What does a record label do?
Independent record labels exist to support artists to foster their careers and help them achieve their version of success. As success is different for different artists, we help them understand what success is to them and help facilitate this for them.
What that looks like on a more granular level is working on a strategy for releasing music, including the timeline, marketing, publicity and in-house distribution; as well as sync and licensing.
It’s beautiful when you work on an artist project that you love and then see that embraced by others!
How does a label make money?
Record labels take a small percentage of the pie – a slice of the artist’s success. This happens through royalties, sync and licensing, and physical sales. But not live shows as that percentage traditionally goes to a booking agent.
What does a label deal look like?
A major label deal will look totally different to a big indie label deal, which will look totally different again to a small indie label deal. Regardless of what the deal is, it is recommended that you do not give away your rights in perpetuity. Some labels will give you an advance and will put aside a budget for this. In exchange, they will want your rights either forever or for a really long time before they revert back to you.
Think critically about the label deals that you want to get into and that serve you. What will help you achieve your goals?
If a label deal isn’t for you, there are label services companies who can provide label services without any exchange of rights. Or you can find independent marketers, publicists and pluggers and bring your own team together under your direction. And if you’re just starting out, you can do a lot of the marketing and promotion yourself.
How can artists who are not signed to a label take strong steps forward?
It’s funny but the things that will work for one band at one specific time, will generally not work for another. So simply copying what one band did to achieve success likely won’t work for you.
Instead, you have to lean into you, your song, your music, your story, your uniqueness. And you have to find your own path.
All of the same activities that a label does will be necessary – like distribution, marketing, etc – but it will need to be done in a way that is true and authentic to the artist so that it resonates with your audience.
How to be authentic in your marketing endeavours?
People gravitate to content that’s true and real, so do something that’s authentic to you. Lean into things that you’re interested in and marry that with your music.
For example, if you’re really into gardening, how can you make content that shows your skills in the garden but also utilises your songs in that content?
After recording your music, take some time out to put together a strategy based around your goals. Don’t record and then rush to release.
Ask yourself critical questions. For example, when do you think would be a good time to do a show to promote the single? The day of the release or later on once the song has had enough time out in the world to reach its audience?
Let fans find your song, let radio play it, let people come to that song. And then celebrate in 1-2 months in a show and bring along all the people who have found it in that time. Give it some life before pushing on to the next thing.
At the live show, think about how you can build relationships with your fans and your community. For example, be at the merch desk after your show because your fans want to talk to you, and ask for their email address for your mailing list. Putting in that extra time with your fans is strengthening that connection with them.
Getting your music on radio
Getting your music on radio requires a little bit of work, but it’s a great way to find your community, your fans and your audience. Radio Broadcasters are happy to hear from artists.
It’s important that you don’t just spam everyone. Know your audience and email the radio shows that play the genre of music that you make. There are people who host radio shows who will value your music, and by reaching out directly, you’re building that relationship with that broadcaster.
If you’re in Australia, start by looking at the CBAA’s AMRAP program. This resource will give you access to radio stations and search engines to find the right shows for your music, so you can make your radio pitch relevant to the station.
How to approach labels that you want to work with?
Ultimately, if you know you want to work with a label, then start doing your research. Find out what artists they work with and what they offer. Think critically about why you would want to be on that label, and be clear about why you are approaching them. Don’t just send a blanket email saying what you want and send it to every label email you can scrape off the internet. Know about that label and make your email meaningful and purposeful.
Labels want to work with artists who want to make us feel something. People who work at labels and fans of music and amazing songs. It’s important that you’re making music that feels real and true to you.
Finally, stay focused on finding your fans not seeking recognition from the industry!
If you’re self-promoting your career and want some guidance and support, check out our Professional Development Mentoring Opportunity – Level Up Club here.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
3:13 – What does a record label do?
7.40 – How artists who are not signed can take strong steps forward
12:50 – How to be authentic in your marketing endeavours
17:10 – Some pathways for radio promotion in Australia
19:26 – What does a label deal look like?
23:00 – How does a label make money?
24:54 – How to approach labels that you want to work with?
About Sweetie Zamora:
Sweetie is the Head of Labels & Promotions at Remote Control Records, and board member of the Australian Independent Record Label’s Association. With over a decade at Remote Control, Sweetie has delivered multiple ARIA #1 Albums, as well as Gold and Platinum sellers for the likes of Adele, Courtney Barnett, Radiohead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and more, as well as guiding the careers of beloved local artists including Ngaiire, Donny Benet, Memphis LK, Carla Geneve, and many others. In early 2021, she founded Pointer Recordings, her own label imprint, home to Telenova, Glenn Hopper, Jamaica Moana and a number of other genre-bending artists. Check out some of the Remote Control Records artists here.
Episode Show Notes:
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