THE 16 CARDINAL RULES FOR RUNNING A METAL RECORD LABEL IN 2011
1. Fire your entire sales staff, if you still have any. They’re quickly becoming obsolete, a floppy disk in an Internet world.
2. Accept that the CD is a dead format and plan now for a future without them. At best, CDs will end up as souvenirs for the hardest of the hardcore fans, much like vinyls are now.
3. Ditch your out-dated distribution deal with the major. Handle all physical item sales in-house through your webstore. Distro deals still have value, but it’s limited value, and that value won’t last long. Sign a new non-exclusive distribution deal for physical retail only to reap the remaining cash stream from that channel while it lasts (2-3 years max).
4. Sign up for TuneCore to get your artists tracks on iTunes, Amazon, etc. Handle all digital distribution in-house.
5. Close your office in the expensive/hip downtown locale. Get super-cheap office space in a warehouse in the exurbs or industrial urban area.
6. Sign all of your bands to 360 deals, or some variant thereof (180, 270, whatever). In order to make it in today’s world you’ve got to have merch rights. Think of it not as the record label grabbing a band’s rights, but acting as more of a manager than a proper record label.
7. Set up a robust, easy to use webstore for all of your bands’ physical product including CDs, vinyls and t-shirts. Use your office space as a storage room and handle all shipping in-house. Delegate shipping duties to interns.
8. Release albums digitally on the same day across the entire world. End of story. The Internet is global; deal with it. If a physical product release is staggered due to manufacturing, marketing or other concerns, make sure the release is available digitally everywhere whenever the first physical product hits.
9. Buy a t-shirt-printing machine. Handle all short and medium-run shirt-printing in-house. This will pay for itself in a matter of months.
10. Leave the bigger bands to the agencies, but hire an in-house booking agent to work the smaller bands to small clubs. Touring at this level is crucial for developing bands, and an agent is the most important player in today’s music industry landscape.
11. Hire someone whose sole job it is to handle the roster’s online presence (for bigger labels, hire a team). This person must have an intimate understanding of basic web technology, emerging internet trends, social network best practices and online advertising.
12. Create and manage accounts on all the major social networks for every one of your bands, for those bands who don’t already do so themselves. Delegate the day-to-day updating of these accounts to interns. Don’t waste anyone’s time designing/updating MySpace; keeping music and tour dates up-to-date there is enough, in case any fans happen to stumble through.
13. Don’t waste time and money creating .com websites for your bands. No one visits them.
14. Hire an in-house graphic designer.
15. Create exclusive, limited edition pre-order bundles.
14. Retain an in-house publicist, but don’t be averse to hiring out-of-house for certain projects.
15. Do not expect to turn a profit on a band’s first release.
16. Do not expect to make much money, period. Expect a modest living. Thems the breaks; the good old days are over.