Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 - Page 44

PHOTO : BECCA CLARK FROM PIXABAY

WHAT DOES

STARTING YOUR OWN

RECORD LABEL

Actually Mean ?

By Michael Raine

What the hell does it actually mean to start your own record label ? Is doing so costly , or a lot of work ? Why would an indie artist even want to , aside from the cool factor that comes with saying , “ we started our own label ”? It ’ s something I ’ ve often – almost secretly – wondered to myself . Really , it seems you hear of artists releasing music on their own label so often that asking what that meant , in real pragmatic terms , kind of felt silly . It ’ s sort of like when you ’ ve heard about cryptocurrency so much you begin feeling silly asking what it actually is , until you realize that 95 % of people also don ’ t understand it and just repeat terms and phrases they ’ ve heard . And so , I wanted to reach out to a few folks with experience in this area and find out , finally : What does it really mean to start your own label , and for whom is it a good idea ?

“ With all the artists that we manage , they are their own label in Canada . It ’ s kind of weird , because it ’ s not like you ’ re a label where you ’ re then signing other acts . That ’ s very different . But rather , with our artists , it ’ s just that they put [ music ] out on their own , and we administer that for them ,” begins Joanne
Setterington , founder of Toronto-based PR and management company Indoor Recess , and manager for former Strumbellas frontman and multi-platinum songwriter Simon Ward , as well as Long Range Hustle and Daysormay . “ It ’ s all the nuts and bolts of it . So , running a label is really everything from when you have to register the business name , and that can either be a part of your own corporation , or it can be its own entity , whatever that looks like . And then you have to get ISRC codes for the songs that you ’ re putting out . So , you have to apply for those and keep track of those . You do all the song registrations across the CMRRA , Sound Exchange , and all those places where the ‘ mailbox money ’ comes in . We work a lot with AWAL , actually . All of our artists have a deal with AWAL as the distributor and they ’ re really fantastic . That is key . They take a percentage as distribution fee , but you have a real person . So , those Thursday-at-midnight sweats that we all go into because that ’ s when music comes out ; when there ’ s something wrong , you have a person that you can actually call at that time or early the next morning who will help fix it . We like that safety net and it ’ s worth that percentage to us , in most cases . Also , the support that they give you when it comes to , say , pitching to the [ streaming services ].”
So , in essence , starting your own label means you ’ re doing all the not-so-fun administrative work yourself . And that work does take time and money , which is why Setterington is quick to point out that Canadian artists actually have a significant advantage in this regard compared to their American indie counterparts .
“ I don ’ t know that this is as easy to do in all countries . I want to say that in Canada , we ’ re very fortunate that we have the funding . It ’ s not this triumphant march out on our own , we have these wonderful places that you can apply to for grants – whether it ’ s one of the provincial associations , or FACTOR , or Radio Starmaker Fund , Ontario Creates ( formerly OMF ) – where you can map out your own path while staying autonomous and being able to figure that out ,” she explains .
What became clear in talking to Setterington and others is that no one is a one-person team . Sure , if your recorded music isn ’ t actually generating any revenue , then you could technically create your own label while not actually doing much of anything . It also wouldn ’ t make much sense , either in money or effort , to do that . But there comes a time in a successful recording artist ’ s career where it ’ s something to think about . Doing so smartly
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