What is a record label?

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Even if it is now possible to finance your music creation and promotion on your own, signing with a label is often a decisive step in an artist’s career. Beyond the financing, and for a few years, or the time of a musical project, it’s a partner whose expertise boosts your career. How exactly do they support you? How do they get paid? And how can you find yours? We give you all the answers.

Why do I need a record label?

The primary function of your record label (or producer or record company) is to finance your musical projects. To this end, it provides you with a team of professionals whose goal is to develop your artistic career.  

Its contribution takes different forms depending on the level of support offered: it might intervene at the time of recording your project by financing the studio, the equipment and even other artists who collaborate with you on the track; or a little earlier in the process, by putting an art director at your disposal; or after the recording is done, by promoting your track using its marketing experts and/or editors; or even just by distributing the track to streaming platforms and record stores.

The advantage is that you can delegate those roles you can’t or don’t want to play yourself. With a record label, all you have to do is express your artistic vision and bring it to life, while being surrounded and inspired by a team of experts you trust. Before approaching a record label, it is a good idea to hire the services of a manager, who will be able to guide you and negotiate for you.

As a producer and record company, your label finances your musical projects. To do so, it supports you with a team of professionals who develop your artistic career. Each artist-label partnership is unique and can be more or less complete, from writing your music to its distribution, including its recording and promotion.

How do label-artist contracts work?

The collaboration between an artist and a record label is formalized by a contract that stipulates its duration, its purpose, the services financed and executed by the label, the exclusivity of the label on the mentioned project and the income that each of them will receive. In any case, don’t forget to have your contract read by a music law professional before signing – it’s essential to protect yourself and to work in complete serenity.

There are four main types of label-artist contracts:  

  • The recording contract where your music label offers 360° support of your musical project and finances all the stages of creation, development and marketing. Often, with such a deal, you take 15-20% of all revenues – including royalties related to master rights – and your label keeps the rest.
  • The distribution contract where you entrust your audio to your label, which then takes care of getting it to as many ears as possible via record sales and streaming. For this, you agree on the split of royalties from these broadcasts as well as the sharing of the turnover generated by the number of sales and downloads.
  • The license agreement is halfway between the two previous ones: your label intervenes after the recording of your master to promote its release. Here, the artist usually keeps 30-40% of the royalties. In addition to this income, you may receive a royalty based on the number of sales and downloads.
  • The publishing contract where you wear your songwriter’s hat and you entrust your original work to the publishing team of your label if it has one (it depends on its size). The job of the publisher is to have your song performed as many times as possible, especially by other artists or in movies and video games, in order to generate a maximum of royalties. The distribution of these royalties can vary between 0 and 50% for the artist, but what matters most is the way your publishing house shares with you the money it earns when it manages to commercialize your work.
The artist-label collaboration is formalized by a contract that stipulates its duration, its purpose, the services financed and performed by the label, the exclusivity of the label on the mentioned project, the distribution of revenues... There are as many arrangements as there are career needs, but all of them are based on four types of contracts: the recording contract, the distribution contract, the licensing contract and the publishing contract. In each case, your label gets paid according to the share of royalties and sales you give them.  

How do I find my music label?

First of all, make sure you have a good online presence: Instagram, TikTok, Spotify, Deezer, Twitch... You need to show that you have built a coherent artistic identity and that you are committed. Also, fine-tune your team with: 1) a manager who will ideally find the label of your dreams for you, and 2) artists to collaborate with in order to focus on your music and your musical DNA.

Whether it’s you or your manager who makes the approach, it is a good idea to have a project already completed, but not yet released, before approaching a music label. If you can convincingly present the origins of the piece, and how you envision its development, they’ll be able to evaluate the seriousness of your project and identify how they can help you boost its success. Even if you don’t sign, you will have obtained valuable feedback from the expert as a result of your presentation.

To present yourself, you can go by DM on social networks, in real life during festivals where the professionals of the sector meet, or via platforms dedicated to putting music professionals in touch with each other, like Groover.

To find a label, you will need to be mindful of your image and your musical activity: polish your online profiles to affirm your musical DNA, surround yourself with other artists to inspire you and, ideally, associate yourself with a manager to whom you can delegate the networking with labels. Also, make sure you have a project already completed to present it and share your ambitions. To ensure that you remain visible, you can use networking sites like Groover, send DMs or go to pro events.  

If you want to know more and exchange with other artists who have been there, don't hesitate to join our Discord server or to contact our team on hello@bridgermusic.io!

What do I need to remember ?

Your label is a producer and record company that finances your musical projects. To do this, it supports you with a team of professionals who develop your artistic career. Each artist-label partnership belongs to the four types of contract: the recording contract, the distribution contract, the licensing contract and the publishing contract. In each case, your music label gets paid according to the share of royalties and sales you give them. In order to be successful in signing, you need to take care of your image and your musical activity: polish your online profiles to affirm your musical DNA, surround yourself with other artists to inspire you and ideally, associate yourself with a manager to delegate the networking to him/her. Also, make sure you have a project already completed so you can present it and share your ambitions.

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