Our monthly series charting the birth of new label ASTIR Recordings continues
Based in the southwest UK, Simon Huxtable has 20 years' experience as a DJ, music journalist and label manager behind him. Now, in 2017, he's going it alone and launching his own label - and we're following his progress every step of the way...
So here we are in September, and it's all systems go with ASTIR. I think the first release has been received pretty well: no sooner had I posted the Beatport Exclusive link, than I got a dozen or so private messages asking to be added to the promo list for next time, or apologising for not opening the promo email I'd sent at any point over the preceding three weeks! Probably useful that I stored it on my personal Dropbox just in case…
I'm going to have to have a think about promo and the whole 'giving away music for free' thing. I'm not worried about losing money - frankly, if I actually make any, I'll be laughing. No, this is more about the culture of entitlement and how I feel about it personally, but that's super-serious and maybe for another day. This month I wanted to talk about two things: publishing deals, and increasing the exposure of the brand through different media.
Publishing for beginners
I may never have run my own label before, but even before setting up ASTIR I knew the value that publishing deals brought to the table. Essentially, a publisher looks after making sure your ‘songwriters' are paid royalties from their music. That's not going to be a lot, in most cases, but it can be if the songwriter has a good back catalogue and you're quick to get them on your publishing deal (less than a year or the online monies can be lost, up to six years for the rest).
There are a few different types of royalties involved in selling music. Mechanical royalties are from sales of recorded music, either physically or digitally. Performance royalties come from, you guessed it, streams, radio plays and club gigs where the artist performed live or has been heard in public. Finally, synchronisation royalties cover those situations where your artist's music is used in film or TV. Publishers also increasingly administrate the so-called 'neighbouring rights', which are similar to performing rights but for the recording artist, not the songwriter - but of course in the world of electronic music, these are often one and the same person, and called the producer!
The publisher will register you and your music with Publishing Rights Organisations (PROs) worldwide. Inn the UK, that means the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS), PRS for Music, and Public Performance Licensing (PPL). The difference between the latter two can be confusing but basically, PRS act for songwriters, composers and music publishers (and MCPS also falls under the PRS umbrella), whereas PPL focus on recording artists, vocalists, musicians and record companies.
I've signed ASTIR Recordings to a publishing deal with a company called Black Rock, mostly because I know the owners and I trust them. But there are any number of firms who can take you on. The trick here, as with everything, is to research like mad and make lots of enquiries. There's a few good websites to head for, such as the Music Publishers; Association and PRS and PPL themselves, and good articles and YouTube videos. There's also social media, of course, and with the usual degrees of separation being under six people, a few cursory Facebook statuses or a well-placed tweet might be all you need to start a conversation.
It's not essential, but I took a few online courses on copyright law to familiarise myself with terminology and concepts. This was a personal development thing for me, but normally, the publisher will explain everything to you in layman's terms before you sign anything. It's also very important, as I found out, to inform your artists of your intention to use a third-party publisher - they may already be signed up somewhere, which makes things harder down the line.
Growing the brand
I've had quite a lot of ideas for brand growth, and again this is an area you get out what you put in - research and reading around the subject are key for continued success. So far, I like radio the best and I made some enquiries with a range of stations. I've chosen a site I pay to use, but I believe it's a solid decision based on the exposure the package offers, plus the impressive stats they gave me. So for a nominal monthly charge, I can have a one- or two-hour show which can take the form of a live mix, podcast or fully integrated radio show, beamed out to 50,000 music fans across the world.
And here's the clever bit: through another friend, I can syndicate that show across other internet stations and grow my audience exponentially. I should see a few Facebook likes I reckon, huh!? Of course, this also means I need to take things way more seriously and get my website and other socials up and running, and if things take off, start thinking about hiring staff. One step at a time, though!
Another idea for growth (and indeed audience interaction) I had was to run some competitions. These could be simple ones, like naming the next release or designing the artwork, through to DJ or remix contests. As with all these things, though, it's the prize that grabs the attention, so I'll need to have more of a think before I make any moves.
Anywayy, as ever, I'll keep you updated as I take over the world!
Words: Simon Huxtable
Simon says: Thanks to Mark Lawrence for his knowledge and assistance making sure my facts were 100 per cent accurate.