If they already have something going on , a good distributor will maybe want to help them ,” Versteeg says , and cleopatrick is a good example of what he means . “ But if it ’ s just a band with a great record and nothing else , you have to have someone vouch for you , because you can ’ t just walk in with a great record to a distributor and be like ‘ look !’ You need an entry point . So , there ’ s no one-size-fits-all and that ’ s what makes it interesting .”
So , in the end , what does having your own label really mean ? Essentially , it ’ s about being in complete control of all aspects of your career by handling all the business and administrative work . That doesn ’ t necessarily mean doing it all yourself , though .
“ I think it ’ s just about organization and looking after your own stuff and being allowed to take that elsewhere ,” says Setterington . “ If you ’ re making a certain amount of money , it ’ s worth the price to incorporate because you ’ re saving that money in taxation . And also , that ’ s the reason why you get lower taxes is so you can use that money for your business . That ’ s helpful sometimes as our personal taxes are quite hefty in this country .”
That is why her number one piece of advice , something echoed by each person spoken to for this article , is to have a serious conversation with both an accountant and a lawyer before starting your own venture .
“ As an artist and a manager , with things like this , you usually have to consult those two places . They ’ re not always in agreement on things , but from a taxation standpoint , you want to know what that looks like . And from a legal standpoint , you want to see what that looks like ,” says Setterington . “ They may advise different things , and you sometimes have to pick which is most important to you – to be protected legally , or to be looked after in terms of taxation and financially – but those are two things are where I think the sooner an artist learns about those , the better . There ’ s a reason a lawyer and an accountant the two people I talk to the most for any of our artists .”
And for the cleopatrick guys , having gone this route , it has filled them with a sense of accomplishment .
“ It ’ s a different sense of pride ,” says Gruntz .
“ Not even just being able to say that we ’ re not signed to a major label . It ’ s more so , now that it ’ s been a year and bit since we released our first album , being able to look back and see all the stuff that we made happen . And that we did purely from our own will and some careful deliberation . That feels really good . It feels like this is a good story .”
Michael Raine is the former Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Musician .
Listen to the Dec . 14 , 2022 , episode of the Canadian Musician Podcast for Michael Raine ’ s entire frank , illuminating , and often funny conversation with Menno Versteeg about the creation and inner workings of Royal Mountain Records .
The Legal Perspective on Starting Your Own Label
CM : At what point in a band / artist ’ s career does it make financial / business sense to incorporate their own label that would own and release their music ? And what are primary pros and cons of starting your own label ?
Dani Oliva : It can make sense in a variety of circumstances . Sometimes bands or music groups like to “ assign ” their music copyright assets to an entity that they create to make it easier to then license the work or enter into various business deals . This type of entity operates more like a holding company rather than a traditional label . If the artist or group is making a certain threshold of income without a label as a result of , for example , building a relationship with fans on their own or via government grants , it might make sense for the artist or band to create their own label and then enter into a distribution deal or hire third-party companies for various services .
If you ’ re not creating a holding company and you are truly creating a label structure , make sure you have the funding and sufficient label support , including an accountant / bookkeeper or business manager , tax professional , marketing assistance , distributor , PR , radio pluggers , and so on .
For a lot of artists / bands , I would recommend that you create a holding company ( rather than a traditional label ) to assign your copyrights for future business deals , but be sure to talk to a tax professional and lawyer about whether this is the best option for you because creating and maintaining a company can be expensive and may not be best for your specific situation .
An artist or band should always first talk to a tax professional and a lawyer ( you need to speak with both !) to determine what ’ s best for them .
Dani Oliva is a Canadian artist advocate , speaker , and music attorney now based in Los Angeles who is focused on helping talented creators thrive in the music business . He was recently named the vice president of legal and business affairs at Q & A Media . Follow him @ olivaesq or go to www . olivaesq . com
for more information .
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