Guide to Starting Your Own Record Label

1. We recommend reading each of these books first

  • Brabec, Jeffrey and Todd Brabec. Music, Money, and Success: The Insider's Guide to Making Money in the Music Business (New York: Schirmer Trade Books, 2008; sixth edition)
  • Kusek, David and Gerd Leonhard. The Future of Music (Boston: Berklee Press, 2005)
  • Passman, Donald. All You Need To Know About The Music Business (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012; eighth edition)
  • Read The Texas Music Office's Getting Started in the Music Business.
  • Familiarize yourself with Copyrights, Trademarks and General Music Business Information.
  • Visit your local bookstore or library and select at least one "How To Start A Small Business" book. There are many to choose from. If your library does not have the book you need, you may request it through "interlibrary loan" (ILL), a national system of book exchange between libraries.

2. Intern or work part-time for at least two of the following types of businesses: record label, record distributor, radio station, or record store.

3. Begin writing business plan.

Key elements will be: a) recording costs; b) manufacturing costs; c) marketing costs; d) distribution costs; e) publicity costs; f) administrative costs; g) travel costs; h) labor costs; i) website development costs. Key questions to address are: How many records will you release each year? How much collateral do you have? Where will you find investors? What local resources are available for business plan preparation assistance?

The Texas Secretary of State provides answers to Business Organization FAQs. The Governor's Office department of Economic Development and Tourism provides a four-step guide to starting a business and offers assistance to small businesses. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts publishes a step by step Texas Business Advisor.

4. Business plan research.

  • talk with independent label buyers in the record stores in your area and discuss your idea with them; ask them which distributors they like to work with, and which ones they don't.
  • talk with distributors in Texas and around the US; determine terms and costs.
  • assess foreign markets for possible export or licensing.
  • discuss your ideas with other independent record labels in Texas and US.
  • call five CD duplicators to get bids for your first year's release schedule.
  • call at least five recording studios to get a bids for your first year's recording schedule.
  • determine two years worth of rent
  • determine how you want to structure your business. Once you've reached the draft stage of your business plan, sit down with a CPA or an organization such as Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts and have them review your plan.

6. The Texas Talent Register provides contact information for musical acts across the state.