I love studying success and failure, and learning from others can save you time, money and effort.
House Therapy Music Production was not a household name in the music industry. In fact, it might not ring a bell for some of you.
But let me remind you.
If you followed the South African dance music scene from the early 2000s, then you probably know who I’m talking about.
House Therapy Music Production was the Independent record label from the Capital City- Pretoria.
Founded by Cry Sello and DJ Mujava in 2001, House Therapy emerged as one of the biggest independent record labels in the country.
When I say independent, I mean 100% Independent in the true sense. These guys were pushing their products by any means necessary.
However, times have changed, the industry has changed since then and House Therapy is no more.
Nonetheless they provided valuable business lessons that most of us can learn from.
Back in the 90s and early 2000s, the music industry was still pretty much organic. Cassettes, CD’s and Vinyl were still selling like hotcakes.
But at the barrier to entry was very high. Getting signed by a major label was fashionable and considered as the gateway to “success”.
It’s understandable because the majors had the money (and still do) to market and distribute music to any retailer.
After a couple of TV appearances, you would be considered a celebrity, then boom you “made it”.
For most artists and aspiring record label owners, that would seem like an obvious choice if you don’t sufficient capital.
But House Therapy showed us that you don’t really need a major record label.
Artists like Mujava and Bojo Mujo were brave enough to record and sell their music in the streets without the support of any major record company.
If you want to test your product in the marketplace, the best way to do that is by taking action and doing it yourself.
When you have some traction, then you can decide to approach investors or continue to bootstrap your way to success!
You won’t have everything figured out. Just start and learn as you go.
Know your Market
House Therapy Music Production was often ridiculed for releasing “rubbish music”. But then again how does one even define so-called rubbish music.
Personally, I was not really a huge fan of the music but I couldn’t ignore the fact that they were resourceful. They knew their market well and it worked for them too.
At the time, the Bacardi genre was popular in Pretoria townships. Of course, there were plenty of artists and labels who were making this sound, but House Therapy was by far the most successful.
Whether you are a painter, a real estate developer or recording artist, know your market.
Don’t try to be all things to all people!
Cut out the middleman
This is my favourite part. Not that I have anything against a middleman or anyone trying to make an honest living.
But in the music industry, there are so many middlemen and this reduces your profit margin and potential earnings.
Most independent labels (and artists) in South Africa were signed to joint ventures with the major labels (Still a trend to this day).
The majors handle the marketing, manufacturing and distribution on behalf of these small labels.
This is also known as a P&D deal (Production and Distribution).
It gets interesting though. Let me give you an example…..
Say a producer signs an artist to his label. Let’s call it label X.
The producer would then record the album with the artist and hand over completed project to label Y.
Label Y then takes the album and hands it over to Label Z (Major label) to manufacture market and distribute.
That’s three different labels handling ONE album. And they all have to be paid!
Now, for most labels, this is an easier path because you assume less risk.
But what happens when your music takes off? Who will profit handsomely?
However, House Therapy took the unconventional route. At some point, they were doing direct deals with music retailers.
When you do a direct deal, basically you become the distributor as well. This was unheard of at the time in South Africa.
As an independent record label, they were making more money per record sold.
So you can imagine how much they were earning when their album sales reached 100k units.
Forget about the Hype
“All that glitters is not gold”
Sometimes people lose ground of what is really important.
If you are a business the objective is to make a net profit (the bottom-line). The more profit you have, the better. That’s it.
In the music industry, there’s a misconception that being famous equals instant riches. But that’s not necessarily the case.
House Therapy was not mainstream, its either you heard of them or you didn’t. They were just kind of there.
But they were doing extremely well from a sales standpoint. And they controlled their supply chain too!
You could even say they were “pariahs” in the music industry because they didn’t get any recognition for their efforts and were hardly nominated for any local awards.
However, if you are an artist or record label, the end result is to SELL music.
And House Therapy managed to do just that and thrived!
Do not let your ego cloud your judgment or common sense. Be more concerned with what’s right than who’s right.