How to Start a Record Label

Written by Dave Lavinsky

How to Start a Record Label



How to Start a Record Label

If you’re looking to start a Record Label, you’ve come to the right place. Since we’re going to show you exactly how to do it.

We’ll start with key Record Label industry fundamentals like how big the market is, what the key segments are, and how revenues and profits are generated.

Then we’ll discuss keys to not only starting a Record Label, but succeeding in it!

Importantly, a critical step in starting a record label is to complete your business plan. To do this, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Record Label Business Plan Template here.

How Big is the Record Label Industry?

According to IBISWorld, the Record Label industry has been in decline for the past five years, at a rate of -2.9% per year. In spite of this, the industry’s 756 companies had total revenues of $7.3 billion last year.

What are the Key Segments of the Record Label Industry?

Record Labels sell products in physical and digital formats. Physical formats, which include CDs, DVDs, Cassettes, and Vinyl account for almost half of all industry revenue. Digital formats are the second-largest industry segment, followed by Digital singles and albums Streaming services and subscriptions have seen a significant increase in popularity in the past few years, but still account for a much smaller percentage of revenue.

What External Factors Affect the Record Label Industry?

A number of factors affect the performance of the Record Label industry. These drivers include:

Album Sales – Album sales constitute the largest portion of industry revenue; therefore, the industry depends on demand for albums.

Per Capita Disposable Income – Consumers buy more albums when they have more disposable income.

Median Age of the Population – Though all age groups are consumers of music, the industry trend toward digital and streaming distribution appeals to younger audiences. Therefore, a younger median age is better for the industry.

Who are the key Competitors in the Record Label Industry?

The biggest independent record labels are Concord Music Group (CMG) and Sub Pop. Major record labels include Warner Music Group (WMG), Universal Music Group (UMG), and Sony Music Entertainment.

What are the Key Customer Segments in the Record Label Industry?

The largest customer segment for the Record Label market are those aged 35 and up, but is closely followed by those age 18-34.

What are the Key Costs in the Record Label Industry?

Purchases are the largest expense for Record Labels. Purchases can include merchandise for distribution, video production, studio rental, tours, and databases for digital distribution.

Wages are a Record Label’s second-largest expense, in part because of the savvy required to recognize and acquire new talent, and in part due to the high level of skill required record, mix, and master an album.

Marketing is also a significant expense. Independent labels spend a larger proportion of revenue on marketing, simply because they do not have the recognition that major labels have, and they have to work harder to connect with fans.

Other expenses include equipment depreciation, distribution costs, production costs, and legal fees.

Finish Your Business Plan Today!

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Record Label Business Plan Template and complete your plan and financial model in hours.

What are the Keys to Launching a New Record Label?

  1. Have a business plan – this document will force you to nail down certain details, such as what genre of music you will produce, the name of your label, the legal form of the business (sole proprietor, partnership, etc.), and how much money you will need to get started. Use our record label business plan template for this.
  2. Assemble your team – you will need a mix of experts to make this work: marketers, producers, engineers, mixers, and contract help for things like legal, accounting, logo art, etc.
  3. Land some artists – attend some live performances, and approach the bands you and/or the audience likes. Be sure to settle the details of the contract, such as whether you will pay an advance, how the earning will be divided, and how long they will be under contract.
  4. Promote! – get your brand out there as much as possible: talk to reporters, go on radio shows, visit music stores, be active on your social media accounts.
  5. Make sure your signed artists are playing gigs – Live gigs lead to more fans, which leads to album sales
  6. Collect Royalties

Music Royalties Quick Guide infographic

What are the Typical Startup Costs for a New Record Label?

The one-time costs of starting a Record Label include:

  • Licensing and startup legal fees
  • Recording equipment purchase or lease
  • Instrument purchase or lease
  • Studio purchase or lease
  • Office equipment and supplies

Ongoing costs:

  • Marketing
  • Rent and utilities
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Manufacturing physical albums
  • Accounting and legal fees
  • Databases for storing digital music


How much do Record Label Operators Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CEOs in the Sound Recording business make $214,350 per year on average.

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Record Label Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

Recording Studio Setups

dark recording studio interior

small recording studio interior

Helpful Videos

Loren Israel: Contacting Record Labels & Building Relationships in the Music Business | Interview

Do I Need a Record Label? Don Passman explains at ASCAP EXPO


Additional resources in the recording industry market

For additional information on the recording industry, consider these industry resources:


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