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How to Start a Record Label in 35 Very Difficult Steps

You’re at a crossroads in your life. Maybe you’ve just recently finished your undergraduate degree and you are waiting for the perfect job to come along, or maybe you’re considering graduate school and you’re not sure how what career path to pursue. Despite all of this, there is a burning, nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach and you know what your true calling is: You want to start a record label.

You might not know anything about starting a record label or how the music industry works, but you know you love music and you always have. This dream is not as difficult to attain as you might think: It’s actually much, MUCH harder. Before you start down your path, here are 35 extremely difficult steps that will help you start your record label.

  1. Think About Starting A Record Label – Step one is complete right out the gate. You’re thinking about starting a label. Thinking about it is not only the easiest part, it is the only feeling of joy or hopefulness you will feel about the whole process. It’s best to tell as many people as possible that you’re thinking about it, making sure to tell them you’re really sick of the current state of the industry and you want to change it. Their positive reinforcement will only make these next 34 steps more difficult.
  2. Randomly Google Things Like, “How to Start A Record Label” or, “Record Label Tips” – This is best to do early and often. This will make you feel like you’re taking positive steps toward creating your dream label, without actually needing to exert much effort.
  3. Complain About How Your Current Job Is Keeping You From Starting Your Label – Yessss, yes! Now that you’ve told people you are starting a label, the pressure is on. No one knows how long it takes to make a record label so they will figure you’ve signed a few bands already. You will need a scapegoat quickly. Blame it on your day job, which is probably insurance adjusting.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 – 3
  5. Repeat Steps 1 – 4
  6. Repeat Steps 1 – 5
  7. Repeat Steps 1 – 6
  8. Repeat Steps 1 – 7
  9. Repeat Steps 1 – 8
  10. Find 100 Cassette Tapes in a Dumpster – Eureka! What a find. You’ve come across 100 discarded cassette tapes behind a Guitar Center. One day when your record label is wildly successful, you’ll look back on this moment with fondness, but right now you’re removing banana peel from a Culture Club cassette.
  11. Ask a Friend’s Band if You Can Release Their Demo Cassette – It is vitally important to find the talent for your label. Landing that first big artist can do wonders for your fledgling label which we reiterate, is not yet formed in any way. So when your friend’s band refuses because you do not have a cassette duplicator, you know they probably suck anyway.
  12. Repeat Steps 1-3 Again
  13. Find Another 100 Cassettes in Another Dumpster – Why not stock up?
  14. Repeat Steps 1-3 One More Time for Luck
  15. Break Up With Your Girlfriend – She was holding you back, plus no one ever created great art while in a stable relationship.
  16. Forget About the Record Label and Ask for Your Girlfriend Back – What a stupid idea, your girlfriend gave you sex and happiness. What are you even thinking?
  17. Devote Yourself Singularly to your Label – You couldn’t get your girlfriend back, time to get serious.
  18. Look at What Your Girlfriend is Doing on Facebook
  19. Look at What Your Friends are Doing on Facebook Without You
  20. Remember you Once had Friends
  21. Read Every Book by Haruki Murakami – This has nothing to do with your label, but you really fucking get these books right now.
  22. Repeat Steps 1-3 again
  23. Throw 100 of your Cassettes in a Dumpster
  24. Finally Record Your Acoustic Project – Your label is the perfect platform for your terrible, TERRIBLE music.
  25. Get Fired From Your Job – This is not important to do but will likely happen. Avoid if possible.
  26. Stare at a Wall for Four Hours
  27. Repeat step 26
  28. Repeat step 26
  29. Grow a Beard – Think Rick Rubin but sad.
  30. Ask Your Parents for a Small, $100,000 Loan
  31. Repeat Step 26
  32. Repeat Steps 1-3 – Shit, you can’t do 3 anymore…
  33. Repeat Step 26
  34. Repeat Step 26
  35. Establish a brand, register a domain name/website, choose a catchy name, promote your label, contact attorneys and draft a standard contract, contact local recording studios to get deals on studio time, open a line of credit to get yourself off the ground … SHIT, realize this is all too late and abandon the project altogether.


Related: These Oakland Punks Helped Turn A Failing Bike Shop Into A Failed Bike Shop

We hope these tips help you become the next Matador or 4AD records, but you will more than likely be staring at a wall for several days.

Sound off in the comments if you’re in the, “staring at a wall” phase right now!

Photo by Steven Yuen @panda_panhandle.