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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Investing in your band's label

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 16th, 2009

The simple business behind creating your own label

Business Basics
Once you've reached consensus on your label's name, I highly recommend applying for a GST vendor's permit through Revenue Canada (, registering your business through your lawyer and/or accountant, and opening up a business bank account at your local financial institution.

Running a band sloppily is one thing, but once you've got a working record label, you need to make sure your files, expenses, and profits are in tip top shape for three main reasons:

1) you will have monetary obligations to others, and need to keep record of all transactions in the event of a dispute

2) it is quite possible that your business could get audited and

3) if a major label decides to pick up you or one of your other artists, they will require a record of past sales, and successes for marketing purposes.

Suffice it to say you will start feeling a bit like a bag lady every time you insist on getting receipts for each purchase, but you'll need them to be able to deduce when your business has started to profit (ie: when you will actually be able to pay back loans and/or pay yourself as an employee), and it'll also come in handy, for tax purposes, to keep track of all of your expenses because if your bills far exceed your income, you will be taxed at a lower rate.

Additionally, it will be essential to make sure that you are in good standing with the necessary Canadian artist associations, as well as royalty and sales tracking services that you will require regular use of throughout your endeavours including SOCAN, CMRRA, SAC, AFM, and Soundscan (membership, in most cases, cost money).

Finally, before you are ready to release any albums, it's a good idea to already have working versions of your online stores in order so that all you'll have to do is put up the product at your desired time of release, and you won't face any potential delays with distribution.

Creating accounts with Youlicense and Pumpaudio may also be something to consider if you are interested in potentially licensing your tunes for tv, internet, and movie projects in the future.

Working the Rep
At this point forward, any communications from your band to bookers, distributors, photographers etc. should be coming from your record label NOT a member of your band.

From my own experience, I've found that it's best to choose a gender neutral name that is fairly unassuming such as Sam, or Vic because, as much as I hate to admit it, the vast majority of bookers, and promoters with whom you'll be interacting are men, and they'll naturally assume you're a guy too; thus leading them to treat you in a more respectful manner. You should give your so called label rep a last name as well (obviously not the same as any of your band members), and you should issue “him” a title such as Head of Promotions or Lead A&R representative depending on the purpose of your communications.

To cut down on costs (long distance bills are a killer), and simply to increase efficiency, I personally recommend doing as much as possible over email/the internet - whether that's researching potential clubs for tours, setting up appointments, booking gigs, issuing press releases, or paying for services. If you decide to pursue this route, you'll need to set up a label email address which can easily be accomplished through one of the several different free hosting services, that are at your disposal, including hotmail, yahoo, or gmail. Make sure when you are filling out the details for your email service that you do NOT put your personal name or birthday etc. under the information section because that is something that people can check, and you want to keep everything consistent with the name of your label rep.

For those of you who are perceptive I'm sure you noticed the above message made mention of having an official website for your label. When you first get started, and have yet to establish an extensive roster and/or list of services, a simple Myspace or Facebook business page (if done tastefully) will suffice.

Once things start heading down a more professional route, you may want to consider buying your label's domain name and actually launching a full scale website. As for what should be included on your website, make sure you've got an overview of the label's inception, the services it provides, its affiliates, its artists (with links to their official sites), and any sponsors it may have accrued. As well, it is absolutely necessary to include visible contact information detailing your full postal address, email, phone, and fax number (where possible) as, from my experiences as a journalist I can tell you that, there is nothing more frustrating then coming across a website on a subject in which you're really interested which fails to list the appropriate channels to initiate contact.

Next Week: Designing Your Label's Look & Creating a Professional Press Kit
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