I Set up an LLC or Corporation and started a record label, now what?
Setting up the legal business structure for your entertainment company is just the first step, to function as a real entertainment company or record label you will need a lot more. Here is a simple checklist to help you organize your company in preparation of releasing your first single, album or video:
(1) Partnership agreement incorporated into your corporate/company operating agreement detailing what partner’s responsibilities are, who gets paid what and when, who put in what, who owns what, etc. An experienced entertainment or business attorney can assist with drafting a solid agreement.
(2) Find an artist, develop a working relationship and enter into a contractual agreement to record and distribute that artist’s work.
(3) Record the music, mix the music and master the music
b. Featured artists
(5) Legal team – an experienced entertainment attorney is essential with every step of the process!
a. Producer/music creation: not having the proper producer contracts can mean missing a sample or miscrediting a contributor or worse, and can lead to take-down notices and potentially lawsuits. You do NOT want a takedown notice with your first release as your credibility as a trusted label by the distributors and platforms is essential in keeping your future release schedules on time and minimizing any pushback. Additional legal requirements include but are not limited to:
b. Side-artist agreements and label waivers
c. Sample clearances
d. Artist agreements
e. Distribution agreements
f. Label agreements
(6) Reserve your website name, create and publish your company website, set up your accounts with the various royalty collection services, distributors, youtube, instagram, tik tok, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc., and do the same for your artists.
(7) Prepare a plan to market your music (understand the basics of music marketing and marketing in general, know the “4 Ps” – price, product, promotion and place
a. Product – completed, mixed, mastered single or album with complete artwork!
b. Price – distributor usually helps with this but pricing your project is essential to having success in the marketplace, price it too high and people won’t buy, too low and it might impact your brand or discourage some fans from buying
c. Promotion – one of the costliest and most important pieces of the marketing pie. You can have the greatest project in the world but if no one knows it exists no one will stream or buy it, visibility costs money! Distributors can help with first page placements on streaming and downloading platforms but the bulk of this is going to come from the work of the label and the label’s publicist. Every part of the process can become a publicity asset (i.e. the name of the album, the artwork, the features, the producers, etc., each can be released in social media posts and media campaigns to keep fans interested and build anticipation for the release)
d. Place – placement is key, getting first page placements and placements in key playlists, music blogs, magazine reviews, etc., is necessary in order to keep your product visible and attract customers/fans
a. Help with the promotion and place of your marketing plan, a good publicist can get you into the key blogs, podcasts, radio shows, television shows, etc.
(9) Collect royalties and hire an accountant to set up and manage the accounting system.
(10) Financing! Everything costs money, you can not and will not have any success without the ability to pay for everything listed above! Studio time, producers, side artists, signing the artist themselves, lawyers, publicists, mixing and mastering, artwork, EVERYTHING costs money. Having access to financing is essential for any type of success in the recording industry.
Jason Bost, Esq., MBA, is an author (his book can be found here), adjunct professor of law, and an attorney with a focus on entertainment and creator based law and is the head of the entertainment law division at the Law Firm of Patel, Soltis, Cardenas and Bost. He spent more than twenty years in the entertainment industry as an artist manager, A&R, entertainment executive for independent labels and now as an attorney. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (973) 834-8588.