printing music onto disks and getting it into stores across the world using ships and trucks (although the vinyl market is one dimension you could pursue for some ‘physical’ distribution), but there’s plenty of work to do online.
Your artists’ track won’t simply appear on Spotify, iTunes, Tidal and all the others – it’s a case of manually finding out how to submit master versions of the tracks for distribution on each one. If you have a bit of cash to spend, a service such as TuneCore, DistroKid or CD Baby can mean a huge weight off your shoulders when it comes to managing distribution. An essential purchase even for a cash-strapped label.
It’s also your job to ensure the metadata of each track is complete, and that you own the rights or a license for anything that’s been sampled in the music you’re putting out.
Label Role 2: Social Media
While labels take work out of an artist’s hands, this is actually one area we recommend leaving to the artist. As a powerful way to communicate with fans, and to understand what drives them and makes them happy, social media is a vital way for the artist to stay current and keep their feet on the ground.
You can, however, act as an admin/manager on artists’ profiles, making sure things don’t slip in busy periods. And don’t forget your label’s social profiles, which will help forge links between your artists and circulate fans between them.
Label Role 3: Artwork
Graphics can be as personal as music to some artists, and many will be talented enough to want to create their own artwork for albums and other releases. In other cases, this may be an area for the label to step in, marshalling talent and learning which creators are good enough to work with other artists on your label in the future.
Label Role 4: Live Shows and Touring
While you’re taking admin roles out of the hands of your artists, how about relieving them of the hassle of arranging venues, spots and other live shows?
Then, when the gig is upon you, it’s often key for the label to help ensure that everything runs smoothly – from tracking down the right cables to filling bowls full of brown M&Ms, your responsibilities might depend on your individual agreements, and whether an artist is managed, but again, if the idea is to leave an artist to play their best game, you’ll want to be around.
Label Role 5: Web Presence
Does your label have a website? Does each of your artists? Is their info correct on sites like Resident Advisor and Discogs? Do they appear in Google’s Knowledge Panel (on the right) when you search them by name? Are they on Wikipedia? Is their Soundcloud Bio accurate? Does it give links to buy their music and check out their live dates? Do all the above things link to each other as well?
Does your label have a website? Does each of your artists?
Those are just some of the questions you should ask to make sure each artist has a good web presence and can be easily found by fans and potential fans alike.
Label Role 6: Production, Mixing and Mastering
The roles of producer and artist have merged for many forms of music, but depending on your agreement, it might be your responsibility to get an artist’s music mixed or mastered professionally, leaving them to concentrate on just making more of it.
The advantage of having things mixed and/or mastered by a full-time professional? They do this all day, and they’ve got a better grasp on the current trends in commercial mixing.
Label Role 7: PR and Comms
Artist exposure isn’t just a matter of having their music uploaded everywhere and playing live shows – if nobody hears about the artist and their releases, how can they build a fanbase?
It’s usually the role of a label to generate interest, arranging as many interviews and features as possible, online and in other publications. Hiring an experienced PR person is one way to pay to get this done, but if you’re attempting it yourself, here’s how to get started…
Check out existing articles in a wide variety of publications, and see where your artist would fit. Of course, there’s no point in placing your minimal techno artist into ‘Modern Tuba’ magazine. Get a handle on the various sections of each site, and see where your artist would be good – and why. Does the artist have a reputation for gearlust? Find the sites that do as well. Does the artist have an interesting story or project that would turn the heads of a certain editorial team? Give them a shout.
If you can make a match between an artist and an outlet yourself, you’re much more likely to be successful when approaching that outlet. Throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks isn’t a good strategy here – know who might be interested in your artist based on genre, history, and topics of conversation, and target particular places.
Label Role 8: Rights and Wrongs
Has an artist sampled a piece of copyright material? As the label who will distribute the music, it’s up to you to clear the sample with the copyright holder. If you can’t, it’s time for the artist to replace it.
On the other hand, what if your artist has been sampled by someone else? Or uploaded to and monetized by another person? In this case, it’s up to your report it or file a copyright claim, to make sure you and the artist are getting paid your dues.
make sure you and the artist are getting paid your dues.
Label Role 9: Royalty Collection and Registration
Your artists may be registered with their rights organisations, but as their label, it’s your responsibility to ensure that their released music is properly tagged and classified in order for them to be able to collect any of the proceeds. Exactly how it works isn’t for us to go into in this article, but it’s worth becoming familiar with how royalties work, and what your responsibilities are in this area.
The growing concern for Live Music Royalties is also another area where you can help ensure that everyone’s getting what they’re due – more admin, more metadata, and more work for you.